Interview: Origin

origin-ultravioletsocialclubOriginating from Kansas in 1998, Origin contrive unprecedented mastery of musicianship and merge cosmic and horror concepts to differentiate themselves from the slew of other technical death metal bands.

Their debut album Origin established a well-rounded sound that would cater to casual death metal listeners, as well as those who approach the genre looking for the most technically proficient of brutal wizardry. Since then, Origin have released four more albums and are in the process writing the next one.

We are fortunate to have virtuosic guitarist Paul Ryan reveal the happenings of Origin.

You’re currently writing material for your next album. What do you hope to accomplish with your next release? Will there be new elements that Origin hasn’t expressed yet?

A continuation in the development in the sound of the band. I guess that the thing for me is that I am a old metalhead who enjoys a lot of different styles of metal which in the early days of the band I only presented a more straight-forward stylistic approach… I am using a couple of ideas from the past in technique and in dynamics to not present the same album again… I hope to keep both old and new listeners entertained by something fresh on every Origin album… During our live shows while playing I kept asking myself what can we bring to our live set that we don’t have yet… I feel that is what influenced my writing the most!

You’ve been ranked as one of the best guitarists in metal by several publications. Do you have any advice for guitar players that hope to advance their technical abilities?

Well I must say it comes with practice, practice, practice. There wasn’t Youtube or professional lessons online when I was growing up & now there are so many resources out there today to assist a young emerging guitarist to get very good, very fast. Something that I’ve noticed in today’s generation is that it isn’t always about composition on a computer, but being in the garage with other musicians brainstorming ideas & grinding it out (some of the funnest moments as a musician I’ve ever had). I spent many days of my life going to shows/practices just learning about how other bands worked as well.

A lot of Origin’s lyrics and titles encompass how small and minuscule our existence is. Is there a philosophical standpoint behind the band or is this something that’s derived from general contemplation?

Prior to Origin I played Death metal with typical Death Metal lyrics. Once I realized that I wasn’t going to kill anyone (unfortunately a few friends of mine did), I wanted to find something to write about that wasn’t so singularly based. Sci-fi & Horror always entertained me & Music took me away from the hell that I heard in my head. It was a positive release of negative energy. I was just looking for something that was endless that could be written about… The unknown.

So, Origin’s listeners can assume that you desire to reach a more broad scope to what the band wants to convey? Not just about blasphemy, blood and guts, but about a more meaningful or challenging way to look at life as a whole? Something that each individual ponders about, but may have a different take on?

When i’m listening to music & reading the lyrics I want to go on a Cerebral Journey. I hope that in some way my music can take someone out of the moment of their own personal life & just sit back & listen to music. I dunno if there is personal enlightenment in our message other than I hope we are conveying some new topics to think about.

What bands have inspired you over the years? Which are your favorites? Can you pinpoint any musicians that have had a profound influence on you?

Well in the very beginning of my playing it was Slayer, Celtic Frost, Cryptic Slaughter, & Yngwie Malmsteen. These bands influenced my early playing style & eventually crafted what I am today. Death, Napalm Death, Suffocation, Early Carcass, Early Deicide, and Bolt Thrower had a lot to do with it as well.

What are your hobbies outside of music?

Music is my life. I work in a music store. Other than playing music I enjoy exercise & spending time with my girl, going to shows & MORE GUITAR!

Origin has extensively toured over the years and has succeeded in reaching a very broad metalhead fanbase. Which shows have been the most memorable?

Oh man there are too many to name… You always remember your first & last I guess… Every show has HAD ITS MOMENTS OF INSANITY!!! Always playing a new venue, city, or country is a pleasure. My mentality has been this..

Every show. Every Fan. Every City. Every State. Every Country. Every Time…
I try to give it my all every time. I want people to enjoy a show they paid for no matter the turnout whether its a 100 or a 1000.

You’ve enlisted Lonegoat from Goatcraft to aid with some synthesizer work for the next album. How did this come to be?

Basically as a musician on the road you get guys handed cds by many other musicians… I try to listen to everything that I get…. Once you get something good you don’t forget it. One night of driving all night to the next gig I popped in a cd that took me on a journey!!! I listened to the album all night on repeat!!! Basically I just contacted him directly & said I really enjoy your work & I have a piece of music that fits what you do perfectly!!! Hopefully we can put something else together as well!!!

Many guitarists treasure their gear and guitars. What’s your current setup like? What will you use on the next album?

I use a Jackson Warrior w Emgs
Mesa Boogie Stereo 100 power amp
RecPre Dbx166xl compressor-limiter-noise-gate
a bbe Sonic Maximizer 882e
Mesa Boogie cabs
Monster Cables

Do you think your sound is evolving? If so, from what and to what?

Yeah to the outside world. I am very private & most of my music isn’t ever heard by Origin fans…I have literally hundreds of riffs that didn’t make it to a Origin album that I enjoy playing; it’s just that the Death Metal scene is very singular in what they want to hear on a album. I think I have learned a lot about the guitar since the beginning of this band & feel that most fans only enjoy what they hear first from a band… To say that my earlier work is stronger than my latter is comical as a musician.

What genre is Origin’s music? What are the primary influences on that genre as a whole?

DeathShred!!!

I hear a lot Origin’s influence in the Death/Grind/Core scene today… I am very humbled by that.

A lot of your earlier music had themes to it. Are you going to continue along that direction, or relax a little and get more down-to-earth?

Well we are still in the writing process for the next album, so I can’t give you a correct answer to that. We are very excited to see & hear what this lineup can bring with Jason Keyser contributing to this album vocally & lyricaly… It will be Origin, but even in just the new demoing of the material Jason has a different approach which I feel will add another dimension to the music!!

Entering the studio for the next album in January so expect a spring/summer release on Nuclear Blast Records in 2014

Also in the mix is re-releasing A Coming Into Existence with Bonus material of the bands I was in before Origin & the DVD is slowly becoming a reality!!!

Thanks for the interview!!!

Visit Origin’s facebook page here.

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Interview: Brad Moore, who designed legendary Morpheus Descends cover

morpheus_descends-ritual_of_infinityMost of us who emerged into the classic death metal milieu are familiar with Morpheus Descends‘s classic album Ritual of Infinity and its striking cover art that remains controversial to this day. The illustrator who created that polarizing work has launched an online presence and is designing metal art of similar caliber.

Morpheus Descends rose after the early years of American death metal but before the solidification of the style, and created a grandfather template for both New York death metal and heavy percussive death metal in general. Their most notable influences were on bands like Suffocation and Incantation, who took the blueprint that Morpheus Descends created and pushed it to new heights of complexity and technicality.

Brad Moore, who designed the iconic cover, was able to give us a few moments of his time to describe his art, life and time with Morpheus Descends. For those curious about the band, our interview with Morpheus Descends is a good place to start, or peruse our brief explanation of the band and its context.

How did you get started in art?

Like many who decide to become full-time artists, I began in grade school as the guy who could draw really well. I specialized in dinosaurs, hot rods and sci-fi. My classmates always got me to draw for them. It was my Junior High art teacher who first made me aware, that since I spent all day drawing anyway, why not make it my career and be paid for it? My brain did a back flip, as I did not know such a thing was possible, having been brought up in a very small country town. I credit my High School art teacher, Barbara Allen, who is now a top portrait painter, and two professors in college, Herbert Fink, and Ed Rollman Shay. They REALLY showed me the path! Eternal gratitude flows forth.

How did you get started in metal? Were you a metalhead? Did you “study” any heavy metal art?

Although my career began as a horror style comic book artist (I worked for comics publishers like Fathom Press, Boneyard Press, Graphomania, London Night Studios, etc) I was always a metalhead! When bands would tour, they often bought and read comics on the road. It wasn’t long at all before I got mail, asking me to draw or paint t-shirt designs, logos, cassette, and CD covers. Soon after, ‘zines came, asking for gory covers, inside illustrations, and dark comic strips. I was doing 3-5 fliers a week back then for metal shows. I didn’t really study any “metal” artists, as I have broad tastes, and enjoy a ton of different stuff. I’ve been to Richard Corben’s house, and viewed the original painting he did for Meat Loaf’s Bat out of Hell. I did an art exhibit with H.R. Giger in Switzerland and saw his sketches for what became covers for Celtic Frost and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. But I’ve always had my own approach; no one has ever said that my art resembles the work of anybody else.

What other influences exist on your art, like other artists, morbid dreams, etc?

