The reunited Frisco-Thrashers DEATH ANGEL stopped by at Tuska Festival here in Finland 17th of July this year as a part of their European tour. It was the band's last date of the whole tour, so the guys were more or less excited about it and wanted to celebrate it 'a little bit' at a local rock club called Tavastia in the capital of Finland by joining the party with a bunch of local Metalheads for two nights (damn, I've never seen people as drunk as they were, in the 2nd night especially, haha!). Earlier in that particular day I met Mark Osegueda at the backstage area of the Tuska Festival, who was in a real good mood, and I talked to him briefly about DEATH ANGEL's reunion, the new album “The Art Of Dying”, the soon ending European tour, the past days of glory and fame in the Bay Area, tape trading scene - amongst other things as well. So keep on reading what he had in his mind just 2 hours before when they were supposed to conquer a stage here in Finland once again, after a 14-year break...
As for starters, would you tell me how your European tour has been going so far?
"So far it's been going amazingly well actually. Y'know, it's the first one we did since we got our new album out, so it's been wonderful. The response has been really fuckin' great everywhere wherever we have played, y'know. It's also the one I've been most intrigued about because this time out there's so many festivals that exist now that didn't exist before. So we are getting to reach a mass of people that we would have never seen us or maybe seen the name for years, but never knew what it was about. It was such a hectic tour because we played a lot of festivals, we did some headlining shows and we did some support gigs for LIFE OF AGONY and, y'know, it's been nice because we have reached so well around a group of people and this is the last show of our European tour, so we are gonna end it with a bang. So we are very excited and hope it works out well for us."
You have already played at a couple of bigger festivals like Bang Your Head, Grasspop and With Full Force. Were you the headlining act at Full Force?
"No, but we played... let's see, pretty high on the bill at Bang Your Head and Grasspop like on side stages. There were like bigger tents and the response was really overwhelming to tell you the truth. It's been very fullfilling, very fullfilling emotionally and just, y'know. I guess that's the in main way. The main way has been fullfilling mostly, it's been amazing."
Have you been able to meet any of your old fans during this on-going European tour who have been following your band since the DEATH ANGEL demo days up to this day?
"Oh yeah, we have met so many people with stories and pictures and old shirts like you are wearing right now. And a lot of those things bring us some good memories back which is really cool. It's been simply great because you can kinda see in their eyes how much it means to them that we got back together and, y'know, I think when you see us onstage, you can see how much it actually means to us to play for all those people that have been there for us a whole time."
Does it amaze you how loyal fans DEATH ANGEL really has, who have maintained to stay loyal to your band for all these years even if DEATH ANGEL had this “little & tiny break” from everything really after you came back in 2001 at the “Thrash Of The Titans” Festival in 2001?
"Hahahah... yes, 'a little 14-year-break'. It's been just wonderful, I don't know any other way how to put it any better into words. It truly has and we also, y'know, we have been so surprised to find out that we made new fans while we were breaking up, y'know. And I tnink that it's really neat because a lot of these fans that we have never had a chance to see us before, have a chance to see us now which is quite nice, too."
Last time you were here in Finland, happened in 1990-1991 when you were here together with FORBIDDEN. You played in such cities as Oulu, Tampere and Helsinki. What kind of memories do you have from those gigs?
"Yeah, it was '90. Oh man, that was a wild tour; I loved that tour! And again, y'know, Finland has always been a country to us. We fell in love with your country when we played at Kuusrock in 1988 for the very 1st time. It was so exciting. And I know we did multiple shows after that with FORBIDDEN and it just was great because we have always loved it because it's a country that is definitely very uninhibited and loves just to be released and enjoy themselves. There's so many wild stories about the fun times, so yeah...(*laughs*) And I look forward more tonight – that's for sure..." (*laughs*)
A word or two more about Kuusrock Festival back in the day in 1988... Also U.D.O. played the same day as you did. Did you manage to see them playing at that festival back then?
"Yes, absolutely, absolutely..."
... and even hanging around a bit with any of those guys back then?
"I really didn't hang out with them, but I definitely watched the show at the side of the stage to see them as closely as possible. Then I remember STONE played there as well, a great Finnish Speed / Thrash Metal band! See, I remember... (*laughs*) And STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN played the next day, so it was kind of a cool festival all in all, I think."
Let's talk about your latest album “The Art Of Dying” next, though. In my opinion it sounds like, kind in a nutshell, a combination of all of your previous albums from “The Ultra Violence” to “Act III” musically, being sort of a history lesson of what DEATH ANGEL did in the past on your 3 studio albums. I mean, I think that “The Art Of Dying” is kind of a mix of all your previous albums musically, so I was wondering was that somehow a pre-planned thing from you guys that you wanted to record an album that would remind people of all those 3 studio albums that you did before you split up?
