Kam Lee is certainly no stranger to the Death Metal community and the readers of Voices From The Darkside due to his involvements in such legendary acts as MANTAS / DEATH and MASSACRE as well as his more recent activities in DENIAL FIEND, BONE GNAWER and THE GROTESQUERY. In the latter two projects he joined forces with Swedish workaholic Rogga Johansson and once more delivers some excellent oldschool Death Metal... Reasons enough for us to let Mr. Lee do some talking again... The following chat is an exclusive excerpt of an in-depth interview that will be featured in its entirety in MUSICAL MUSIC # 15 (to be released soon), so all hail goes out to Ralf Hauber for letting us use parts of it already (thanks mate!)...
Hi Kam, hope you’ve had a decent rush into 2010? According to the coverartwork of BONE GNAWER’s debut and the lyrical concept of THE GROTESQUERY’s “Tales Of The Coffin Born” it’s quite obvious that you’re still a total “die hard” horror/gore and splatter film junkie, ha! Do you have a huge film collection and does the passion never stops!?!
"I would say my DVD collection is about 70% horror films, but not everything is about pure horror. I have some classical kung fu films as well as some action flicks plus even some classical Japanese sci - fi and anime stuff. But for the most part it's horror. My favorites are especially the best of the 70s exploitation grindhouse type films, the classic Euro horror like Italian horror films and not to forget the classical 80s slasher films."
Compared to the easy going Death Metal style of BONE GNAWER’s “Feast Of Flesh” I’ve needed a lot more time and dedication to get more into the obscure atmosphere of THE GROTESQUERY. “Tales Of The Coffin Born” is really a sort of “grower” album, you step deeper down into the abyss with each listening. I tend to say that it’s one of the darkest albums you and Rogga Johansson (PAGANIZER etc.) have contributed so far. Would you agree!?!
"Well... the theme and concepts are something I've been working on for a few years. I had intended on writing a movie script - or even a graphic novel with these ideas. I had notes and an even more in depth story line drafted out for it, but finally decided to use the ideas to tell a 'concept album' instead. Something I feel that really hasn't been to overdone in this genre of music, and something I feel hasn't been done to this extent. The idea for THE GROTESQUERY's "Tales Of The Coffin Born" is to be an "audio gothic horror story" told around liner notes/audio intros, and the music is just a small part to a bigger picture. Not only is the music important, but the audio intros - as well as the actual artwork and layout of the album itself play an important role to tell the sentire story. The outer and inner sleeve art is just as important as the rest of the album, because the story get's even deeper and more involed with - in the artwork, too. You only get parts of the story by just listening to it, and people will "cheat themselves" out of the story by only listening to it. The purpose it to get totally emerssed in the album... the music, the notes, the lyrics and the "visual side" with the art. There are little clues and hints in the artwork that visually clue the reader into more of what is happening within the story. It's very based on the literary works of H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, Amborose Bierce, and poet's such as William Blake. With touches of the occult, paranormal, and the supernatural. It also reflects the feeling of classical gothic horror novels such as Bram Stoker's DRACULA and even Mary Shelly's FRANKENSTEIN."
Have you prepared most of the intros on your own? Seems like this one was really intense work?
"I’ve wrote all the intros. They were recorded and sound designed by my good friend and engineer Rob Reider. Rob is also an award winning horror film score writer, and plays bass in my Horror Punk band CRYPTIDZ. Rob also engineers all of my recent studio work with both BONE GNAWER as well as THE GROTESQUERY, and other project's I've recently done. Together we also have a film/sound design company started called AKAHON PRODUCTIONS. We've already done a short five minute zombie comedy film called "BETTIE DEADLY" which can be seen for free online at YouTube.com. We have plans for more short horror film in the future, but for now we are working on musical matters."
A lot of bands say that within the Death Metal genre the lyrics have to fit to the atmosphere and the topics should deal with the genre related matters like for example horror, gore or whatever. A certain message seems sometimes to be secondary. Kam, what’s your point of view on that!?!
"I hate bands that try and convey a "message" in their lyrics. I have never been one who feels that you should try and write a "message" in the lyrics of 'Death Metal' music. The only messages that should be used in Death Metal is what I call the 13 "D's": Death/dying, despair/doom, disease, devils/demons, devistation/destruction, dream, desire, delerium/dementia. These are the only rules that should apply to Death Metal lyrics. Once a band starts writing lyrics about smoking pot or drinking whiskey while hanging with their butt buddies on the weekends - they are no longer a 'Death Metal band'. Or when they try and write political lyrics - save that for the social Punk bands, don't put it in Death Metal!!! I tend to think it's rather pretentious of someone who thinks that they can actually write lyrics in this genre of music that will actually be "world changing" type lyrics. That's just being ostentatious and rather self important, and I feel a bit narcisstic. Plus remember this - just because a band plays heavy brutal riffs, has blast beats and has a growler vocalist - doesn't make them 'Death Metal'!!!"
I mean you’re listed as one of the originators of the Death Metal growl/grunt style, but how much did you take care about lyrics done by yourself and from bands you listen to?
