SUFFOCATION, one of world's most influential Death Metal acts is finally back in action again after a long break from the music scene. They not only reformed and played a couple of shows already, but even managed to record a brand new album entitled "Sould To Deny", which will hit the stores via Relapse Records on April 27th (in the US) / May 17th (Europe). Necromaniac Zine editor Thomas Westphal didn't hesitate for a second when he got offered the possibility to talk to original singer Frank Mullen and came up with the following in-depth interview, which he kindly offered us to use (thanx mate!). Of course it will also be published in his next issue (in German though), so make sure to order a copy of that killer zine when it's out!
Frank, welcome to the BIG "dick“ DINER, the professional journal for light cuisine. Which recipe are you going to present our readers today?
"Say what? Who is this? This is Frank Mullen of SUFFOCATION. I’m not a cook. What recipe are you talking about? I think there’s something going wrong here with the interview date! You must have the wrong connection!"
Hey, but you called me!
"Yeah, but I’m a musician, not a cook!"
Hmm, that’s not possible, your label Relapse Records ensured me that you have a fast-selling restaurant for homosexual sportsmen over in New York, where you serve salads with very spicy dressing, if you know what I mean. They also told me, that you have already received several awards outside of New York for your fine art in cooking!
"Haha, what kinda fucker is bullshitting me!?"
Welcome to the Necromaniac Zine, Frank, I can’t stop it, sorry! To fool musicians is the only fun I get out of my desolate life.
"Something like that has never happened to me before, haha. I was pretty confused there for a moment, wondering what Relapse has fucked up this time. How are you, you wag?"
I’m great! Hope you are too, don’t let this German motherfucker fool you! I heard that you’ve moved back to New York, in order to really get going with SUFFOCATION again?
"Yeah, that’s right. When we split up the first time, I moved to Vegas with my wife, in order to start a job over there."
Frank, before I forget, some German maniacs over here told me to say hi. They met you at the Maryland Deathfest. I’m talking about Daniel Holz and Thorsten Wieler, they said they really gold-plated your anus in the backstage area over there and that you will surely remember them.
"No man, haha. We gold-plated THEIR asses. Sure I remember, it’s totally crazy, that there really are some insane freaks getting into a plane for 10 or more hours, just to visit an underground festival! Tell them I said hi, hope to see them in Germany when we play there!"
All I could do was enviously look at the video. Your show was really cool. However, I was surprised to see how fat you’ve gotten, haha.
"Thanx, haha. Yeah, that show was great, the festival was really cool and there were lots of freaks running around! It really surprised me, that there were so many people from overseas, also there were numerous bands from abroad, really great!"
Yes, the billing was very seductive for European fans, cause there were a lot of bands that you can never or hardly ever see over here in Europe, like for example DEVOURMENT, MORTAL DECAY, INTERNAL BLEEDING, PYREXIA, etc.
"Great! You Europeans are true maniacs! Respect! Even though you’ve got so many huge festivals over there, you still come to visit small festivals over here."
Yeah, I think we even got one of the biggest Metal festivals of the world over here, but the real sickos also want to see some American underground bands, they don’t get to see here in Europe. Frank, why did you reunite SUFFOCATION?
"Well you know, maybe I made a mistake at the time I left SUFFOCATION. You know, after we released "Despise The Sun“ the underground scene was pretty much going down the drain (Frank, what the hell are you talking about? - Ed.) and I was sick of all that shit. Well, after having lived in Vegas with my wife for a while I thought a lot about the band and the good old times and without any music there was something missing in my life. I was still in touch with the other band members and every once in a while we would talk on the phone. One day I called up the guys and asked them if we should give it another try, but if we decided to do so, we would have to be in it 100 percent. Well, that happened a year ago and right now we’re in the studio recording a new CD!"
Sounds like a fairy tale, but honestly, lots of people accuse you that you guys got back together for money reasons only. I guess it’s kind of risky for you, to quit your job and to go back to New York to start all over without any safety. What’s your opinion concerning these accusations saying that you’re only in it for the money? By the way, do you have children? They need something to eat, don’t they?
