Interview: Willie Desamero of Pathogen
As stated in our recent review of Miscreants of Bloodlusting Aberrations, Pathogen craft fast and slashing ripping death metal from simple elements and add an uncanny dissonance and tributes to the last three generations of metal.
This riff-intensive high-energy package should probably be banned by the authorities here in suburban USA, but since it is not, we can enjoy it with its full brain-crushing intensity. We were fortunate to be able to speak to Pathogen mastermind Willie Desamero, who plucks both strings and vocal chords for this band that is gaining an increasing underground following.
Miscreants of Bloodlusting Aberrations was originally recorded in 2009 and self-released, and only now is seeing the light of day on a label. Why did you decide to self-release and why or why not would you recommend that path to others?
After the release of our first album, Blasphemous Communion in late 2007, which has garnered a considerable amount of exposure from having been released on multiple formats from cassette tape, CD and vinyl LP on various independent record labels world-wide (not counting our own D.I.Y. version of it on CD-r prior to the release of the said formats) we planned the recording of our second album, Miscreants Of Blood Lusting Aberrations in mid-2008, things went downhill for the band. Both personally and career-wise, some band members had personal problems and many of the labels we once trusted turned their backs upon us because of the Blasphemous Communion dispute between two labels who released the CD version of it, namely Old Cemetery in the US and Dead Center Productions from Russia which has created quite a stir.
We went ahead recording Miscreants Of Blood Lusting Aberrations in late 2009 and afterwards, we got several record deals to release it on CD the first was from a local label, which I won’t name, but it didn’t push through, perhaps they have other plans. After that Inner V.O.I.D. Records from Tennessee wanted to release it, but that didn’t push through either, we then snatched up an offer from an obscure French label, Satanized Productions to release Miscreants Of Blood Lusting Aberrations tape in March of 2010. They made 300 copies of it, which actually sold out pretty quickly. After that we released it independently on a CD-r and then traded and spread them out to all fanzines, bands and maniacs world-wide. We also sent out many copies of it to other record labels world-wide for a proper CD release but nobody was interested-perhaps we’ve hit on what was called a “sophomore slump” which has afflicted one too many bands world-wide.
But anyway, we actively traded away Miscreants Of Blood Lusting Aberrations for the better part of 2010 to 2012 until we stumbled upon Bernd of Dunkelheit Produktionen when we did some trades for his band, Nacht. Initially, I didn’t know that he was running Dunkelheit until a little later when he offered us a deal to release Miscreants Of Blood Lusting Aberrations which turned out to be a very good company and very professional, too. He did everything he promised us. And that’s pretty much the entire story of our second album, Miscreants Of Blood Lusting Aberrations.
Anyway, it certainly is a good way to build your bands’ name and credentials in a D.I.Y./independent way. I would advice that to any serious new band starting out — to rely on themselves more. In this so called “music industry” these days, having talent and musical skills is not enough. You also need skills to promote your own music-which is relatively “easy” now in this hyper-connected world compared to 10-15 years ago. And one more thing you need is international cooperation. Get in contact and befriend fellow independent/underground bands and fanzines everywhere! There is no place for xenophobia these days. We’re living in a vastly globalized world for the past 15 years with the internet thing and such. I suppose those are the things that we held as an advantage to other local bands here. I mean we’re not the most talented band in the world and we’ve gone through countless ups and downs as well — “Spinal Tap situations,” if you will — and even if no label would ever sign us today we will still be releasing and spreading our own music that way.
This album seems very much in the fast death metal style of Angelcorpse, but there’s also a lot of other influences peeking in here and there. Which metal bands inspired you to take on this style?
I’m glad you noticed! Hammer Of Gods knocked me out of my brains first time I heard it. But there’s a lot more to it if you listen to the album very closely. Many of the fast parts are certainly Morbid Angel/Angel Corpse influenced but other fast riffs there are also influenced by European death metal, Swedish and German, in particular. I really like the haunting melodic edge and almost crust/punk-ish D-beat sensibilities of bands like early Entombed, Carnage, Dismember, Treblinka, Unleashed and the aggression of Morgoth and Fleshcrawl.
A lot of the slow and mid-paced parts of Miscreants Of Blood Lusting Aberrations are inspired by Asphyx, Autopsy and Celtic Frost. Many bands have shaped Pathogen’s sound and more often than not, we wear our influences proudly on our sleeves. From early Carcass, to Master, Winter and Nuclear Death — but we also have our roots planted firmly on the pre-death metal era extreme thrash and black metal bands and punk/crust as well-you know, the classics: Celtic Frost/Hellhammer, Venom, Possessed, Sodom, Kreator, Bathory, Voivod, Onslaught, Sacrilege U.K., Amebix, Hellbastard, Sarcofago, early Sepultura, early Napalm Death, Cerebral Fix, Deathwish… I could go on forever!
