Deteriorate (Pennsylvania, USA) got their start as a band solidly and unmistakenly death metal of the violent American variety. Their debut Rotting in Hell, one of the premier domestic outputs of the infamous JL America label, broke little ground, but nonetheless manages to get spins from old-timers who have long appreciated its compact composition and caustic delivery. Not long after this sleeper semi-classic the band abandoned their death metal pursuits in favor of a faster, more melodic and hybridized style in line with the rising popularity of the European black metal of the day.
Interview from Heidenlarm e-zine #1.
Deteriorate Rotting in Hell came out near the end of the death metal boom, right before black metal became predominant in the eyes of many listeners. What was it like at that time to contemplate the styles in which you could compose?
Personally I was seriously into black metal since the begining…in fact if you noticed the change in styles between “Rotting in Hell” and “Gather the nebbish/The Senectuous Entrance” you can see my influences shining through out the whole cd; I wrote nearly half of the music on “Gather/Senectuous” around 1994…I was so saturated with old black/death metal like Venom, Bathory, Eestruction, Voivod, Slayer, Sodom, Kreator that it just flowed naturally in any riffs I would be writing…I mean I saw Kreator’s first US tour[I believe] at City Gardens in Trenton NJ with Voivod I think it was “Pleasure to Kill/Killing Technology” tour – this fucking show was so fucking brutal, I was blown the fuck away, it still to this day had to have been the most influential moment in my life, as I watched them play flawlessly I said to myself that’s what I want to do and I’m going to do whatever it takes to get there…so I played everyday for years until I was 17 formed my first band it was called “randomdraw” a hardcore/metal band we sounded like cromags vs rage against the machine…anyway after a few years of other bands and stuff I joined Deteriorate which is a long story in itself!…so my goal with them was to take it to the next level get so into the music and just fucking go apeshit and I think it all worked out perfectly…..
It seems to me that death metal has always had two opposing sides, one of which emphasizes fast tremolo picking and relatively few emphatic pauses, while the other side uses muffled strumming and a morse code of pausing and pounding to spell out its riffs. What made you gravitate toward the faster metal side?
When I started playing guitar in ’82 I thought that metal had a missing element that hardcore bands seemed to emphasize on “speed”. So I started playing as fast as I could thinking that it would make me more talented as a player…so I would write these riffs and put them together with my younger brother Justin and we would play these blazing fast songs full of ‘squeals’ and violent solos like Slayer or Cryptic Slaughter…but after some time speed wasn’t good enough so I added into my style harmony&melody…I wanted something different say warmer tones, so I got into Malmsteen alot and Voivod, Black Sabbath, Ozzy, Motley Crue, Iron Maiden, Celtic Frost ‘morbid tales'[my favorite guitar sound ever], Exodus, Violence, Metallica, Megadeth, Bathory, Anvil Bitch, Dominance, Faith or Fear, Flotsam and Jetsam, Death & tons more…I started going to 2 to 3 shows a week it was so intense there were lines down the street; as I saw these bands perform in the early mid 80’s I was blown away it was so intense my world had become near perfect! At the same time I was extremely jealous, I thought to myself why can’t I do that? There was one reason why —drummers—there is such a shortage of quality drummers that could do blaast beats or grind or doublebass let alone afford a decent kit…I was so into technical metal that it made it even harder to find someone.
There were fewer people involved with death and black metal in that time, unlike the current scenario. What do you think are the differences in a musician’s experience between the two?
Nowadays its more open to all; the styles combined, there are a thousand times more muscicians that are dying to play…equipment is far more affordable and more directed towards metal hard rock players…the nu-metal styles are bringing more people to wards heavier music especially women! I always thought that if you could get women into your band then men would follow hence bringing your numbers at the door up at the club you’re playing…
What to you makes a series of chords and rhythms a “riff”?