Dreams, DEFINITELY!!! I’m also very into the films of European directors, and the famed Polish Poster movement. I’m an ardent Surrealist.

How did you end up doing the Morpheus Descends cover? Are you a Morpheus Descends fan?

I was, and still am, a major Morpheus Descends fan! When I first got and heard their cassette “Corpse Under Glass,” I was hooked, feeling that they were the heaviest I had ever heard at that time. The band, as luck would bequeath, turned out to be horror comics readers who knew of my work. Ken, their bassist, wrote me, and we discussed the possibilities for the art that became the cover of Ritual of Infinity. In the original sketch, the “wizard” character had his hands raised, and an infinity symbol carved into his bleeding chest. I think his eyes might have been bleeding, as well, and in one hand, he held a bloody, ancient scroll. After another phone discussion, the “Carven-Diety” had its hand positions changed, and the “wizard” was now in the pose we all have grown used to: that of sawing the head off an androgynous cadaver. An ad for Ritual of Infinity featuring the debut of the cover art in b/w was published as the back cover of gore/horror comic book Cadaver, issue # 1, by Fathom Press, in ’92’-93. Funny thing: the record company’s name (J.L. America) is misspelled.

The Morpheus Descends Ritual of Infinity cover art uses some rather unorthodox (for metal) color combinations. What inspired your choices here?

Yes, the issue of the cover has stirred as much hate, as it has admiration, and I think that’s the best thing you can hope for. The colors I chose WERE very strikingly different for what was happening with other illustrators at that time. (Or, for any time, really.) The painting was a combination of oil paint and Rotring dyes, and it strode counter to the monochromatic approach that most others were doing. When I look even now at a box full of CDs at a merch table, I am struck by how many generic looking, grey and black compositions I see. Most are great looking on their own, but a table full of them are monotonous, and do disservice to the music and bands. I knew Morpheus Descends weren’t going to be on MTV, any time soon, so their CD cover, love it or loathe it, had to nail you across the room.

You’ve just gone online. Are you offering other services to metal musicians? What other directions do you hope to take your art in?

I just finished designing the T-shirts and poster for the Stoner Hands of Doom fest, as well as the T-shirt for Argus’ upcoming European tour (I did all three of their album covers); I’m working on two new CD covers, for two new bands, The Swill, and Foghound; I will have art featured in the winter issue of Churn magazine (Issue # 11); I am designing and building the special effects props for an upcoming film named “Platypossum”; and I am masterminding a civic project that I have dubbed “Mobile Murals.” Watch for the cover I did for Ed (ex-Monster Magnet) Mundell’s next solo LP; it’s one of the greatest I’ve ever done. Check out my page at bradmooreartwizard.com, or hit me up on Facebook @ Brad Moore’s Illustration Station.

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Interview: NH of Heresiarch

heresiarch-waelwulfAn eruption has occurred within death metal over the past years where bands have been attracted to the linear phrasal riffing of old Incantation, Demoncy and Havohej and have hybridized it with the ripping war metal of Angelcorpse, Conqueror and Perdition Temple, producing a sound like the roar of battle from within a cavern.

Leading this charge is New Zealand’s Heresiarch, whose Hammer of Intransigence introduced a stunned world to this new assault two years ago. Currently, the band prepares to release its Waelwulf EP and embark on a new series of combative adventures to further saturate the world in its violence.

With this in mind, we pitched NH of Heresiarch a few questions about the band, its direction, and the volatile ferment of motivic forces that provide a warlike impetus that is able to avoid destroying itself. His answers, which demonstrate the raw visceral approach of both this style and its existential attitude, follow.

What made you choose to make the style of metal that you did?

It was the sound that resonated most with me and reflected what I wanted to present effectively.

Why was your US tour recently canceled?

Line-up issues have plagued the progress and possibilities of Heresiarch since the beginning and this was no exception.

The main priority currently is completing the album writing and then preparation for recording, touring will be re-addressed when it’s pertinent to.

You say that Heresiarch is “esoteric leaning.” What does that mean?

Heresiarch takes influence from several esoteric paths, the most noticeable being from Indo-European branches; the upcoming Waelwulf EP is heavily influenced by Anglo-Saxon and Germanic literature, warfare, symbolism and worldviews with my own interpretations.

How do you compose?

Central to Heresiarch are visions of war, death and victory, on a grand apocalyptic scale with the aim to reflect the dread, violence and atmosphere attributed to such themes.

There is minimal melodic motivation behind any of the writing and writing generally consists of bludgeoning the guitar to the aforementioned themes, from there the songs and riffs are refined and eventually materializes the atmosphere I aim to convey. If the song or the riffs do not reflect this they are discarded.

Do you write on guitar, bass or vocals?

Composition is primarily done with guitar but always with an idea of how everything else should go with it; drums, bass and both guitars are written close together to compliment and reinforce each other.

Vocals and lyrics are generally the last thing to come since the content is already decided on within the writing process.

Will you be recording more material as Heresiarch?

The Waelwulf EP has been recorded, I am yet to finish the vocals but it should be done in its entirety by the end of October.

I have been working on a full length which will be released by Dark Descent records; around 25 minutes of the album is written to date. The theme, composition and the general layout have been completed and it will be the most “complete” release from us.

In your view, what are the bands today to watch in the underground, meaning the people who produce interesting music (who cares if it’s “commercially successful”)?

Besides the obvious ones there is IMPETUOUS RITUAL and GRAVE UPHEAVAL (some of our closest allies) from Australia.

SABBATIC GOAT, SINISTROUS DIABOLUS, VASSAFOR are all worth listening to from New Zealand. VESICANT is a new band I am drumming in; there will be recordings of that in the next year. Also TREPANATION are a relatively new band taking an interesting direction with what I’ve heard of their new material and BLOOD OF THE MOON from NZ now have a lineup again.

Also check out PAROXSIHZEM and ADVERSARIAL from Canada, IMPOSER from Italy and GENOCIDE SHRINES from Sri Lanka.

Will you tell us which musical works were your biggest influences in creating Heresiarch?

CONQUEROR – War Cult Supremacy is the most essential album of this style in my opinion.

Besides that: Realm of Chaos by BOLT THROWER, Fallen Angel of Doom by BLASPHEMY as well as some classical such as Lizst, Wagner and Holst.

Your newest track, “Endethraest,” sounds familiar but I can’t place it. It’s highly rhythmic and military, like a real war being prepared. What influenced this?

The initial influence for the track originally stemmed from Gustav Holst’s “Mars Bringer of War.” It’s a good indication of the new direction Heresiarch is heading, with less regard for speed like on Hammer of Intransigence and a focus towards creating a dark, martial atmosphere.

Rumor has it that Heresiarch uses some members from Diocletian and Witchrist as session musicians. These bands are apparently part of a ‘Doom Cult’ which is trying to brand itself as a certain type of metal. Are you part of that movement, or heading in a different direction?

Heresiarch has no members of Diocletian or Witchrist present in the current line-up and we never have been a member of Doom Cult.

What’s next for Heresiarch?

The aforementioned album is intended to be released by Dark Descent Records in 2014. All further intentions will be announced when suitable.

You say the band is based around war, death and victory. Why do you choose these topics? What do you hope to express? Do you intend to create change in the world?

There is no “hope” to express anything, the music does the talking and is the expression itself.

Do you think war metal carries with it a big of a stigma in that so many bands are seen as humorless and self-important?

Yes.

Do you think most people accept war as necessary, or think of it as an evil to be purged? Why or why not?

I don’t care what most people think or believe in.

Extreme ends always attract extreme people, usually regardless of goal, doctrine or outcome.

It looks like the old school metal has lost out to the metalcore/indie-metal types. Is there any hope of rolling back the clock and getting to the days of better music? How important is it when the majority takes over a genre or a country and turns it into the same old stuff?

It’s not important. The “majority” as you say will always manifest their interests in trivial activities, beliefs and art in one way or another.

I guess the next logical question is, if you have no notion or desire for changing the world, what is your purpose in creating the music of Heresiarch?

I lost interest in all facets of politics and society a long time ago and from a logical perspective, a Black/Death Metal band is the least likely candidate to rally the masses towards changing the world.

In some respects that attitude is militarized in Heresiarch as an expression of contempt and disgust for all morality, faith and social structures which is a valid view for one to hold in today’s world… Essentially Heresiarch exists because it needs to and when that need ceases, so will the band.

If you could change the world, in what direction would you take it?

It’d look like the gatefold of Hammer of Intransigence.