"Yeah, I have an eleven year old daughter. Sheer for this reason it is clear that if we do SUFFOCATION, we have to do it in a professional way. But the accusation that we’re only in it for the money… If there is money coming in, well that would be great, naturally, but that wasn’t the main reason for the band’s reunion. I think that wouldn’t work out anyways, if we were only interested in earning some fast dollars and wouldn’t put our hearts into it, the fans would drop us just as fast as we’ve moved in again. Believe me, if you’re playing in a band / have played in a band, it’ll be in your head forever and sooner or later it will get a hold of you again and you’ll try to start it all over."
I’m really curious how the fans are going to react on your new album "Souls To Deny“, cause with "Despise The Sun“ you have made it rather difficult for yourselves, I guess a large part of the fans is expecting a continuation of that MCD. Why have you decided to work with Relapse again? Did they offer you the largest amount of money or were your experiences in the past with these guys too good to take another label into consideration?
"Yeah, I’m also very curious about the reactions and also I’m already a bit nervous about what people are gonna say about our new record. But I’m confident that the fans will not be disappointed. Well, Century Media, Nuclear Blast and some other labels were interested, but taking into consideration the way Relapse treats their bands right now I think we have made the right choice. They even pay for video clips."
Do you remember the German Rock Hard Magazine, have you even heard of it before? I think the only Rock Hard interview with your band was answered by Doug when "Pierced From Within“ came out. This magazine is about the biggest one over here in Germany and they even have some spin-offs abroad...
"Yeah, somehow I remember that name."
Well anyway, when you released your initial stuff at the beginning of the nineties, this zine entitled you as "Arschbombe des Monats“ which means something like loser of the month. I know "Human Waste“ received this "award“, I’m not sure about "Effigy Of The Forgotten“, but that one didn’t get a good review either. "Arschbombe des Monats“ meant by far the worst release of the month. Zero of ten points, that’s why I bought "Human Waste“ back then...
"Oh shit, very good, haha!"
For me the funniest thing was, that back then your music was labelled to be terrible noise by everybody but a few maniacs and that you were always ranging in the shadows of bands like DEICIDE, OBITUARY, CANNIBAL CORPSE, MORBID ANGEL, etc. and nobody was ever really interested in you, except for a bunch of freaks, as I already mentioned. "Pierced From Within“ pretty much flopped in 1995, since at that time Black Metal was booming. "Despise The Sun“, which for the time being was your last release, initially wasn’t really accepted either, not as much as it should have been at least. In your opinion, what’s the reason or cause for the fact that SUFFOCATION seem to have some kind of a cult status all of a sudden and that any dickhead pretends he has been listening to you guys all along? I think the reason for that can not only be found in the fact that you quit for a couple of years.
"An interesting question, haha!"
Well, don’t you think so? Within the underground you are now one of the leading bands, back then I got the impression that you’re just one in a million and that you were never really taken serious.
"Leading band, haha!!"
Well, that’s the way it is! Hundreds of bands are copying your typical "rüntün rüntün“ parts by now, about 80 percent of the newer US-bands wouldn’t even exist in the way they do if they weren’t copying that typical SUFFOCATION-style.
"Did you say "rün tün“? Haha, great! But damn, you’re right! Anyway, we think it’s great and we’re very proud about the fact that so many bands are naming us when being asked for their influences and that they also convert elements from our music into their own. I think what you just said, I mean saying that we got bad reviews back then and that only a few freaks were getting into our music… another reason for this might have been the fact that the world just wasn’t ready for this kind of music at that time. Maybe another reason for the present hype going on about SUFFOCATION might be the fact that we were one of the first bands playing this kind of music. I mean, very technical stuff, but ultra heavy and brutal anyways. Really, every musician who has played with SUFFOCATION in the past was an exceptional artist and very talented. People just didn’t get that back then, haha."