I’m always looking for something different or catchy or “hook” riffs…riffs that make you say “hell yeah that rips” and your hair stands up on your whole body…or like in the 80s the introduction of the word “mosh”or “not” where anthrax introduced to me the true pit styles I actually went nuts at every show we all our own style of moshing or dancing,or the dive kings, we tried every kind of dive you could think of it was a contest to us to see how long you could stay on stage or how long you could wave ride…it was the best years of my life it was so fresh new different and the normal people didn’t even notice any of these bands we were such a minority back then, I was always saying in school that Metallica will be the biggest band ever and 10 years later I was damn near right…I was the only kid in my juniore high with an earring and a denim jacket with death metal patches all over it…
Fo you compose by riff assembly, or is there a pattern into which riffs fit first?
Actually I have an odd style of writing I usually number the riffs along with names for each part and write it all down,so if I forget I have notes…in Deteriorate I played bass but I wrote the riffs on my 7string and brought my guitar to practice where I showed them the riffs…my newer bands I play guitar and sing on almost everything…I write all the music and vocals and let my drummer mike trush write the drum parts…I usually write all the music in my head at work and then go home and play my ass off…
Many of your songs on Rotting in Hell preserved a casual but intense atmosphere of using little introduction and tearing into the material on hand immediately. Was this a reaction to the riff-salad-heavy metal songs of the time, which often took half of the song just to get cooking?
Actually I didn’t play anything on “Rotting,” although I was in the band months before the recording sessions, I was asked to play on “Rotting” but it didn’t feel right playing songs on a disc that I had no part in writing so I declined…if you asked me about “Gather/Senectuous” I would have to say they were flowing and melodic…
lyrically, the band also played at least two sides, having some “gore” topics and a fair number that could have been interpreted as more gothic, romantic or moribund.
What inspired the lyric writing on this album?
As far as “Gather the Nebbish,” I sang 3 songs and wrote a major part of the music, my lyrics were directed towards my hatred towards a society that hates people like me…I would first get into a raging pissed off mood then write the music then the lyrics would just kind of “bleed” to me,you know what I mean?..I went in the studio and basically freaked out in the vocal booth screaming my heart out jumping around like a fucking lunatic,..in fact 2 of the songs I sang on “Gather” came about on the spot, I did the vocals on one take not even rehearsing them once: Evaporated Battleground/Ode to a Mortal” my good friend Trevor Schaible donated those 2 sets of lyrics and I took them in the studio and ad libbed the songs it just so happened they came out pretty good in my opinion total chaos!!
After Rotting in Hell, Deteriorate took a break. What happened during this time?
We went through some member changes and more of my writing came into effect, we really spent a lot of time rehearsing doing shows and getting more professional about ourselves and we said to ourselves what can we do to make this band better and more brutal and so we did just that…
After this break you released, The Senectuous Entrance, which in my view is two albums put together — one that could be described as Emperor-style gothic black metal, and another that was more heavy metal/punkish. What brought about this dichotomy?
I basically came into the band with alot of the ideas already to go, I brought to the band my musical background and it took over I guess…I never really heard any of the newer black/death metal bands, which bothered me when people said we are a rip of of Norweigan bands, its totally not the truth, I was doing this type of music inthe early 80s I was playing the 3rds minor this dissonant that you name it ..if you notice “Rotting” has none of the harmonies and minor chords, I brought that to the band and we took off with it, I was in bands prior to that which had similiar traits…
Your songs convey as much energy as any other band out there. How do you do it?
I tend to think to myself if I was in the crowd or a listener what would I want to hear and I do it…energy is the first priority nowadays in my band “Treading on Divine” I do simpler arrangements but it works for me, there is more flowing riffs and catchy hooks…
The band has been around since 1991. How do you think metal, or death metal, has changed over the course of that time?
All the genres have improved with the times…certain bands keep their styles others evolve into something different I think both scenarios work,it gives fans an oppurtunity to hear something new therefore creating another rip in the timeline for a new genre..
How has Deteriorate as a band integrated those changes into its music?
Currently Deteriorate is rehearsing for a new release in the future but Mike Trush and myself are quite busy so it takes some time to get it together…other members are in Krypton or not doing music at all…
Your songs are convoluted in the logic that produces continuity between their riffs, enough that they must be heard through once fully before being interpreted. How do you think the awareness of this process in the listener affects how you compose?
