About six years after the release of their third full length album "In Mourning" Florida’s BRUTALITY decided to give it another go, reformed the band and are about to return to the scene with a brandnew album, to be released on the Polish Still Dead Productions label later this year. That was of course really good news to us and reason enough to contact former member Larry "Mausolus" Sapp for an in-depth feature on the entire career of these veterans of Florida Death… Additional answers were contributed by bassplayer / vocalist Jeff Acres, drummer Jim Coker and new guitar player Demian Heftel…
When you originally founded the band back in September of 1986 you were still using different names for it, like DARKNESS or ABOMINATION… Which one of those did you use first, for how long and what actually lead to the decisions to change names?
Larry: "We were ABOMINATION first, and then for about two months, we were DARKNESS. By spring of 1987 we were BRUTALITY. Everyone just liked BRUTALITY, so the name changes stopped."
Have you been using more names for the early incarnation of BRUTALITY? I mean, other than DARKNESS or ABOMINATION maybe?
Larry: "No, those were the 3 names we actually used, I would say hundreds of names were put on the table, but only the three were used."
The first line-up consisted of yourself (on guitar & vocals), Jeff Acres (on bass) and Donnie Yanson (on drums). How did you three get together?
Larry: "A mutual friend by the name of Dennis Sheppard introduced me to Jeff and Donnie. It turned out that both Jeff and Donnie lived just blocks from me. Once we were introduced, I think it was only a day or two before Donnie brought his drums and Jeff brought his bass over, and we started making… errr, music."
Has anyone been involved in bands previously (meaning prior to DARKNESS / ABOMINATION) already?
Larry: "I jammed with Jon and Greg when they were PURGATORY in early ’86, even though Jon and I did not get along, I have to give the man credit where credit is due, ICED EARTH is one of the finest bands around today, and he told me he was going to do it. ABOMINATION was Jeff’s and Donnie’s first band."
You had finished four songs (‘Abomination’, ‘Return Of The Dead’, ‘My First Night’ and ‘Nuclear Assault’) rather quickly, which even ended up being released as the "Abomination" demo in late ’86 / early ’87… Tell us a bit more about those songs and the demo in general.
Larry: "Very old and done rather quickly. This demo was done when we were just a couple of months old and was recorded first with two microphones placed in front of the band set up (bass and guitar on each side of the drums), one on each side, and recorded to a cassette. Then that cassette was placed into a kareoke cassette tape to tape for the vocals. The radio shack microphone (the good mic) was then ran through a boss guitar delay for the vocal echoes. The songs were quickly written and a few carried over to later demos, sound quality is a 5 or 6 on a 1 – 10 scale. You can hear everything pretty clearly, and it’s stereo, but it’s airy and the vocals are really scaley… I was just learning."
Was it all original material right from the start? Did you never play any cover tunes when you started out?
Larry: "We would play a cover tune or two once in a while but did mostly originals. In the later 80’s we did ‘Creeping Death’, ‘Shock Rock’, and ‘Ace Of Spades’. I liked doing those songs."
You also played shows as ABOMINATION very early on already, didn’t you?
Larry: "No, we did a party as ABOMINATION at a house here in Tampa with Jim Cokers previous band DEAD, and got in a lot of trouble because the party goers pretty much trashed the big room that we performed in. We were done playing and loading up when the parents came home! And most of the thrashers had left, leaving the blame for the two bands. Fun party, sucky ending."
How and why did you end up using BRUTALITY as the band’s final moniker?
Larry: "Jeff was reading through a christian family magazine and I guess the word just stuck out. He presented the name and everybody said o.k."
What kind of problems did you have with original drummer Donnie Yanson, who already left the band in early 1987?
Larry: "Donnie had some personal problems and soon drifted completely out of the picture after a few years, I have not seen or heard from Donnie since like 1989, really a shame too, he was a hell raiser."
How did you hook up with Jim Coker, who temporarely filled in (from July to September the same year) and why didn’t he stay permant in the band at that time already?
Larry: "I’m not sure how I met him, I think maybe at a NASTY SAVAGE show, because we both idolize the NASTY’s. Jim didn’t stay because of his commitment to DEAD, but he did fill in for a few months and we jammed on."