Concerning your vocal style many people from the press made jokes about that back then, especially in respect to "Effigy Of The Forgotten". The world really wasn’t ready for this kind of vocal style and what had already showed on the "Human Waste“ MLP by its bad production concerning the vocals was confirmed on "Effigy….". Up till then I had never heard such extreme noises being produced by a vocalist, even brutal bands such as CANNIBAL CORPSE, DEICIDE or CARCASS couldn’t sum up to the vocal sound of "Effigy…". Anyway, I can well remember having read again and again that the vocals are too extreme, monotonous or low. Very funny, there are even more extreme singers around nowadays and every second one has been influenced by your vocals.
"I can remember this quite well. There were lots of bad reviews due to the vocals, haha. I have always tried to sing in an ultimative way and I see my voice as an additional instrument and not as "singing“ in the traditional way."
Which other vocalists influenced you at that time, which ones impressed you? Why did you implicitly want to sing that low?
"I just wanted to sound as angry as possible, haha. I didn’t want to beat any records. I have always liked singers who sound "different“. I admired Martin of PESTILENCE back then, he was an ultra extreme singer even though his vocals weren’t extremely low. I liked Chris Barnes as well."
But you barked him against the wall, didn’t you?!
"Say what? Haha, thanx!"
In the CD-booklet you looked like this 30 kg lightweight junky who would possibly drop dead any second when singing and could have been blown away by his own voice.
"Yeah, right, haha. When we were playing our first shows and whenever I entered the stage none of those fuckers out there would believe that I’m the singer!"
Can you remember your first tour in Europe at the beginning of the nineties? I think you were playing with SINISTER, am I right?
"Yeah, I think it was SINISTER. That was really exciting and impressive for me, a totally different world then over here. I met lots of cool people and drank some beer with numerous pen pals. It was overwhelming to see that people over there are real freaks and are totally into that kind of music."
Yeah, we will have our asses silver-plated for an autograph. Well, let’s talk about your new record "Souls To Deny“. If the information I got is true you have just now finished the recording and are mixing it right now?
"Yes, that’s right! We are mastering the record right now. But like I said, the album is finished, so is the cover and yes, it will be released in April."
Dan Seagrave has designed the cover, right? Back to the roots?
"Yes, we have decided to work with Dan Seagrave again and when I first saw the picture I didn’t regret this decision for a second. He has once again met exactly our visions. The picture is really grim and nightmarish."
Did he give you the original picture for your money or does Dan really keep all the large originals (I have seen a photo of the original canvases, they average at 1,50 x 1,50 m - Ed.) and the bands only get a scan of the pictures?
"Yeah, we don’t have the original, we only have a scan. We don’t have an original of any of his pictures, too bad! I think the only original painting the band ever got was the one for "Pierced From Within“. I think Doug has it in his house, it wasn’t painted by Dan though, but by a Japanese guy called Takahashi or something like that, can’t remember his name (Hiro Takahashi - Ed.)."
You recorded the album in New York, didn’t you?
"Yep! We were able to more or less exclusively record at this one studio and Mike was significantly involved in the production, so principally we have recorded the CD on our own in a rented studio. The mixing was done by Joe Cincotta. We have recorded eight songs, which are 'To Weep Once More', my continuation of 'Jesus Wept', 'Deceit', the first track, 'Souls To Deny', 'Surgery Of Impalement', 'Immortally Condemned', 'Demise Of The Clone', 'Subconsciously Enslaved' and 'Tomes Of Acrimony' (okay, we know that by now, but at the time of this interview the CD was not yet released - Ed.), that’s it I think."
So far I’ve only heard one song, I think it’s entitled 'Deceipt'. It’s a lot more melodic then your old stuff and the main riff sounds kinda Black Metal. The part in the middle then again sounds like typical SUFFOCATION material. What do you think, how will people react? Your vocals have become somewhat higher, personally they remind me of bands like INTERNAL BLEEDING and PYREXIA. I think some typical old SUFFOCATION elements have gotten lost due to the fact that Doug is no longer with the band. What do you think?
"Well, Terrance is more into the melodic riffing, so in a way you’re right. However, it was always important to us not to lose sight of the typical SUFFOCATION elements. We tried to integrate all elements which are important for our music, i.e. depressed, heavy, fast, technical, melodical and all together sounding brutal and tight."