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Interview: Scalpel

scalpel-sorrow_and_skinWhen we encountered Boston band Scalpel, it was a breath of fresh air. While some of the frenetic post-‘core deathgrind influences were present, this band made it clear through their songwriting that their hearts were in the older traditions of the underground.

In fact, their sound resembles a cross between a Unique Leader West Coast-style blasting percussive death metal band, and an East Coast outfit, like some of the Suffocation material from their live album era before they fully modernized. Scalpel bash out the intricate textural descents of percussive death metal on Sorrow and Skin, their opus coming out this month.

We were able to snag the band for a few questions and enjoyed their laconic but incisive answers.

How did Scalpel form, and how did your style evolve after that point?

Scalpel formed when Taylor Brennan and Manny Egbert met each other at guitar summer camp like good little childs. We started as a goregrind band with lots of Carcass style riffs before developing a more technical and brutal sound.

What would you identify as your influences, musically and in literature, film and non-fiction writing?

Musically, our influences are bands like Creedence Clearwater, Black Sabbath, Morbid Angel, Suffocation and Carcass. We all enjoy films such as Ip Man, Rambo, The Reanimator, and Clockwork Orange. We also love authors such as J.R.R Tolkien, Kurt Vonnegut and Hunter S. Thompson.

Your style seems to approximate a mixture of East Coast and West Coast death metal influences. Are you the crest of a new wave?

Yes, although we do not try to align ourselves with any other contemporary death metal bands, we do feel that we have a unique sound.

Where did you record Sorrow and Skin?

Sorrow and Skin was recorded at Q Division Studios in Somerville, Massachusetts. No metronomes were used in the recording of the album in order to produce a more organic sound.

To what degree do you take influence from “modern” styles of metal, specifically the post-2000 ones?

Mostly, the extremely quick tempos and incessant blast beats. Other than that, we stick to our roots.

Where do you hold on to older styles, and why?

Slam riffs, fuzzy production, and shrieking bluesy guitar solos are all elements reminiscent of older styles. We think it is better to draw influence from older groups and expand upon the foundations of death metal than to keep up with modern standards.

Will you be gracing us with your presence with a tour?

Yes, we hope to tour Europe in the future. We look forward to bringing our brand of Death Metal to a new audience as well as making friends in new places.

How do you compose these songs?

The songwriting process sets in much like an attack of diarrhea; an idea will hit Manny or Taylor, and it goes from there. The song starts usually in the form of death metal scatting (fa na na flum flum) and we finish each other’s song ideas and hash out the rest at practice.

What, in your view, is the “soul” of death metal?

Death metal serves the purpose of being a lens into the darkest side of humanity, and making light of the most disturbing things that humans can achieve. Without the outlet of Death Metal, the world would seem deceivingly positive.

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Interview with Markus Stock of Empyrium

markus_stock-empyrium

The mysterious entity known as Empyrium has attracted its share of attention over the years by upholding the strongest nature-mystic tradition in metal, and dark ambient into which it migrated.

Like other nature mystics in metal, Empyrium expand the metal lexicon with lush dark organic soundscapes and dynamics that more represent the whims of nature than the mechanical sounds of city or ideology.

Into the Pantheon shows Empyrium in a live setting, both with a concert DVD and a documentary film made about the band and this event. Eagerly awaited by fans who remain loyal to this publicity-shy act, Into the Pantheon delivers a subtle but powerful live experience.

We were fortunate to be able to catch up with Markus Stock of Empyrium for a quick interview.

How did Empyrium come about? Did you have a concept when you went into this practice, or did it develop naturally?

When we started Empyrium back in 1993 we were just 15 year old kids and didn’t have a detailed plan or concept whatsoever at first. We just followed our heart and made music that came naturally to us…now, 20 years later, we still follow that rule, but of course we are much more experienced and skilled these days.

Were you influenced by past metal bands who’ve used acoustic instruments among the distorted guitars, like Cemetary and Pyogenesis?

Yeah, we were. I loved the first Pyogenesis MCD (on Osmose) when it came out. Big influences also were My Dying Bride, early Paradise Lost, very early Cradle Of Filth, Darkthrone and Emperor (especially their unbelievable split with Enslaved).

Some have hypothesized that metal is in a slump, and for it to break out, it’s going to need to get closer to genres like classical or folk music where there’s a greater range of instrument used, thus more musical possibilities. Did you have a similar idea in your own path?

Actually, no. Today I don’t view Empyrium as a Metal Band anymore. We have influences from many, many genres and styles of music. I think the whole “let’s mix our metal with folk/classical/hip-hop/funk/whatever” went a little overboard and today I enjoy Metal much more when it retains some purity of the genre. Nothin wrong with some classical elements or keyboards but the electric guitar and the pounding drums should be the centerpiece of a Metal Band.

Into the Pantheon is an immaculate concert with high technical performance but also emotional intensity. How did you practice for this? And how much did you just “wing it” to keep the mood strong?

We practiced alot. I wrote a score for each live musician involved so they could prepare themselve at home and then we rehearsed about a week in a smal venue that was rented for us. It was important to me to be well prepared.

Do you see an affinity between yourselves and other atmosphere based metal bands like Summoning?

Oh yes. I loved the whole Summoning stuff. I hear they made a new album I need to check that, though I find it hard to retain this kind of 90ies atmospheric today.

Most would identify your style as some kind of doom metal, like My Dying Bride or Paradise Lost, but at the pace of a funeral doom band, like Skepticism or Winter. What made you choose the tempi at which you play, and what does it suggest, artistically?

Like mentioned earlier I can see influences and similarities to bands like Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride in our very early works but Skepticism or Winter? Definitely no.

Empyrium has a reputation for being secretive. Are you secretive? If so, why?

No I am not. This is because we haven’t played live in more than 15 years of band history. But, I am not lurking in a cave, deep in the woods, pondering in solitude and silence over my future plans.

Metal bands seem to have this life cycle where they start out with fresh ideas, and then become more like their influences, then get big and quality plummets after that. Have you observed this? How will Empyrium beat this cycle?

We have actually finished a new album and with a break between the last album and this one of almost 10 years – believe me, if you follow your heart and do the music that comes out of you it will be fresh again.

In addition to the live concert, there was a DVD made about the band. How did this come about? What did you think of the final product?

I think it’s a nice addition to the live part of the DVD and was a lot of work. Personally I can’t see myself talking over such a long period of time but fans will definitely love the detail and the work that went into this documentay,

Once this DVD and documentary hit the stores, there’s going to be a reaction. How much does it influence you? Will it inspire you to tour, or release more music?

There will be no tour with Empyrium. A few selected live appearances but no tour. As mentioned earlier we have a new album in the pipeline to be released maybe early next year.

What are your non-musical influences? Are there works of art or literature that capture the vision you’re trying to create in sound?

Of course. Movies, literature, paintings – everything I consume inspires me. Nature and landscapes have always been a big influence on Empyrium. Past, present and future.

It must be challenging to integrate so many instruments and voices of such different loudness and timbre into your works. How do you compose your songs? Do you start with an idea, or a melody, or a riff?

It usually starts with just one theme – a small melody or a riff…from there we go and build up a song. With newer Empyrium material it’s is often that a song is based on one single theme and we go from there and build it up, let it collapse again, change small details etc. to make the theme work over the period of the song. You’ll hear that when the new album hits the streets.

In your view, what is heavy metal “about”? Does that change for doom metal?

Heavy Metal is about energy to me. Wild, touching, deep and archaic emotions at the same. As mentioned earlier, I don’t see Empyrium as a Metal band – we are more about the silence and the thoughts that come to you in silence. It’s much more introverted versus the the extroverted spirit of Metal.

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Interview with Andrés Padilla, author of Underground Never Dies

andrés padilla-underground_never_diesRecently the word got out about a new book that’s going to explain the metal underground. This book, called Underground Never Dies, is edited by Andrés Padilla, the longstanding publisher and chief writer of Grinder Magazine.

Like several underground books before it, Underground Never Dies does not attempt to summarize the underground from a single point of view. Rather, it lets many different voices speak and, like harmonization in song, a truth emerges.

Cover art by Mark Riddick graces the entrance to this all-star production of underground metal analysis and opinion. In these pages, you will find people that you know of, or will want to know of, who helped build the underground into what it is.

We were lucky to get a chat in with Andrés as he prepares to launch this challenging work. Thanks to Andrés Padilla, Grinder Magazine and Doomentia Records for helping us secure this interview.
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The most difficult question first (sorry!): what is the “underground”?