"Huh, now that's a tough question! Hmm... let me think for a while. Well, I think, y'know, I wanna see it like as the fourth DEATH ANGEL album more than anything else. I mean, when we came to writing, it was more or less, y'know, we wanted to have the maturity structure-wise of the “Act III” album, but we wanted to have the urgency of “The Ultra Violence” album as well. But at the same time we wanted it to be the next DEATH ANGEL album, y'know. In all DEATH ANGEL albums there's always diversity and we kinda threw diversity into this album as well and we wanted to pay homage to people that inspired us since the beginning which was like, y'know, early MAIDEN, early PRIEST, early SCORPS, MOTÖRHEAD, early METALLICA and y'know honesty when we went endlessly to GBH and really enjoyed listening to this type of stuff. We even listened to our own old stuff to take an inspiration from. And sure we have grown as musicians as we have, y'know, played in different bands so, we have taken influences by everything we have done, but we definitely had a different head space when you write for DEATH ANGEL, had a hard space and say when you wrote for any other projects you might have been involved with."
Did you guys feel any pressure, whatsoever – when you started writing this new album?
"I think that the main pressure came right before when we started writing - more than anxiety. And then we started listening to back to the demos, then we felt fun. It's was ok right after that."
Would you call “The Art Of Dying” as a Thrash Metal album or wouldn't you like make it fit into any specific Metal genres, but just calling it a Metal record?
"Y'know, again it's hard to categorize it because, y'know, it has definitely got some songs that are just pure Thrash like 'Thrown To The Wolves' I think, the opening track is - and an ultimate throwback to Thrash Metal. But, y'know, again like with us there's so much diversity on it. We have always been trying to push the envelope of the Thrash Metal, y'know, genre in general way back when. And so always continuously do that, but y'know, we are a Thrash band, we are a Metal band, we have always been."
Was it any painful or demanding process to get all those songs together for that album? Did you possibly have any breaks from the writing process because you possibly couldn't come up with anything or was it more or less very natural for you to get all these songs together for this album?
"When we started writing again, it came fairly fast. And we wrote the album very fast and recorded it very fast as well. Then we got off for tour and the studio was like three weeks from getting off from tour, so it was also the closest we had ever been in the studio from being on tour, so it helped us with the whole vibe and in the studio we wanted to get a more live vibe than we have ever had on an album. I think we achieved that and because we wrote everything so fast as well, it really get retained the freshness that we wanted on it, so in that sense we are really happy the way our new album turned out eventually."
So are you still able to remember what's the oldest song you wrote for this album and can you tell how long cap is there between the oldest – and newest song on this album actually?
"The first song - or actually the first two songs we wrote for the album, were '5 Steps Of Freedom' and 'Prophecy'. And we were literally writing up into while we were recording and writing. And the last song written for the album was 'Thrown To The Wolves'. And people are always thinking of the opposite, that's a funny thing."
Heh, that's kind of a coincidence because I can also confess to you that even I thought the very 1st song you wrote for this new album, was expressly 'Thrown To The Wolves'...”
(*laughs*) "That was the very last one written while we were in the studio, so..."
That's such a bad-ass opening song for the album in my opinion anyway...
“The Art Of Dying” was produced by Brian Joseph Dobbs and the band. Do you think that Brian was the most ideal guy to produce your new album as the production on “The Art Of Dying” is, however, really damn good in my opinion. Or did you possibly have some other alternatives in your minds for producing “The Art Of Dying”, too? How did you get to know this guy in the first place?
"Well, we talked about a few people, but I mean, we went with Brian and I have known Brian for years. He used to be Bob Rock's head engineer and what we wanted to do was to capture a live feeling, y'know, a lively sound and realistic tones. And we just wanted a raw, true sorrowful sounding album and we didn't really want to go with, y'know, to say the production at the moment which a lot of new Metal stuff comes out right now. Sure the tones are massive, y'know, they sound good for that, but it's not where our heads are at, y'know. And I think it's so over-processed and so huge that it's kind of unbelievable. And with us, y'know, we wanted to get something that we can get on onstage and we definitely matched that, y'know."
Could your performance at the “Thrash Of The Titans” festival in San Francisco in 2001 be considered as a real kick-start for the band's new coming?
"Oh yeah, absolutely! Absolutely, I mean, it would never have happened if we hadn't played there. We would have never been together if it wasn't for that benefit. Y'know, we got asked to play there and we were still the last band on the entire bill confirmed because we were still the most skeptical about it and then, y'know, we got together and I think, y'know, if any band we probably had most fun at that night compared to any other bands on the bill... (*laughs*). And when all the reviews came out, we got overwhelming reviews and we truly had an amazing time, playing with each other again. So it was spot-on."
Talking about re-issues, as far as I know, all of DEATH ANGEL's previous studio albums have been re-issued already. Is that correct? What about this thing here which has your "Heavy Metal Insanity" demo as a bonus? Is this sort of an official release or just a bootleg release, too? I won this off from an eBay auction some while ago...
"That's not an official release at all. It's a bootleg and I don't mind that you have it because according to your original “Frolic through Europe 1988” shirt you are wearing on right now, you must be a DEATH ANGEL – fan. So you can keep it!!" (*laughs*)
Damn, this is a very well-done bootleg anyway; it looks like it's some sort of an official release to me at least as it looks so professional, y'know...