Well, we shouldn’t forget that all of you are old men by now, who every once in a while need a melodic break, haha!
"Yeah, exactly, haha!"
Were you the one who again wrote the lyrics this time?
"Yes I was. The lyrics on 'Demise Of The Clone' were written by Mike though."
Oh, before I forget to ask, where did you get a hold of your original drummer Mike Smith?
"Mike, Doug and Chris were the first ones I called, when I had the idea to reunite SUFFOCATION. Mike was the first one to call back, Doug and Chris never did. Mike really fell for that idea and was immediately motivated to play in the band again."
He left the band after the recording of "Breeding The Spawn“, what has he been up to in all those years?
"Well, he never quit making music and did some Hip Hop and Rap projects, but nothing really big or serious. Just like Terrance, he was also still into music, but nothing professional."
Chris Richards has made some statements at different occasions concerning the SUFFOCATION reunion. What reason did he tell for not wanting to play in the band anymore?
"Well, honestly he never called me back, nor did he tell me / us why he didn’t want to join us anymore. I just heard / read that he made some statements on the internet saying that we have reformed the band just because of the money. I don’t know why he’s telling this shit, I asked him if he wanted to join us, but he never replied. He could have asked me first if we’re going to start up again just because of the money, instead of spreading things on the internet without even having asked any of the band members. He should know us good enough to know that we’re not in it for the money."
Hmm, I don’t know, things like that seem to happen again and again. One of my favorite songs still is 'Liege Of Inveracity' and of course 'Funeral Inception'. What about your favorite songs?
"Sure, I do have my favorites! 'Liege Of Inveracity' is also one of my favorite songs! I’m still getting into that one, just as much as on the first day when I wrote the lyrics. I especially like 'Souls To Deny' from the new album."
My personal opinion is that all in all "Breeding The Spawn“ is your weakest album so far. The sound is really shitty and some of the songs would sound a lot better if they had had a better production. What do you think?
"Well, when we went to the studio to record "Breeding The Spawn“ we were very motivated, but our label at that time (Roadrunner - Ed.) didn’t give us the permission to work with Scott Burns, since everybody was working with him back then. Well, you already know the result,"Breeding The Spawn“ really is shitty concerning the sound!"
Was that one of the reasons for you to put the title track 'Breeding The Spawn' on the "Pierced From Within“ album?
"Yeah right, this song had to be presented to our fans with improved quality, it should have sounded that way right from the beginning on "Breeding The Spawn"."
You’re going to tour the States, aren’t you? Are you nervous?
"I can’t wait, we’re touring in April along with MORBID ANGEL and SATYRICON."
You have already done some warm-up shows in the States. How did the fans react during these concerts? On the Marlyand Death Fest video it looks like they were really celebrating you guys?
"The shows we’ve done so far were great and the fans were celebrating us as if we had never been gone. We were planning to do some concerts in order to show the fans that we’re back and in order to warm up to be more relaxed for the recording of the new CD and to go on tour after that. Up to now everything is working out just fine."
Rumors that you’re coming to Europe are overboiling, do you know any details?
"Yes, I think June should be realistic. We will also visit some festivals, but there’s nothing confirmed yet. However, I’m sure things are gonna work out. Relapse will handle it."
You were supposed to come here last year and amongst others you were announced to play at the Wacken Open Air. That didn’t work out though.
"Yeah, we were negotiating with Century Media at that time and (if we had signed the contract) they were pushing and already made some plans for various festivals and live shows. But due to the fact that we didn’t sign the contract these concerts never took place. Sorry to all the people who were waiting for us. But if everything works out okay we will come to tour Europe with SKINLESS."
Frank, what has really given you the kicks within the past couple of months? What does Mr. Mullen listen to in private?
"Well, right now BURNT BY THE SUN are my favorites! Some guys of HUMAN REMAINS are playing in this band and I’ve always thought of HUMAN REMAINS being an extremely great band. DRILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN, crazy stuff, really wild! DEEDS OF FLESH, DISGORGE, those are two of the newer bands I like. But mostly I listen to old stuff like TERRORIZER, CANNIBAL CORPSE, PESTILENCE, CARCASS "Symphonies Of Sickness“, I can’t get enough of that. ATROCITY’s "Hallucinations"…"
You like that record? Man, I think they’re pretty scummy, their "Todessehnsucht" was okay, but I have never been a real fan of their music.