It gives me a flowing feel to it, I can sit and bob my head continuosly from start to finish, I can only assume that our fans or listeners do the same thing…it has that warm feeling about it…the 5 unreleased songs have a brutal chaotic war type sound to it, but we still incorporated the Deteriorate flow and sound to it…
When you are composing a song and have two directions in which it can go, how do you select which one should prevail?
It was always a band vote or else we would just open jam and if it went in some new direction that sounded cool we would work with it…it’s truly important to find muscicians that you can openly do unplanned jams ,its usually where you find a truly nwew and original riff,where as when you are at home there is no drums or band influence there to strengthen the song or give you a nod or an added riff between another riff….
You seem to be a non-political band, as far as lyrics are concerned. Do you have any political or social change views that you keep to yourself, or are you detached from the entire process of politics and ideology?
Personally I try to incorporate politics or truth in my lyrics, these topics enrage me making my songs come out even more chaotic, I try to let the lyrics influence my choice of riffs after the song is written of course, the lyrics might change a part into something different or brutal…
The USA may be about to wage holy war on Iraq and the Middle East. Is this a metal topic to discuss?
Yes and no…I feel it’s all a front to keep americans intrested in the politics of this country…the president has to do something to keep his people supporting him…with all the things like snipers, Iraq, WTC and racism, he can shift the peoples attention away from starting a war with Iraq, he made everybody shift their attention from Iraq to the snyper atacks, getting everyone pissed off, so now the people are hungry for some desruction somewhere other than here, and to make it work even better the one snipers last name was Muhammad…it worked, he’s got the ok to wage a war on Iraq, I’m not surprised and I do support this war…these people need a leader that has enough brains not fuck with the most powerful country in the world, us!!!
Do you think that music conveys values based upon what positive beliefs are affirmed in the music, even in simply its sound which resembles facets of the outside world?
It does…music has been the center of attention since the beginning of its creation…it can take you out of reality or define reality and it seems that both work very well…I mean people take a cd put it in then something happens, almost chemically in their brain and it feels good,others feel bad or angry or something, its amazing how this works…I always thought that you could totally control or program people of all ages through certain notes played in precise actions in the brain, when I hear certain notes a feel it all over my body its really quite remarkable [I hope this made some sense to you, I think I understand what I just said hahaha]
Is it possible to be a musician without sharing some of your views through music?
Definitely… I’m really into Burzum, Varg does an excellent job at creating a soundscape, it’s total headphone music, which is one of my favorite ways of listening, Varg uses his feelings and beliefs through beautiful music, but yet you can still understand his anger and pains…Mortiis does similar work but his feelings tend to be fantasy like or dungeons and dragons theme music, both are excellent…
You’re now working on new material with a band called Treading on Divine. This title seems to have more metaphysical implications than the gore-metal-ish idea of Deteriorate. What is different about the music and outlook of Treading on Divine as compared to Deterioriate?
“Treading on Divine” is a project that I started around 98 right around the breakup of Deteriorate myself and joe gorski were fed up with the scene in Philly so we moved to south florida and started playing…he was on drums and I played and sang..eventually we grabbed my brother [who is the best guitarist I’ve ever seen] and Conrad Eddings on bass…we had 3 songs and so it was born…down the road we fell into the party scene down there 3 of us worked in nightclubs so if we weren’t working we were partying thus the band suffered…I had also another band with the samme members except Chris Dino plyed drums that was called ‘twitch’ it was really good stuff….so eventually we after 2 years parted ways I moved back north and started the band with other people, Thorous-lead guitar, Mike Trush-drums, Chris Berwind-bass and Alex Davis-guitar….we rehearsed about a year and 2 of the members didn’t progress so I let them go, now it’s myself, Trush and filling in on bass Jason Hildebrandt from Funeral Mask, Cemetary Earth, Hazarax…we’re ready to record a EP..full length soon the title is “thy only god”..the difference between Deteriorate and treading is I write all the music and arrangements, they’re more flowing and basic riffs…it has black, grind,melody,harmonies,thrash,death styles…in Deteriorate the riffs were all voted on whether I liked it or not so alot of good riffs got trashed, since I saved these riffs and used them now,so some of these songs are quite old…we do one song called “Viral Gore” which is from 1988; some are from 89, these are more thrashy,…the “Treading” songs have “hooks” that make you say hell yeah! As far as the lyrics “Treading on Divine” is based upon my hatred towards authority, I don’t like being told what to do, ever! Not by anyone including my girlfriends….this is the topic I have been griping about forever…i get political on some sogs others are about my nonreligon attitude…being my own god and all that…
What bands are you listening to now?