"Yeah, I know it does, but it's only a bootleg. We have seen a bunch of them, it's actually quite nice, yeah. And they have the “Heavy Metal Insanity” demo as a bonus in them and that's the demo before I even was in the band. And the actual one is going to contain the “Kill As One” demo which has 'Thrashers', 'Kill As One' and 'Ultra Violence' and it was produced by Kirk Hammett.
I read an interview from the Concrete Web webmagazine where you told that all your previous albums would be re-released with some bonus tracks in them all in one single boxset which would also contain an 11 song CD full of unreleased DEATH ANGEL from the band so-called “oldschool days” and also a special DVD, containing some rare footage from the band's whole career. Are those plans still valid? Will that box set be released during the coming 6 months or so...?
"Yeah, it will be released eventually. I believe it will come out in the beginning of next year. Actually it will contain the two first albums, “The Ultra Violence” and “Frolic Through The Park”. Both of the CDs will have three bonus tracks and there's gonna be an 11-song disc, containing unreleased tracks. And it also will contain a short 30-minute DVD with some live footage, some earlier interviews that have been goofing around and stuff like that."
Are you going to release it on your own?
"No, in the States it's gonna be Wrico Disc. Right now we are trying to sort out European distribution deal for it as well."
Now that's some cool news! Anyways, as for your current deal with German Nuclear Blast Records, what made you actually sign a deal with them?
"Well, y'know, we started getting approached by many labels on that “No Mercy” Festival when we're doing that, and they were the ones that most persistent and had the best views when we talked to them how to get us to reach the true Metal fans. And after talking with them and meeting them multiple times and seeing their marketing plans, they were the obvious choice for us. And, y'know, I mean everyone from the label; from the president to the front desk, is a Metal fan. So they know how to reach Metal fans which is a blessing because they make the fan, the band and everyone who works feel like a part of something happening. And I think that's what surely lacks saying in the music business way back when. Y'know, you had these big labels, but they didn't know how the hell market bands at all. If you are a Metal fan, the hell, the reason... back then we became fans from the underground tape trading scene, y'know what I mean?"
Sure I do as I was heavily involved with it for so many years...
"So if you are gonna find it, but you are gonna make kids feel like they are a part of something really going on, then they are gonna be more excited about it a s well, so..."
Nuclear Blast also signed the reunited EXODUS some while ago. How do you feel to be on the very same label with them as I believe those guys must be like brothers to you? I guess you must kind excited about it, too, right?
"Oh yeah, and it's definitely fun. I really like their new album. They are good guys... and nuts, too!!" (*laughs*)
Also, another known Bay Area Speed / Thrash Metal band called HEATHEN was reformed a while back as well. Have you had any possibility to hear any new stuff from those guys in advance?
"Yeah, they reformed and I know they released this cover album right now. I really haven't heard much, but it's cool they came back. They played in the city a couple of times. I have only seen them at “Thrash Of The Titans”, so I haven't seen them in-doors yet since they were reformed."
How would you see the Bay Area Metal scene has been changing over the years? At least in the '80s many bands that came from that specific area, seemed to have this strong unity thing between each other, like all band members coming from the same big family where everyone supported each other? Do you still feel you have that strong bond thing between bands in the Bay Area Metal scene like you did back in the day?
"Woah man... what a question you have got there! (*laughs*) Well, it has changed a huge way noticing the fact that most of the bands broke up, most of the clubs closed down from that area, including rehearsal places closed down. And then with the whole '.com – explosion', it made San Francisco virtually unaffordable to most artists and musicians. And what came in, was a very conservative group of, y'know, 'a computer people'. And they almost drove the artists out and then with that point all the music that was coming out of San Francisco, was a very safe music like THIRD EYE BLIND, TRAIN and stuff like this. And then after the .com –crash happened, now you're seeing they are coming around a full circle. All these more Metal bands are coming in; you're seeing all these artists coming back to San Francisco, rents are slowly going down and new clubs are opening up. And there's new rehearsal places opening up, so y'know, all is coming up a full circle and hopefully it gets stronger again, hopefully, y'know, if one can only wish, but we'll see... Time will tell."
Shit man, but unfortunately it seems like I think our time is coming to its end...
One last question, though: what kind of set can your Finnish fans expect you to play tonight?
"Oh man, of course we are gonna play such an excellent set for our Finnish fans here as this is our last date of the tour - that goes even without spitting it out! And we are gonna do as much as we can from all four DEATH ANGEL albums, so you are gonna share a raw live energy with us and, y'know, sincerity."
Okay Mark if you still have any last 'famous words' for the readers of VOICES FROM THE DARKSIDE, then consider this as your last chance just for that purpose...?
"Thanks for the years of support and also keep an eye for DEATH ANGEL if you haven't heard us and definitely come see us live because we are gonna blow your minds, I tell you that. And also you never have to wait 14 years for another DEATH ANGEL album. Sorry..." (*laughs*)
Interview & pictures: Luxi Lahtinen
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