From a Thrasher’s point of view, it’s a very particular phenomenon developed in the early eighties when the roar and corrosion of Metal began to sprout all over the world. Ignoring rules, norms and standards, this trend and way of thinking opened up its way in a pure, honest and caring manner. Personally, the underground has been the path I have followed all my life, not only musically (I also listen to other music styles) but also in the type of life and philosophy to follow. Since the metal stench entered my blood it has never left. On the contrary, it has grown and strengthened my vision for this movement that in spite of any dogma, represents a way of life not only for me, but for many other devoted followers of this sound, which becomes my daily sustenance.

Underground is devotion and commitment; it is to follow your own path, not accepting the mainstream as your food, rejecting the rules of the religion – Christianity , impose your own voice, make your mark, teach others that way which means to believe in yourself. It’s a “fuck you” to the system.
Musically it is the opposite to the establishment. This is where the mind has a space to open freely and go with the corrosive and distressing death metal sound, which in my case is my favorite style.

It may have been born in the eighties, but not everyone who was there at the beginning has continued its traditions. I feel lucky to have never given up this way of life and even to this day, have supported its development and growth, either by editing a fanzine for 25 years as well editing and distributing discs and demo tapes. Although the rise of the Internet has dramatically changed the way it’s distributed and spread out, the underground has mutated over time, trying to keep his old philosophy and aesthetics. Long life to Death Metal!

How did the idea of this book come to you, and how did you embark on the course to write it and publish it?

Before finishing school I started to make my own fanzine. Up to this day I continue, sending letters, talking with underground bands, exchanging demos/CDs/LPs/videos etc. has been my way of life. I never wanted to look for a job in an office. Metal has been my best ally and daily food since I started listening to it in the mid eighties.

So if you ask me how I got this idea, well, it just came to me, I never looked for it! Everything came naturally. I like thriving, without losing its philosophy, and after 25 years doing fanzines, I wanted to do something more challenging, something that defined a little better what my life linked to music has been like, even if it’s been behind a desk. I’ve always believed that nothing is impossible, only death is unavoidable.

Then, as there is no worldwide publication that has managed to piece together an overall concept about this repulsive and dark phenomenon, I wanted to be the first madman to embrace every corner of the planet and display it in a book with a ton of posters, photos and comments that may finally tell, what, how and when all this happened. Underground Never Dies is just that, an incredible journey into the past where you can explicitly revive what was a unique time.

About the way it’s going to be published, maybe it was fate or luck that made me send a copy of my first book — Retrospectiva al Metal Chileno 1983-1993 — to Doomentia. Lukas (founder) loved my work and when I told him I was doing a new book about the worldwide Underground, and in English, he gladly accepted to publish it.

Do you think “underground” (perhaps like “outsider”) is a cultural identity more than a marketing category?

andrés_padilla-grinder_magazine-underground_never_diesAbsolutely, at least for me. I am very different from other normal people who wake up every day to go to an office or accept system standards. So this phenomenon for me has its own identity, and even though throughout its developmental years many people have left to take on another identity, I know that we are thousands who still believe that this sound must be kept in a low profile, away from the mainstream and with a unique identity.

And I’m not talking about the aesthetic aspect, because personally, even though I really like the aesthetic that surrounds it, if anyone sees me on the street probably they will not think I listen to Death Metal. For me the image is not everything. It is the thinking, actions and congruence with yourself. The rest does not matter. Now, I will not dress like a Glam Rock fan of the eighties. No way!

How important do you think “non-commercial” attitudes are to the underground?

They are important to sustain its aesthetics, spirit and coherence with the environment. However, commercial attitudes are also valid. It is impossible to make a ‘zine and give it away for free, to spend thousands of dollars on a disc and then give it away. Money is in the middle of it whether we like it or not. Always. Moreover, we grew up on the grounds that money is everything. Unfortunately we are doomed to follow that path until humanity reaches its end. I prefer to make music or a magazine and sell it than belonging to a stupid company and take orders from an asshole boss.

Do you think the underground was a product of its time, when there was no Amazon and import CDs weren’t in regular stores, or does it still have relevance today?

To me, Underground is a concept born out of many factors, like our interest in something intangible like belonging to a music scene. We, are the ones who keep this alive. The bands, zines publishers, fans attending a concert, etc. All this makes the Underground continue thriving over time and avoid death to changes in humanity, like technology. Underground will always exist, but it is not going to go towards you, it is you who has to go to it.

What defines or identifies an “underground” band? Is there a specific sound, or is it an attitude, or a social position like being on an underground label, small pressing runs, etc.?

Arguably, in Thrash, Death, Speed, Black, Doom, etc, all trends derived from this devotion. Yes, there are patterns, pre-established rules and forms which we interpret as good or bad. Underground is devotion. And when it’s honest and pure, it is recognized. Who does not recognize it, then, they are on a different path.

How long did it take you to write the book? What is your process for writing?

From the first interviews, trips and design, I think it has been three long years. The first stage was the longest, perhaps collecting the information (posters, photos, etc.) and checking my personal collection amassed over the years of editing fanzines. Much of the material had been stored and forgotten.

underground_never_dies-andres_padillaThen it was about organizing the book concept and selecting the best of the material, trying not to be like any other work which has published about it. After several years, I think I arrived at the final concept. The experience of having done something similar, only dedicated to the scene of my country, was fundamental. That book, Retrospectiva al Metal Chileno 1983-1993, edited along with a 12″ vinyl disc (made by Iron Bonehead Prod, Germany) was very well-received worldwide.

Who’s going to print the book, and where/when will we be able to buy it, and for how much?

Doomentia Czech label will be responsible for publishing and distributing the book through its network of contacts and labels within the Metal realm. We all know who they are! If you’re reading this, it’s because you know! I have to confess that thanks to the Internet, now with a few clicks anyone can have the book. Hopefully the printed copies reach the right people. I have no idea what the price will be, but if you calculate a hardcover book with over 400 pages infested with posters and photos of the eighties, plus a 12″ gatefold with bands like Slaughter Lord, Incubus, Necrovore, Mutilated, Dr Shrinker, Fatal and more, then the price is more or less imaginable. I hope that the material is ready and available for December 2013.

You mention on your flyer that the underground was a way to fight transformation into a mindless sheep. This sounds straight out of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” or “They Live.” Is it really that bad?

The promotional poster you speak of, contains quotes taken from the people interviewed in the book. That phrase you mention is something you will have to interpret when you read the book and the complete response of the interview. That mystery I leave it for when you have the book in your hands. Each individual has his own version of what happened in these corrosive years, when Metal was a threat to the system. In my case, I lived through Metal in chaotic times for my country with a military dictatorship. I think that counts and left a huge mark in our youth.

Where does the underground live today?

Worldwide. It has never ceased to exist. We are the ones who should feel a natural devotion to go after it. Those who don’t feel that, simply do not belong in this cult. This will cease to exist only when there are no more humans on earth.

Can you give us a small biography of yourself and your past writing experiences?

Since 1988, I have been editing fanzines, corresponding with bands, tape traders, attending concerts and festivals worldwide. I saw the birth of Death Metal since it started wearing diapers. With 25 years of experience in this art, I think I have enough to identify which smells more rotten than the other. This is all I have done in my life.

I have never been part of a company, nor have I been employed by one, except for a radio station in Santiago for three years, but at that time it was only two days a week on the radio, so I wouldn’t call it being employed by them. The program was called “Ground Beef”, and was devoted to Metal . We played stuff like Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse, Nihilist among many other killer bands. It was a fun experience hanging out with some international acts when they played in Chile.

Will you be covering the internet, for example pre-1995 websites like the Dark Legions Archive?

The book mainly talks about the beginnings of Metal, but at the end it has a brief chapter on these issues, the emergence of the Internet and databases such as these and many others, like Metal Archives.

Thank you for this interview. Our readers will enjoy it!

Thank you very much to you for this tremendous space and support to spread this work that has required three years of my life. I hope that when it’s published, the public can appreciate it.

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Entrevista con Andrés Padilla, autor de Underground Never Dies

andrés padilla-underground_never_diesRecientemente se corrió la voz acerca de un nuevo libro que va a explicar el metal underground. Este libro, llamado Underground Never Dies, es editado por Andrés Padilla, el editor y escritor desde hace mucho tiempo jefe de la revista Grinder.

Al igual que varios libros que estén bajo tierra antes, Underground Never Dies no intenta resumir el metro desde un único punto de vista. Más bien, permite muchas voces hablan y, al igual que la armonización en el canto, emerge una verdad.