Instead a guy named Kenny "Foz" Karg joined the band… what can you tell us about him and for long has he been a member of BRUTALITY?
Larry: "Foz was in the band for about a year and a half and was on both recordings of the BRUTALITY demo. Foz was one of those hell raisers too."
With Bill Benson you also tried to incorporate a second guitarist into the line-up, but he didn’t work out… why?
Larry: "Bill just wasn’t what we were looking for. He jammed with us on a couple of occasions. I’ve seen him from time to time, usually at shows."
But he still did help you out as a live guitarist when you played a show on New Year’s Eve 1987 / ’88… So, have you played any more shows with him as well?
Larry: "Another party, we didn’t start playing real shows until Jim joined us. I think the new years eve show / party was the only one we did with Bill."
In March 1988 you finally recorded the first, self titled BRUTALITY demo (still as a three piece), which featured the songs ‘Brutality’, ‘Now Mosh’, ‘World War III’ and ‘Return Of The Dead’. This demo must be a real collectors item nowadays as only 50 copies were made of it… tell us what exactly happened and why there’s no more copies available.
Larry: "If any of you have had the karokie tape to tape machines, you know that one of the tape players eventually turns into a "tape eater". I was unknowingly using the tape eater model on the first 50 copies and found out about it on the 51st. The master was all wound up on the tape trackers. We also used a previously recorded tape to record said master on, so it had age already."
What actually made you re-record ‘Return Of The Dead’, a track which already had been released on the "Abomination" demo?
Jeff: "Because it was the only one we were still playing from back then that was worth a shit."
About a month later you re-recorded / re-released those four songs, this time with newly recruited second guitarist Tim Mitchell… Would you say that you managed to improve the material in any way and that the second version of that demo had become a lot better or was there no big difference between those two demos?
Larry: "Yes, a big difference. The addition of the second guitarist made it sound much better. It was recorded the exact same way as the original that broke, so the sound is about the same, but the second guitarist was a lead player so I think the overall sound was improved a bit."
It’s said that the demos were numbered, from #50 up to #800 – does that mean you managed to sell this many copies of it at the time?
Larry: "About half sold and half given away to radio stations, magazines, and labels for rejection."
In September 1988 drummer Kenny and guitarist Tim were already leaving the band again… What lead to that decision?
Larry: "I guess they were just looking for something else, I didn’t get along with Tim very well. Foz and I were o.k. I see Foz here and there once and a while. I haven’t seen Tim since back then. Foz went on to join THE GUFF and they did some killer demos."
In February 1989 Don Gates becomes Tim’s replacement and you wrote the song ‘Ignitics’… so was Don already involved in the writing process of it in any way?
Larry: "Actually Don was Tim’s replacement, Don has always had this knack for learning things quickly, he was our drummer first. He didn’t start writing until later on."
What about Ben Williams and Steve Pantley, who also get a mention in your history… Have they ever been members of BRUTALITY or did they only audition?
Larry: "Ben was a member and with him and Don we played our first real show at Durbins (an airplane hangar near McDill A.F.B.) with AMON (now DEICIDE). Steve is a close friend of the band and did audition, but not a member."
Why did Don Gates leave BRUTALITY again in June?
Larry: "Don had some personal family problems and did not want to leave the band, he just had too. He always knew he would be welcomed back, and once things were resolved, he came back."
How did you manage to convince Jim Coker to return to BRUTALITY full time shortly after?
Larry: "Once Don had left, Jeff and I just went over to Jim’s house. We found that this was a good time for Jim to join BRUTALITY because DEAD was on a break. I think that BRUTALITY’s sound and future improved greatly once Jim joined."
With this line up (yourself / Jeff Acres / Jim Coker) you finally recorded the "Dimension Demented" demo in late 1989, which featured the songs ‘Dimension Demented’, ‘Hell On Earth’, ‘Lust For Sex’, ‘Ignitics’, ‘My First Night’, ‘Narcoticous Addictious’, ‘Frozen Amputee’ and a remake of ‘World War III’. As far as I can recall this demo helped alot to get the name BRUTALITY out to the worldwide underground, so tell us a bit more about its origin.
Larry: "We were guina pigs for Josh Young at his house (Outback Studios). Josh had just purchased a new tascam 8-track recorder, and needed a band to practice sound on, so he did the demo and charged us only $20.00 per song to record it, most studios charge by the hour. We recorded that demo for only $160.00. Since we were charged by the song, not the hour, we got to spend alot of time on them."