Those influences tend to rub off our songwriting. We don’t listen to one particular genre or metal style. We also dig classic heavy metal and some progressive rock stuff. A lot of people think of music is primarily a performance art — sure, performing and practice is certainly a very big part of it — but in reality, music is primarily a listening art. You have to listen to it a lot in order to play it, especially in this kind of genre. It practically feeds off itself.
No two bands are alike, but a few other bands from the Philippines have adopted a style similar to yours. Is this a local sound, that you all developed out there? Is there a “metal culture” specific to the Philippines?
Not really, I mean, metal is really not that big here unlike in other Asian countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Japan where there are really big logistical support systems set up for even the underground bands up to the big mainstream metal acts visiting from the US and Europe. Here in the Philippines, metal in a general sense are still very much an underground phenomenon. Fans or even bands themselves organize their own shows and release their own demos and fanzines and a few financially well-off groups can do tours to nearby and far-flung cities and provinces.
There are no metal festivals here and gigs are usually held in small bars and pubs with shitty equipment attended by mostly by the band members themselves. Davao City probably has the highest concentration of metal fans in this country. I’ve been told that even ordinary gigs there can rake several hundred people, unlike in Manila or here in our city (San Pablo) where gig attendance rarely reach past 100 or so, except when foreign bands are playing. There is no future for a metal band in this country that’s why we have invested a lot on getting our name known overseas.
Anyhow, yeah, there are a few bands here that have chosen the same path as we do, such as Toxemia, Servorum and Comatose — which are cool. But you know majority of Filipino bands that are known overseas are not death metal at all, Incarion, Deiphago, Korihor, Maniak, Kratornas are actually black metal bands while Paganfire is thrash.
You’re making metal that would fit in right into the middle of the 1990s, but it’s not the 1990s anymore. What made you decide to stay with the older style, and what advantages do you think it offers?
Well, it’s mainly because we really miss this kind of music. Death Metal or even Metal, in a general sense, from back then has a different vibe. They have more “feel” and atmosphere to the music and their attitudes didn’t seem to be fake and contrived. I mean, “death metal” to the newer generation is all about superfast drumming, million notes per second guitar playing, low, unintelligible vocals, overtly gory lyrics and such. While back in the 80s and 90s death metal was both the fastest and slowest musical form there is! They have an aura of darkness and evocative atmospheres, dismal haunting melodies and very intelligent lyrics that are rarely heard today!
And that’s what we are trying to achieve with Pathogen. Back then there wasn’t any competition for who can play the fastest — everybody was sort of doing their own thing about death metal whether adding thrash, black metal or progressive influences into the fold. Nowadays death metal seems to have a set of pre-determined norms and nobody is pushing the envelope or doing it with the kind of sincerity that the older bands have except for a few bands in the underground who can actually still re-create that old magic.
On “Miscreants of Bloodlusting Aberrations,” you demonstrate two seemingly opposite techniques. You use a lot of dissonance, but also have a lot of melodic riffs keeping these songs going. What made you choose this style?
I personally like the contrast of having dissonance and countering it with a dark sounding melody. It’s good to have that balance, that variety, and not get the listener bored with monotony. When we do an album, we always think of a way to keep the listener’s attention on our music. For instance on the track “Uranium Messiah” almost the entire song is charging away with aggression and ferocity, and after a dissonant false ending, it opens the outro with this Maiden-esque dual guitar harmonies that fades away into oblivion. Those are some of the things that excites me when I listen to a record-hearing the unexpected and being somewhat musically adventurous. That’s the kind of vibe I get when I listen to old Venom or Iron Maiden records. And as I have stated earlier the reason we chose this particular style is we because we miss it. A lot of bands should put more effort into their songwriting instead of their individual playing.
With this signing, it looks like things are picking up for you as a band. What do you think your next move is going to be?
After a decade of hard work and self-promotion things are really looking up for us-for the first time in our careers. It was never easy considering the fact that we have no managers and no producers helping to create and promote our records and general lack of resources-but we always make do with what we have and make things happen for us. There are countless of times where we have gone broke and close friends, parents, relatives, girlfriends are all discouraging us to give up our goals and ambitions. But we kept on slogging nevertheless because our dreams are all that we got, you know.
We didn’t want to end up in obscurity like everyone else, living a brain-numbing 9 to 5 job and married to an ugly bitch that kept on fuckin’ nagging you. It would either be making a career out of playing metal, or die trying! Next on our agenda would be to find a professional management to finally help put us on the road and record our fourth album sometime this year. We got all the new songs readied and demoed since last year. We just have to scrape the finances to put them all together into a proper album.