Arte de la cubierta de Mark Riddick adorna la entrada a esta producción de estrellas de los análisis de metales bajo tierra y opinión. En estas páginas, usted encontrará personas que usted conoce, o tendrá que conocer, que ayudó a construir el metro en lo que es.

Tuvimos la suerte de tener una charla con Andrés mientras se prepara para lanzar este trabajo desafiante. Gracias a Andrés Padilla, Revista Grinder y Doomentia Registros por ayudarnos a asegurar esta entrevista.
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The most difficult question first (sorry!): what is the “underground”?

Mirado desde el punto de vista de un Thrasher, es un fenónemo muy particular que se desarrolló a inicios de los ochenta cuando el rugido y corrosidad del Metal empezó a brotar por toda la orbe. Ignorando reglas, patrones y normas, esta tendencia y manera de pensar se abrió camino de una manera pura, honesta y solidaria.

En lo personal, el underground ha sido el camino que he seguido toda mi vida, no solo en lo musical –aunque también escucho otros estilos-, sino que también en la vida y tipo de filosofía a seguir. Desde que el pestilente metal entró en mi sangre no se ha ido más. Todo lo contrario, ha crecido y potenciado mi vision sobre este movimiento que a pesar de cualquier dogma, representa una manera de vivir no solo para mi, sino que para muchos otros devotos seguidores de este sonido, que se transforma en el alimento diario de mi existencia.

Underground es devoción y compromiso, es seguir tu propio camino, no aceptar al mainstream como tu alimento, rechazar las reglas de la religion – cristianismo-, imponer tu propia voz, dejar tu huella, enseñarle a otros ese camino que significa creer en uno mismo. Es decir fuck you all al sistema. Musicalmente es lo contrario y opuesto a lo establecido. Es donde la mente tiene un espacio para abrirse libremente y dejarse llevar por el corrosivo y angustiante sonido del Death Metal -que en mi caso es mi corriente favorita-. Puede haber nacido en los ochenta, pero no todos los que la vieron nacer han seguido su tradición. Me siento afortunado de nunca haber abandonado esta forma de vida y hasta el día de hoy, haber apoyado a su desarrollo y crecimiento, ya sea escribiendo en un fanzine por más de 25 años, como así editando y distribuyendo discos o demo tapes.

Aunque la aparición de Internet cambio drásticamente la manera de distribuirse, manifestarse y procrearse, el underground ha mutado con el tiempo, tratando de mantener su antigua filofosía y estética. Long life to Death Metal!

How did the idea of this book come to you, and how did you embark on the course to write it and publish it?

Antes de salir del colegio commence a armar mi propio fanzine. Hasta el día de hoy, mandar cartas, hablar con bandas subterráneas, intercambiar demos/ cds/lps/videos etc ha sido mi camino. Nunca quise buscar un trabajo en una oficina. El Metal ha sido mi major aliado y alimento diario desde que comencé a inyectarmelo a mediados de los ochenta. Entonces, si me preguntas cómo llegó esta idea. Bueno, simplemente llegó. No la busqué! Todo se dio de manera natural. Me gusta avanzar en la vida, sin perder la filosofía, y con 25 años detras de fanzines, quise hacer algo más desafiante, algo que definiera un poco más lo que ha sido mi vida ligada a la música –aunque sea desde el escritorio-. Siempre he creido que nada es imposible, lo único inevitable es la muerte. Entonces, como no existe una publicación en todo el mundo que haya logrado juntar un concepto global sobre este repugnante y oscuro fenómeno, quise tartar de ser el primer loco en abrazar cada Rincon del planeta y manifestarlo en un libro con una tonelada de afiches, fotos y comentarios que podrán finalmente decir, qué, cómo y cuando sucedió todo esto. Underground Never Dies es simplemente eso, un incredible viaje al pasado en donde podrás revivir expl+icitamente lo que fue una época irrepetible.

Ahora ómo va a ser publicado. Quizás fue el destino o la suerte que me hizo mandarle una copia de mi primer libro a Doomentia. Lukas –fundador- alunió con este trasbajo y cuando le dije que estabaarmando otro referente a Underground mundial, y en Inglés, él aceptó encantado en publicarlo.

Do you think “underground” (perhaps like “outsider”) is a cultural identity more than a marketing category?

andrés_padilla-grinder_magazine-underground_never_diesTotalmente, al menos para mi. Me siento muy diferente al resto de los normales que se levantan a diario para ir a una oficina o aeptarlas normas del sistema. Entonces este fenómeno para mi tiene una identidad propia, y a pesar de que a traves de sus años de creimiento, muha gente ha abandonado y elegido tomar otra idendidad, sí se que somos miles los que aún creemos que este sonido debe mantenerse siempre en bajo perfil, lejos del mainstream y con una identidad única.

Y no estoy hablando del aspect estético ya que en lo personal, a pesar de que me gusta mucho la estética que lo envuelve, si alguien me ve en la calle seguramente no va a pensar que escucho Death Metal. Para mi la imagen no lo es todo. Es la forma de pensar, los actos y la congruencia con uno mismo. El resto, da lo mismo. Ahora, tampoco me voy a vestir como un Glam Rock de los ochenta. No way !

How important do you think “non-commercial” attitudes are to the underground?

Son importantes para mantener su estética, espíritu y coherencia con el medio que nos rodea. Sin embargo, actitudes comerciales también son válidas. Es imposible hacer un fanzine y tener que regalarlo, invertir miles de dolares en un disco para luego regalarlo. El dinero está de por medio querámoslo o no. Siempre. Es más, crecimos con el fundamento de que el dinero lo es todo. Lamentablemente estamos condenados a seguir ese camino hasta que la humanidad llegue a su fin.

Prefiero hacer musica o una revista y venderla a pertenecer a una estúpida empresa y aceptar órdenes de un jefe imbecil.

Do you think the underground was a product of its time, when there was no Amazon and import CDs weren’t in regular stores, or does it still have relevance today?

Para mi Underground es un concepto que se dap or muchos factores. Nuestro interés en algo intangible como pertenecer a una escena musical. Somos nosotros, quienes mantenemos vivo esto. Las bandas, los editores de zines, los fans que asisten a un concierto. Etc Todo eso hace que el Underground siga escabuyéndose con el paso del tiempo y haya podido evitar la muerte ante cambios de la humanidad como la tecnologia. Siempre va a existir Underground, pero este no va a ir hacia a tip por si solo, eres tu quien tiene que ir hacia el.

What defines or identifies an “underground” band? Is there a specific sound, or is it an attitude, or a social position like being on an underground label, small pressing runs, etc.? Podría decirse que en el Thrash, Death, Speed, Black, Doom etc, todas tendencias derivadas de esta devoción, sí hay patrones, reglas o formas pre establecidas y que nosotros entendemos por buenas o malas. Underground es devoción. Y cuando es honesta y pura, se reconoce. Quien no la reconoce, pues, está en otro camino.

How long did it take you to write the book? What is your process for writing?

Desde las primeras entrevistas, viajes y diseño, creo que han sido 3 largos años. La primera etapa fue la más larga, quizas la de recopilar información (afiches, fotos, etc) revisar mi colección personal de material que he juntado en largos 25 años editando fanzines. Mucho material estaba guardado y olvidado.

underground_never_dies-andres_padillaLuego ordenar el concepto del libro y tartar de seleccionar lo major del material, intentando no ser parecido a ninguna otra obra que se haya puvlicado al respecto. Luego de varios años, creo que llegé al concepto final. La experiencia de haber hecho algo similar, slo dedicado a la escena de mi país, fue clave. Ese libro Retrospectiva al metal Chileno 1983-1993, editado con vinilo 12” (hecho por Iron Bonehead Prod, de Alemania) fue muy bienacogido en todo el mundo.

Who’s going to print the book, and where/when will we be able to buy it, and for how much?

La etiqueta checa Doomentia estará a cargo de publicar y distribuir el libro a través de su red de contactos y sellos amigos devotos al maldito metal. Todos ya sabemos cuales son! Si estás leyendo esto, es por que lo sabes! Hay que confezar que gracias a Internet, ahora con un par de clicks cualquier persona podrá tener el libro. Ojalá que las copias que sehagan, lleguen a las personas idóneas. El precio no tengo idea de cuánto va a ser, pero si calculan un Libro con hardcover más de 300 páginas infestadas de afiches y fotos de los años ochenta, más un 12” gatefold con bandas como Slaughter Lord, Incubus, Necrovore, Mutilated, Dr Shrinker, Fatal, etc el precio es más o menos imaginable. Espero que el material esté listo y disponible para Diciembre del 2013.