"Hallucinations" is killer! I mostly listen to old records from overseas and some newer stuff like for example NASUM. PESTILENCE are absolute killers!"
I saw Martin van Drunen live two weeks ago, he’s making music again, he has a new band from Germany and is still shouting the way he used to, but his hair has turned really grey and his eyes look swollen, haha.
"Wow, he’s singing again?"
Yeah, killer! His band is crap, but his voice still is killer. He just looks like Gandalf from Lord of the Rings.
"Gandalf? Haha... Man, good to hear, I love that singer! Hope to see him when we’re on tour."
Have you noticed that in the past years there have been tons of SUFFOCATION rip-off bands, especially in the United States every second new band sounds like SUFFOCATION or let’s say, they copy a lot of riffs. Personally I think that’s cool, but what do you think, virtually being the owner of the original music? Are you proud of that or does it make you mad?
"Oh no, it doesn’t make me mad!! I’m very proud of having such an influence in the scene. It’s a great honor that many bands are looking up to us and being inspired by us, naming SUFFOCATION as their influence. It’s good for our egos, haha."
Are you a little afraid when thinking about the release date of the new album? I mean the whole Death Metal underground is looking forward to and waiting for this album and believe me, the expectations are set pretty high and a lot happened within the past couple of years. Underground bands such as DECREPIT BIRTH, DISGORGE or GORGASM, just to name a few, have set the level very high concerning heavyness and technique. You have to do one hell of a good job in order to convince the jaded fans and musicians.
"Well, it is kinda scary, haha... thinking about half of the world of extreme music listening to our CD, but I believe we’ve done a good job and we can still compete. I think we will not disappoint our fans and if we were really that scared about the reactions I should have stayed in Vegas, haha! I think even though we might be old suckers we can still stand our ground."
By the way, how old are you?
Oh, I thought you were even older, maybe late thirties or something. You were only 21 then when you guys recorded "Effigy Of The Forgotten“?
"Yeah, you’re right, haha. I was young and sexy!"
Do you meet other musicians in a huge city like New York? Tons of bands are from New York, such as MORTICIAN, IMMOLATION, PYREXIA, INTERNAL BLEEDING, the taxi driver of POTHELL
"The taxi driver?"
Yes, I heard Danny Lilker is a taxi driver.
"Who isn’t in New York, haha?"
How come Dave Culross joined
"Well, that must have happened on tour. He was playing with MALEVOLENT CREATION and we went on tour together. Somehow we just asked him if he would play the drums for our next project. And he said "Yeah, sure!", so that’s it, he played the drums on "Despise The Sun". Doug wasn’t part of the band anymore (Doug Bohn, drums, Ed.) and we asked Dave. He was one hell of a drummer, we asked him, he agreed, no big thing about it, really (but the record is "big“! - Ed.)"
Shortly after that, meaning shortly after the recordings for "Despise The Sun“ you left the band, right? At least Keith de Vito (ex-PYREXIA) was on the microphone during the last tour in Europe and at first I thought "Man, Mullen has gotten fat and become tiny“, haha.
"Well, at that time I offered the guys to look for another singer, since I was not available for intensive touring at that time. Allright Thomas, I don’t wonna be impolite, but Mike is supposed to do an interview by phone now, we should come to an end."
Too bad, Frank. But of course, the promotion machine shouldn’t be slowed down by my pissy zine, we’ve been talking over an hour anyway. It was an honor talking to you and it was very entertaining. Thanks a lot, it’s your turn for some last words!
"Thank you too! I enjoyed it! Thanks a million for the support, greets to Germany and I hope to see you and your readers when we’re on tour! Cheers!"
Interview: Thomas Westphal (Necromaniac Zine)
Live pics: unknown (get in touch for photo credits if you read this)
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