"To me personally Death Metal music stems from horror films and the influence the horror genre had on the bands lyrical themes. Yet, once bands starts to move away from those horror roots in the lyrics, that's when they should have changed the style of the music they play. Call it whatever you want, but it's not "Death Metal" if your lyrics aren't about "Death" in someway or another... you are NOT playing "Death Metal"!!! I just happen to love the horror genre and the horror elements and themes, so this is what I try to convey in my lyrics. If it's more tongue-in-cheek serial killer/cannibalistic type lyrics like my lyrics for BONE GNAWER or based more on dark, occult, gothic horror fiction like my lyrics for THE GROTESQUERY... the over all underlining "theme" to my lyrics are always based in "death and dying"!!!"
It’s not a secret that your name will always be related with MASSACRE and MASSACRE is supposed to end up as one of the most controversial classical Death Metal bands. You’ve had several split - ups and reanimations, like a zombie dead but undead, ha! As far as I know is that THE GROTESQUERY material was actually supposed to be released under the banner of MASSACRE before you’ve got again into a legal rights clash with your former MASSACRE mates. But what’s the truth behind that story from your point of view and who fucked it up!?!
"I'm not going to dwell too much on this subject... just let it be known - that I had intended to bring MASSACRE back with a new line up and new full length album in 2010, but because of petty complaints from the former members of the "From Beyond" line up - this didn't happen. I decided finally - I don't need the band MASSACRE or the name MASSACRE to continue with "my music" career. I'm 'Kam Lee' - and fans who follow me know where I came from, and newer fans can always look it up if they want to know. That statement itself may seem a bit pretentious, but it's not meant to be. Rather it is that - I know myself worth, and I know who I am. I don't need to fall back on something that was 20 years ago to keep moving forwards with my career. Why should I "back peddle" when I want to move forwards with life. MASSACRE is dead... let it rot!!!"
It seems that your fave guitarist in crime has become Swedish musical workoholic Rogga Johansson since he already contributed most of the music for all your recent projects like REVOLTING, BONE GNAWER and THE GROTESQUERY. Rogga is a riffmachine and he’s going to flood the market with his Death Metal style, ha! Seriously, how did you get in touch and hasn’t it been strange to you to adpat to work with soundfile sendings on the internet instead of standing together in a rehearsal room with a real band?
"First off I did NOT do REVOLTING. I was not involved in that bands final outcome, I was only asked to participate as a guest vocalist, but that didn't happen in the end. However, because of getting to know Rogga during our enitial work on REVOLTING - that was how we came to do BONE GNAWER together. Working with Rogga has been great even though we've never actually met face to face. But then again - this is the modern world and the internet has made it a closer world. Why not utilize it? I feel that just because our geographic locations on the planet makes it hard for me to walk over, ring his door bell to come have drink with me at the local pub, but that shouldn't dictate weather or not we can create and work on music together. It's not strange at all to work on music together in this way because everyone involved is professional, and we all utilize studio work all the same way. I trust Rogga to write the music and material and structure of the songs. He in return trust me to apply the concepts, the lyrics and vocals, and together we trust Ronnie Bjornstrom to produce the product. Ronnie is not only the guitarist for BONE GNAWER (remember Rogga actaully plays bass in that band) but Ronnie also has been the fantastic producer on both the BONE GNAWER releases as well as THE GROTESQUERY album. (Ronnie Bjornstorm is also involved in other bands like RIBSPREADER, KNIFE IN CHRIST and he’s been member in EMBRACING (R.I.P.) as well. Yeah, another “bandoholic”, ha! – Ralf)."
By the way since Rogga is from Sweden I like to ask if you ever had a favour for the classical Swedish Death Metal scene and the special Swedish sound of Death Metal? I mean it’s strange since the MASSACRE style really was one of the flagships/trademarks of the classical Florida Death Metal school. Don’t you think!?!
"I personally love the Swedish sound more then the American one. I am a huge fan of the first wave of Swedish Death Metal. Bands like GRAVE, ENTOMBED, DISMEMBER, GENERAL SURGERY, UNLEASHED - when these bands first came onto the scene, I was instantly a fan. I feel that even today. I prefer the Scandinavian bands more so then most of the other bands. That's not to say I don't like any US bands. As a matter of fact there are a lot of the US bands that I like, but it's the Swedish bands that I enjoy and listen to the most!!!"
Another issue: what about your passion for nasty and brutal underground style drawings? As far as I know you’ve did some of the shirt designs for the MASSACRE "Re–Animated" tour merchandise, the shirts of BONE GNAWER and the cover of “The Second Coming” MASSACRE demo reissue is also done by you. The same goes for some arts of the classical demos of MASSACRE. Did this passion start with smearing your schoolbooks with logos of your fave Metal bands back then as a kid, ha!?! Do you have any kind of fave artists?
"I've kind'a stopped doing art on the account that I kinda suck, haha! I just don't have the patience for it anymore. I have some favorite artist now like PUTRID or ZORNOW. Both are great horror artist as well as NEV and Lou Rusconi, both of whom I've worked with on my Horror Punk band CRYPTIDZ. The late great Chas Balun was just fantastic!!! Marc Riddick is just pure genius and he designed the cover for the BONE GNAWER / BONESAW split! Turkka Rantanan has a classical style that I really like and his work on THE GROTESQUERY is just pure occult nightmarish!!!"
Ok Kam, thanx a lot for spending time and dedication to our interview request. I guess we covered a lot of issues, hope you’ve enjoyed it!?! Keep your passion for Death Metal alive. Feel free to find some closing words to that story, ok!?!
"Thanks for the interview! Cheerz & Fearz!"
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