You mention on your flyer that the underground was a way to fight transformation into a mindless sheep. This sounds straight out of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” or “They Live.” Is it really that bad?

El poster promocional del que hablas, contiene citas extraidas desde los mismos entrevistados. Esa frase que mencionas, la vas a tener que entender cuando leas el libro y la respuesta completa del entrevistado. Ese misterio lo dejo para cuando tengas el libro en tus manos. Cada individuo tiene su propia version de lo sucedido en esos corrosives años, cuando el Metal era una amenaza para el sistema. En mi caso vivi el Metal en tiempos caóticos para mi país con una dictadura military. Creo que eso cuenta y nos marcó mucho en nuestra juventúd.

Where does the underground live today?

En todo el mundo. Nunca ha dejado de existir. Somos nosotros, quienes debemos sentir la devoción natural de ir tras el. Quien no la siente, simplemente no pertenece a este culto. Este solo dejará de existir cuando ya no hayan más humanos en la tierra.

Can you give us a small biography of yourself and your past writing experiences?

Desde el año 1988 he estado editando fanzines, escribiéndome con bandas, tape traders, asistiendo a conciertos, festivals por todo el mundo. Vi nacer el Death Metal desde que comenzó a usar pañales. Con 25 años de experiencia en la material, creo que tengo la suficiente fascilidad de identificar cual huele más putrefacta que otra. Esto es lo único que hecho en mi vida. Nunca he participado de una empresa, ni he sido empleado dealguna compañía, con excepción de un programa de radio en una estación de Santiago port res años, pero en esa época iba solo dos dias a la semana a la radio, no podría citarlo como pertenecer a una empresa. El programa se llamaba Carne Molida, y era dedicado al Metal. Pasabamos desde Morbid Angel, Cabbibal Corpse, Nihilist hasta Pantera.

Will you be covering the internet, for example pre-1995 websites like the Dark Legions Archive?

E libro habla principalmente de los inicios del Metal, pero al final incluirá un capítulo breve sobre esos temas, la irrupción de internet y las bases de datos como esas y muchas otras como Metal Archives.

Thank you for this interview. Our readers will enjoy it!

Muchas gracias a ustedes por este tremendo espacio y apoyo a difundir esta obra que ha demandado 3 años de mi vida. Espero que cuando salga, el public pueda apreciarlo.

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Interview with Paul Speckmann (Master, Deathstrike, Abomination)

paul_speckmann-master_abomination_deathstrike_funeral_bitch_speckmann_projectPaul Speckmann’s contributions to metal are often mentioned but rarely fully assessed. To scan metal history, we see Speckmann leaving War Cry in 1983 to go off and create something else and coming out with a punkish proto-death metal hybrid somewhere between in the early- to mid-1980s.

The criticial mass and terminal velocity was reached with Deathstrike’s Fuckin’ Death in its second and wider release, melding with Seven Churches, Abominations of Desolation, Divus de Mortuus, Bestial Devastation and Morbid Tales as part of the definition of a new genre. While formed of a proto-metal style that still showed the oil-on-water punk and heavy metal in a pre-emulsion state, Fuckin’ Death helped establish many of the songwriting conventions of the new hybrid.

Since that time, Speckmann has continued his work in metal with bands such as Master, Abomination, Funeral Bitch, Speckmann Project and numerous other collaborations. He was worked with musicians from Cynic and Krabathor and managed to keep his sound consistent across a dozen or more albums, many of which successively re-work earlier songs into more “death metal” versions.

We are very fortunate to be able to interview Mr. Speckmann again, having interviewed him before, as he’s one of our favorite metal personalities.

Your new album The Witchhunt builds on a huge legacy of past Master (and related Speckmann projects) work. How is it different, and how is it consistent with what you’ve done before?

Well that’s just it: I have been doing things the same way on every album since Faith is in Season. I write and record riffs on the acoustic guitar along with a micro-cassette recorder and when the time comes for a new album, I sift through the riffs and hopefully find half a dozen to work with. Most of the time I think that there is much junk on the recorder, but strangely enough sometimes I go back years later and find a killer set of riffs that I missed somehow.

So basically what I am trying to say here is that I did nothing different than before. The album was recorded very quickly after about a month of on and off rehearsals. Ervery time we go into the studio with the intention of making a great album, sometimes it works and other times it doesn’t. As for consistency, every Speckmann album has this. If something isn’t broken, then there is no need to fix it!

Have there been any lineup changes since the last album?

Nejezchleba, Pradlovsky and myself have been recording together since the Spirit of the West.

Are your lyrics still as radical, less radical, or more radical than early Master releases?

The lyrics speak for themselves. I suppose you don’t have an actual copy of the CD in your hands. The world around us always dictates dictates the themes on all Master recordings. We as a people are living in turmoil as the power mongers continue to take control of the oil and all the wealth in the world. America the big bully is still at work trying to control all aspects of everyone’s lives across the globe. The world has become a quite more difficult place since the origins of Master so the latter proves true when it comes to the themes I suppose.

Some of us refer to early Master as “proto-death metal” because while it’s a lot like death metal, it has feet in other worlds as well. How do you think of your early music?

You know, when this all began we were merely experimenting with the styles we liked as a formula in our music. Today things really haven’t changed. I still listen to early Rock and Heavy Metal and this keeps my mind clear to write my own crazy musical renditions of what I want to hear. I still listen to GBH, the Exploited, MDC, Minor Threat and Discharge from time to time as they genuinely speak to me in tongues. Good one for sure. I certainly like the old Punk stuff. I have always composed the same way, watching murders on “48 Hours” and playing guitar along the way.

What are the roots of the death metal style? Does it have a core set of influences, or was it an idea?

I never considered Master to be a Death Metal band this tag came several years later. The original fellas and I were just playing Metal, period. After hearing bands like Venom, Slayer and Hellhammer as well as Venom, I left the Doom band as they have tagged it now and wanted to get heavier. Master and Deathstrike were much more aggressive and on the right track so too speak.

I was amazed by, despite lineup changes and some stylistic changes and many years, this album still sounds very much like a Speckmann album. How do you maintain your distinctive style?

The reason the album sounds like Speckmetal is that of course I wrote 10 of the 11 songs but more importantly the band Master always stays true to itself. We play to audiences for example of all sizes from 75-5000 people, and people always understand that we live for the music and you can feel this live as well as on the albums. Many of today’s originators only play for money; this is not the only motivation for Master. We genuinely enjoy touring and sharing the new as well as the old songs with audiences across the globe.

Will you tour the USA with this release, or are you Europe-based for now?

We will tour the USA once again from April 18th until May 9th; I am waiting for information on this very soon. This will once again be an American lineup.

The news says the USA is about to go to war with Syria. Do you have some words about that?

The bully is always ready to go for war; the American economy sucks and people need jobs. This sounds like a great time to bomb Syria. With all the arms, bullets, tanks, etc. the economy will certainly improve. The US likes to fight for sure. Loss of life is of no consequence in the end for the mighty USA. Soon the draft will start up again so you too can fight for your country.

When you started out, I believe, you were working a day job moving furniture and making metal at night, and seemed quite happy doing that.

Actually the day job moving furniture came after my day job selling marihuana was put to a stop by the police. I was forced to borrow money from a truckdriver friend and became a fulltime mover instead of ending up in jail. The band was barely alive in those days so I must have lied in an earlier interview or maybe our first one. Looking back, I do not miss the everyday shit of moving other assholes homesteads.

Now you’ve moved to the Czech Republic and music is your full-time gig. How has the transition been for you?

The transition was a natural thing, for the first few years I travelled the globe with Krabathor summers and then worked moving furniture from September to until March for the first several years. Then in 2004 I was offered a merch job for a German company called Bruchstein Tours and stayed in the Czech Republic permanently. I did this for several years until Master became too busy and this is where I am now, just playing shows.

If a fan listens to The Witchhunt and really likes it, what do you recommend that fan does in terms of exploring more Master material? Should he/she go find a copy of Fuckin’ Death or Speckmann Project or start with more recent material?

I think the entire back catalogue has something to offer and many of the original releases are being re-issued. Fans can contact me directly if need be.

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Interview with Satan

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Satan‘s Life Sentence is going to hit a lot of best of lists for this year because it is the root of the most lastingly popular metal genre ever created.