Voivod-Deathrow-DBC-Burzum-Devil Doll-Elend-Marilyn Manson-Ozzy/Sabbath-Golden Dawn-Entombed-Dismember-Fantomas-Mr. Bungle-Thorns-Abruptum-Mayhem-Behemoth-Venom-Destruction-Kreator-Sodom -Vond-Ulver-old W.A.S.P.-Metallica-Megadeth-Slayer-Darkthrone-Mercyful Fate-Celtic Frost-Belphegor-Tartaros-Tomahawk-Jimmy Rodgers-Sabbat-Immolation-Exodus-Emperor-Autopsy-Laibach-Bloodstorm-Se rvants of Hate-Funeral Mask-LiveSufferDie-Ministry-Christian Death-Violence-Anthrax-Forbidden-Abigor… I could go on forever!
It appears the downturn in the US and world economies has affected metal. Are you able to find a label at this point in time? Are you going to self-release this upcoming album?
Actually Philadelphia has so many labels here…I am talking with a few labels none that I want to name just yet but I have made mistakes with labels in the past and I don’t want to lose money and touring again. When I first joined Deteriorate we had tons of touring offers, some with morbidangel for 40 dates but our drummer had a custody battle going on so he couldn’t do the tours, eventually that was why we replaced him with Darkwoods, Rich was a great drummer though…
How do you think the internet has changed music, from your first album in 1993 to your second in 1996, and now to the current time?
The internet is excellent for underground bands like us to get exposure…it’s amazing how much stuff is out there…I can always find something interesting on the web….
Do you think most metallers have a common general direction of their ideology, or is there no unity in thought in the scene?
I honestly think everybody is different anymore, I always hear different opinions about every topic…,sure theres unity but not really where i’m at…i live in a city that has everybody thinking differently I don’t know why…theres always bands that are jealous of others or pissed offf that they’re opening for a band that they think sucks,i’ve been dealing with this shit since 89…we used to get every tour package that came through philly no matter who was headlining the tour we always got the top slot on the bill…this made all the local bands hate us instead of supporting us which would come back to them in the end…i think nowadays its different theres more unity in the scene…back in the 90s we could’ve all stuck together and the philly scene would’ve been the next tampa bay thing,instead when the cell block closed the bands dissapated,noone astuck to gether and bands broke up, its a shame because we really had some good bands in our scene,to tell you the truth most of those bands are like invisible because I haven’t seen many of those muscians again….
After the rise of nu-metal and bands like Slipknot, does metal any longer have the “coming in from the outfield” strangeness and dramatic impact that it once had?
I feel that this is the metal years all over again, history is repeating itself but in a grander way…a majority of people today appreciate metal and hard rock, its not that uncommon anymore,you hear metal on the radio everyday…we have such a wide variety of bands to chose from along with a generation of people that grew up om metal ranging from 10 to 40 years old….most like something heavy if not ozzy/sabath then metallica or godsmack or something…to me this is positive for the scene…
why metal? it’s not an easy artform, there’s no money and most people seem to hate it or disparage it. why do you keep going? (this is not a criticism, hopefully obviously, since i’m still in this after as many years too!)