In the early 1980s, speed metal bands like Metallica popularized the style, but acknowledged their debt to NWOBHM including Motorhead, Diamond Head and Blitzkrieg. These bands were from the far side of NWOBHM as it incorporated more punk influences and as a way of differentiating itself from the earlier versions, got harder, heavier, riffier and generally more aggressive.

Back in those times, Satan’s Court in the Act was considered one of the fore-runners of speed metal. With the advantage of 30 years of wisdom, Satan re-assembled — now with experience spent in bands like Blitzkrieg and Skyclad — and restored its vision of the past with an album that is harder, faster and heavier than their earlier works.

Life Sentence however also includes the best aspects of NWOBHM, which includes the melodic vocals and melodic guitar-based songwriting, with technical chops that aren’t overstated, and a good sense of developing theme. It makes many of the post-Metallica imitators of speed metal seem like two-note template-based song construction, and shows metal a way to renovate its own flagging fortunes: improve songwriting.

It won’t be hard to convince people to enjoy this album. As we pointed out in our review, it’s a winner with metalheads who like musicality with their speed thrills. We were fortunate to be able to talk with guitarist Steve Ramsey.

Back in the 1980s, when asked about the origins of speed metal (Metallica, Exodus, Anthrax, Testament, Megadeth) many people pointed me toward Court in the Act, and others mentioned the “Into the Fire” demo you released in 1982. What do you think your contributions were toward inventing this new style? Do you think it was widely recognised?

I think on the underground it was recognised that the album had some significance. Unfortunately it didn’t seem so to us at the time, hence the name and direction change. We knew we were pushing boundaries in our own way.

What floors me about Life Sentence is how you mix melodic guitar playing with aggressive and fast riffing. Do you get a lot of comparisons to Judas Priest’s Painkiller? How do you think this album is different from your past works?

We were heavily influenced by early Priest, especially the Unleashed in the East live album and the older material on that album. No one has mentioned this until now. Their earlier material in he seventies was very progressive, unlike some of the stuff that made them popular in the eighties. We tried to create what we think would have been our second album had the lineup stayed in tact. We had a few rules we made and stuck to. For instance, we didn’t think we would have written much in odd time signatures.

The term “power metal” popped up a lot in the late 1990s to refer to bands that were melodic in composition but used the more aggressive riff styles of speed metal and death metal, like Helstar and Stratovarius. However, Satan was doing all of this back in 1982. Do you think the community caught up to you, and do you think that your first album would be received differently today?

If the reaction to the new album is anything to go by then yes, I think the album would have fared better now. Aggressive melodic speed metal is a term that could be used to describe a lot of what we are in to writing and performing as a band.

Life Sentence is a remarkably complete album in that every song seems to fit and there’s not a dull moment. What’s your songwriting and quality control process? How do you start writing a song — with an idea, an image, a riff, a melody, or what? — and how do you determine what goes on the album?

It’s strange really, we didn’t have any left overs. Everything we put together is on the album. Russ is the main writer of the music along with myself, but a lot of the stuff is a collaboration between us and the other members adding their bits and pieces to the general picture and overall performance. It’s a true team effort.

Members have gone on to other bands, including Skyclad which claimed your guitarist and bassist for some time. How is Skyclad different from Satan? It is famous for mixing folk music in with metal. Is this a natural progression from what you did with Satan?

Not at all. That was a concept perceived by our ex-singer Martin and myself. We started off playing a more thrashy form of music and gradually added more of the folk element as we went on. Sabbat were a thrash band that Martin was in previous to Skyclad. His vocal style determined what we were able to do too.

How do you see yourself as different from death metal? In the Metal Forces interview, you say Satan changed the name in part to avoid being seen as being like Venom and Slayer. Musically and artistically, how do you see yourselves as different from these bands? In an interview with Snakepit magazine, you mentioned that Satan chose its path before black metal and death metal. What do you think of these movements which have built on what you’ve created?

When we formed the band Russ and I were 15 and still at school together. We thought Satan was a true heavy metal name for a band and of course we’d come up with a fantastic logo. We were into Black Sabbath but they weren’t branded by their name with everyone thinking they were into the occult or whatever. This happened later to the music scene. In the eighties we had some towns trying to ban us from playing and Christians demonstrating outside shows because of the name. We tired of this and having to explain that we weren’t preachers of evil etc.

I think nowadays it’s taken a little more tongue-in-cheek what a band decides to call itself. I like aggressive music and we write songs about the evil things that happen in the world but we have nothing to do with devil worship and all of that stuff and dont want to be associated with it. The forms black and death metal weren’t the issue, it was the message that some of these bands were tring to deliver. Slayer are one of my favourite bands.

In the German TV interview posted on your website, you mention how metal audiences are too trend-orientated. How do you think this has helped you or hurt you over the years? You mention in the context of Skyclad, that not being popular isn’t a judgment on musical quality. Can you tell us more about this?

This is especially what happens in the UK. The popular press lead the fans into liking the music made by the major labels, and of course those labels are the ones that fund the magazines through advertising. We’ve had situations in the past with press in Germany too where you’ll get an album review but no feature because your label aren’t paying for a big full colour advertisement in that mag. This makes it more difficult to be heard if you’re trying to create someting new on a small independent label. It’s really not the audience’s fault, they get into what they get to hear and that goes for mainstream too. This has changed a lot since I made that statement due to the internet and fans being able to find what they like themselves.

In the Snakepit interview, you say that your first gig involved playing covers by Black Sabbath, Motorhead and the Ramones. How much influence did punk have on your music? Where did the Motorhead influence come in? Was it balanced by another influence, that sounds more like traditional NWOBHM and guitar-oriented rock?

We listened to a lot of punk stuff in the seventies and wanted to involve that raw energy in our music. Motorhead were one of the first metal bands to do that for us. Also we played punk stuff because it was easy to play and people would identify with it at school where our first gig was! We were also listening to Deep Purple, Rainbow, Priest and Rush but couldn’t play that yet. We would play a lot of Priest songs from Unleashed in The East, “Kill the King” by Rainbow, “The Trees” by Rush and others later on in our early days.

How is it that people confuse writing about evil, with suggesting that evil is a good idea? Does this reveal something about them? I’m thinking of your comments (Steve and Graeme) in the German TV interview on the Satan page about how people would boycott Satan without knowing anything about the music.

Yes, it is a little naive. Unfortunately there are people out there who make assumptions without listening. There were bands promoting it through their lyrics too though and that didn’t help with us being called Satan.

In an interview with Metal Forces magazine, you said you wanted to get away from darker themes and “all this black death, killing people and devils. We want to get some life into metal. Music isn’t about death, it’s about life.” — is there a way for bands to be about life even with dark themes, or are the two mutually exclusive? Do you think many metal bands are going about this the wrong way?

I think what I was trying to say was that some bands try to deliver a message through their lyrics and sometimes it’s not good. We certainly did that with Skyclad and still do but Satan was never about that. We want people to enjoy listening to the band and the dark lyrical themes suit the music we make but were not trying to deliver any kind of opinion or message with them. There are also a lot of bands that share the same attitude.

You’ve now played a number of festivals, and come out with what I think will be a strong contender for album of the year, and you’ve got a powerful lineup ready to go. Are you going to tour more, or focus on recording more material?

Thanks for that accolade. Everything is very much up in the air and in the lap of the gods! If you’d asked us a couple of years ago are we going to make an album we probably would have laughed. The interest in what we do is leading us. This album went so well that there have been whispers in the camp about maybe doing another. We take the shows we get offered and we have some good ones coming up.

Thank you very much for the great review Brett. It’s great to know there are people out there who really get what were doing and appreciate it and that really came across when we read it.

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Interview with the fan who prefers to buy CDs

physical_cd_collectionIt’s no big news when someone who grew up two decades ago prefers to buy CDs. Back then, the shiny little discs represented a break from the cumbersome technology of the past and instead were a gateway to modernity.

Not so, now. People growing up in the last decade have emerged in a world where “buying music” increasingly means downloading a song from an iTunes or Amazon account. The idea of buying physical CDs is as odd to them as buying a player-piano scroll.

However, there are always those who don’t go with the flow. We found a user named Evisceratorium at large on the internet who is willing to tell us about the decision as a new listener to go back to buying physical music instead of digital.

I understand that you’ve grown up with the digital download generation, but have switched back to buying CDs. What were your reasons for doing this?

I decided that the overall experience of buying physical music was more interesting and fun than simply pulling up a downloading website and clicking a button. It simply started as an alternate way to own music, I guess — I didn’t consider one way of doing things to be superior to any other. If I was at the record store in the mall and I saw an album that I was interested in checking out, I’d buy the CD there instead of getting it off iTunes, if only for immediate gratification and convenience.

Do you think there’s a value in having a tangible product? Do you have your collection on display, or use it as conversation pieces?

I think there’s a lot of value in owning the tangible product, especially for musical formats. It’s not just a sign of devotion to me, it’s a token piece that I get to keep and look at whenever I’d like. I’ll admit that, contrary to most somewhat similar opinions I’ve heard, I don’t buy music to support artists I enjoy. If I enjoy them, that’s fine; but frankly I usually expect to receive some item in return for my money and support, rather than something intangible. I do have my collection on display — Discogs.org says I have 280 items on some format or another as of right now – and yes, I do enjoy talking about it to other people. I like going through other people’s collections and comparing their albums to my own, too, so I appreciate it when other people talk about their finds as well!

But to be entirely fair, I don’t have this same sort of attachment to physical formats of other media like movies or books. I don’t feel like people should be obligated to acquire every single thing they want in physical form, because even I don’t really do that for things that aren’t musical; but if you’re truly passionate about something, you should seriously consider having pieces of your passion there for you to touch and observe, because it really is a great feeling.

Do you know of any others who have made the same decision?

The same general principle, yes, but I don’t personally know anyone who mirrors my personal philosophy verbatim. Most illegally download most or all of their music, or they physically buy most of it but download when the item in question is rare or out-of-print. I’ve never done that: if an album I want is out-of-print then I wait for it to become available for sale, if it’s brutally expensive I save up and then get it, or if it’s not available I don’t acquire it period. It doesn’t mean I want it any less than anybody else, but I don’t see why I can’t wait to own it like everyone else did. I think a lot of the people who download work mostly off the concept of instant gratification, which I think hampers the excitement of music quite a bit.

Besides, anyone reading this is already utilising the giant resource that is the Internet, and with a bit of digging on the buyer’s end, I would argue that (excluding most demos from decades-old bands, I’ll admit that these tend to be unattainable) most “rare” or “out-of-print” albums are a lot easier to find than most people would like to think. Expensive? Well, of course, you’re trying to get a product that came out 15-20 years ago and has been spread throughout the world since, or a product that was limited to 50 or fewer copies and is only now being relinquished by one of the fans who originally acquired one. But if you want it, it’s definitely there. Even Bathory’s infamous “yellow goat” LPs are a couple of clicks away from being yours, according to Discogs. For nearly $1,000, yeah, but if you really want it that bad, it’s there. The whole “downloading old stuff is okay because it’s not there” comes off to me as a side effect of the Internet age: a combination of impatience and a retrospective sense of entitlement. In other words, the Internet is attempting to transcend the limits that were originally set by the record labels in question and I don’t appreciate that. But I’m starting to digress from the point. Basically, no, I don’t know anyone who embraces physical formats as adamantly as I have, though most of my friends buy physical copies of albums to some extent.

Other than the reasons for which you initially started buying physical copies of music, have you discovered any other advantages?

Quite a few, actually. Physical albums are much more likely than digital files to contain vital information about the album which one might be interested in. I’ve seen tons of posts on forums where people asked about the lyrics to certain songs and the answer was right there, plain as day, in the booklets of the albums in question. More subjectively, I think they’re a lot nicer to look at, the variety between stuff like digipaks, cassettes, box sets, and LPs is nice and gives each item a more unique identity, and for me they make me develop a closer relationship to the album than if it were only a bunch of files. (You can see this in terms of interpersonal relationships, too – proximity breeds intimacy amongst people, and I’d argue that the same can be said of people and objects.) They’re something to look at when I’m bored, admire as an aspect of myself when I feel upset, and as I mentioned earlier, they’re fun to talk about.

Another important thing is that I think buying physical items, or paying for music in general, forces people to be a bit more patient with their music, which is always good. I see so many people talking about hyper-downloading all thirteen of a band’s albums, at which point I assume those albums probably either fester on those people’s hard drives or get listened to once and subsequently forgotten. I’ll admit to having terrible self-restraint, so physical albums help me to limit myself and pay a bit more attention to everything. Put a wager of your own money into the game, and you’ll be much more likely to take things slower, appreciate nuances that you might miss on a cursory listen and be able to say more about what you listen to, instead of only being able to say “oh well duh I heard that album once, I think it’s good”. I haven’t heard that much music by quantity (there are still plenty of big-name bands where I either haven’t heard them, or I’ve only heard an album or two of theirs), but I feel like I could say a lot more about what I have heard than most other people could. Life is short, but not short enough to where you should feel the need to rush everything. Art should be given ample time and appreciation for it to sink in properly, lest we run the risk of bypassing things that we’d grow to love with a bit of patience.

This doesn’t really fit into any of the questions you’ve posed, but I’d like to briefly add that I don’t see anything wrong with people “taste-testing” music. I’ve checked out numerous bands and albums via YouTube and I don’t see anything wrong with doing so. And occasionally when I review albums I don’t own, I’ll download them, listen to them for reviewing purposes and then delete them. Free streaming and downloading are unquestionably useful tools. (Though they’re not always my preference…seriously, once you have around $20 or so, go to some underground black metal distro and buy five $4 cassettes by bands you’ve never heard, it’s a lot more fun than it sounds!) It’s when people start abusing these tools to acquire anything and everything at will that I’d say they’re starting to be abused beyond their original purposes. And yes, I’m aware that metalheads are not the most opulent subculture, but I refuse to believe that most people are so hard-pressed for money after the bare necessities of groceries, clothing, education and utilities that they are rendered completely financially unable to buy a $12 CD or a $4 cassette. This may be the naivete of youth speaking, but I get the feeling that most people who don’t have the money to waste on “inessential items” such as CDs are instead just using it on equally inessential things like food that isn’t rice, bread, or ramen noodles. When you boil down to it, music is just the same as any other luxury: you’re not entitled to it whatsoever.

Can you tell us a little about yourself, your background in metal, what sort of metal you like, and how you balance your metalness with a normal lifestyle?

I just turned 16 a month or so ago, so I guess most people would say I’m pretty young to be talking about something like this. I live in an area of the United States (read: Bible Belt) where metal music is essentially nonexistent, so that in combination with my status as a minor means I can’t really go to metal shows. I’d like to think I give back to the metal scene at least a bit, though: besides my insistence on buying albums, I post on forums a lot, and I have an account on the Metal Archives (as MutantClannfear) where I’ve posted about 130 reviews, mostly of brutal death metal or deathcore albums.

I got into metal via “the ’00s nu-metal kid’s way”. I hear lots of people talking about how they started with Iron Maiden and Metallica and trickled up through power metal and thrash up to extreme metal, but I took a much more direct route. I was aware of Metallica from earlier in my life, but my real impetus for getting into metal was Slipknot. I think I first heard them in 2008 via Guitar Hero III, and that game later led me to Rock Band. The downloadable content of Rock Band led me to Cannibal Corpse, Job for a Cowboy, Lamb of God, and Whitechapel in late 2009, and that was basically where my journey began.

I’d consider myself pretty well-rounded when it comes to metal, though my favourite genres are probably brutal death metal and the more airy, atmospheric sides of black metal. But my list of favourite bands would include stuff like Dark Angel and Black Sabbath, as well, and my favourite band of all time would be Lykathea Aflame. I never really shed my roots as I still listen to nu-metal and deathcore, and even find both styles growing on me a bit the more time passes. I don’t feel like I need to “balance” my metalness out with the rest of my life, per se. I’d consider myself more of a general music fan than a metalhead, and though metal is my favourite genre of the bunch, I feel like I enjoy a bit of everything (though my tastes have primarily been modern pop music lately). Outside of the shirts I wear, I don’t try to be ostentatious about my tastes in music unless people ask. And yes, I give non-metal genres the same attitude towards purchasing physical music: in fact, the last two CDs I bought were by Ellie Goulding and Ke$ha, oops.

Sorry if this rambles a bit, but I’m a bit tired and I feel like I had a lot to say. All in all, I think the physical side of music is a thing that goes greatly overlooked now that people can effectively bypass it, and I’m damn proud to see the metal scene in particular fighting to keep it alive for as long as it has. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to participate in this interview!

And there you have it. Start buying CDs, because it’s a great way to experience music. Or vinyl, if your tastes run to that. Thanks Evisceratorium for a great interview!

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