I can’t stop! I love it the heavier it is the better….then again everybody will probably hate me for this but I like Marilyn Manson alot…his music is super creative, its full of hate, evil, and other postive shit that just makes him an icon for heavy mainstream music he’s actually helping the world get into heavy music which opens the doors for bands like mine,he has the flow we were talking about earlier, I am open minded to some degree….I like stuff from almost every genre doesn’t mean its good for everybody else, but it’s good to me and I don’t care what anybody thinks….who cares what I listen to anyway you know? To each his own….theres a litttle bit of everyting in bands today it means that awider range of audiences will buy into heavier music…[i hope]…
If you could tour with two or three bands from anywhere and anytime in metal, who would it be?
Where do you think metal will go next?
Its going to get even bigger, I know I want more of it and I’m not going anywhere but more angrier then before…I have more anger in me than ever before and I need bands to fuel my fire!!!
Jazz, ambient, industrial, and punk: all of them exist as separate genres, niches if you will, from the mainstream as does metal. But somehow jazz and ambient get more respect and never quite fully are able to integrate with the mainstream of radio music. Do you think this is due to increased technicality, radically unpopular song structures, ability of audience to appreciate complexity, or other factors? Do you think this same distancing from mainstream radio music could help metal?
Maybe the jazz thing is of the other half of society that doesn’t listen to rock or metal or mainstream music…it could be an older generation or possibly the trained muscicians of the world are more appreciated…I know I’ve never had a lesson in my life but it still kept me busy and somewhat talented…
It used to be there were tons of zines, and people mailing stickers and dubbed cassettes all over the world. Metalheads today trade web links and mp3s, and there are now thousands of websites each offering small fragments of information. Where is this weak(er), and what’s next after this? Do you think metal will consolidate its information?
it can only get better,the more publicity for my style of music the better…
Do you believe humanity is about to blow itself into vapor?
Not really its pretty much the way its always been to me, bullshit, politicians, religon it’s all always there its just a matter of what you buy into…
What has changed about the songwriting process for Treading on Divine that is separate from how Deteriorate worked in both incarnations?
Actually not much maybe different tempos or not so much blast and grind beats…I have been working on more catchier riffs that have a more grooving sound to them its still in the black/death metal vein…
Who’s in the band now?
Thorous[guitar/vox] Mike Trush[drums/vox/bass]
Are you going to repress Rotting in Hell and The Senectuous Entrance?
Actually we have the original recording of “Rotting in Hell” which was recorded at an entirely different rcording studio…the vox are even more brutal..we are going to release it soon with the original cover that was deemed to satanic for our onr guitar player….
Where do you hope to be in ten years?
hopefully touring the world and playing brutal music forever!!!!!!!
What do you do outside of metal, as individuals, and who is in the band?
I have my historic renovations business…I do old world/european style stonework and replications. I’m planning to do a house in Spain this spring, its my other passion in life!!
Any final additions?
Its cool to know that there’s people out there still into Deteriorate and the old school metal bands…I appreciate any people who would like a copy of unreleased material and videos…send me tapes and postage to: thorous—-170 smithtown rd. pipersville,PA 18947 Keep the metal world alive! Don’t give up playing your instruments,follow your dreams, I had dreams when I started playingt and so many came true, if I can do it anyone can do it! Keep trying your best,sing your heart out! Play all day and night! Make a difference, speak your mind! Don’t take any shit from anyone! Don’t let anyone push you around, you’re only as powerful as you believe you are! Keep metal alive! Kick some ass! – And support the local bands in your area, without people like you local bands will fade away, go to as many shows as you can, and buy as much merchandise as you can, it will come back to you in some way! Thanks for giving me the chance to vent SRP! – thorous…treading on divine….
The natural inequality of the two powers of population and of production in the earth and that great law of our nature which must constantly keep their effects equal form the great difficulty that to me appears insurmountable in the way to the perfectibility of society. All other arguments are of slight and subordinate consideration in comparison to this. No fancied equality, no agrarian regulations in their utmost extent, could remove the pressure of it even for a single century. And it appears, therefore, to be decisive against the possible existence of a society, all the members of which should live in ease, happiness, and comparative leisure; and feel no anxiety about providing the means of subsistence for themselves and families.
Consequently, if the premises are just, the argument is conclusive against the perfectibility of the mass of mankind.
– Thomas Malthus, Population: The First Essay (1798)