How did you hook up with the Nuclear Blast sublabel Gore Records at the time, who pressed three of the songs on a BRUTALITY 7"?
Jim: "We had heard of Slatko Dolic who had a sub label of Nuclear Blast called Gore Records. Mike Browning had told us to contact him as Gore had just released the INCUBUS 7". Around the time the BRUTALITY and DEAD 7" records were released, he disappeared. We later found out he died. R.I.P. our friend Slatko."
In December ’89 Don Gates finally becomes your permanent second guitarist and in 1990 you were constantly writing new songs with him (‘Psycological Preminition’, ‘The Satanic Bible’, ‘Necromantic Infection’, ‘Broken Dreams’), but except for ‘Necromantic Infection’ (which later became ‘The Body Before Me’) you surprisingly never used any of them on later releases, did you? What was the reason for that?
Larry: "’The Satanic Bible’ and ‘Broken Dreams’ were mine and they went with me to ASTAROTH, they both appear on the L.S.D. demo from 1993. ‘The Satanic Bible’ was re-titled ‘Scriptures’. ‘Psychological Preminition’ and a few others were just never done in the studio due to time restraints or other songs being done that we felt were more important at the time, or just plain lack of funds to get them recorded properly."
Before you finally entered Morrisound Studio in March 1991 for the recordings of your new demo "Metamorphosis", you already did a four track version of the songs in January the same year… What made you do so?
Larry: "I had just aquired a four track recorder and we wanted to make sure things sounded right before spending the $1300.00+ at Morrisound. "Metamorphosis" was a major step up for us, I think that "rehearsing" to go to the studio made the demo that much better. I still have the 4-track version in the archives."
What actually made you record the demo at Morrisound? Were you impressed by any other production or have you been friends with the guys running the studio or anything?
Larry: "Back then it was the place to go, so we went there. OBITUARY, NASTY SAVAGE, DEICIDE, and many other upstanding bands had recorded there. We wanted to be among them, and now, I guess we are."
That demo (containing the songs ‘Mausoleum Of Infringing Evil’, ‘The Body Before Me’ and ‘Hideous Mutations’) was finally released in May 1991 through Wild Rags Records. How did you hook up with them and why didn’t you simply release it on your own again?
Larry: "Wild Rags had expressed interest, and we were broke from the recording. They put together a nice package for us, better than we could have done at the time. I only wish it had been released on vinyl as well, like they did with HELLWITCH (I love those guys – brutal). I hope that one day the "Metamorphosis" and "Dimension Demented" projects can be released on vinyl. I love the vinyl format."
How many copies were sold of that demo and would you agree that it was basically the beginning of what I consider the "new BRUTALITY", as your musical style had become a lot more Death Metal inspired than anything you had done before…
Larry: "We think 5000 were pressed, could have been more, not really sure. I think it was the start of the new BRUTALITY as well. The overall being of the band had matured from a bunch of guys out of tune making loud noise, to what I think would be called a "professional" Heavy Metal band making loud noise."
After the release of that demo you wrote the songs ‘Drowning In Blood’, ‘Cryptorium’ and ‘Undead Matrimony’, but once again they remained unused (except for ‘Cryptorium’, which resurfaced on your debut album)… What was wrong with these songs?
Larry: "Again these were my songs and I took them to ASTAROTH and they both appear on the S.O.S. demo. Another interesting note to tack on for your interest: there are two versions of ‘The Body Before Me’, one is on the "Metamorphosis" demo by BRUTALITY, and the other is on the S.O.S. demo by ASTAROTH. It’s the same lyrics in both songs, but different music completely."
Ìn November you surprisingly parted ways with BRUTALITY, according to official statements (or rumors?) due to musical differences… So, what kind of problems did you have with BRUTALITY’s style at the time?
Larry: "It’s no secret that Jeff and I are assholes sometimes. At this particular point it was clash of the assholes, and I lost. I do believe that some musical differences were involved as BRUTALITY and ASTAROTH sound different from each other. The other guys sided with Jeff and I was out."
You then went on and formed ASTAROTH… what can you tell us about that band and where’s the difference between BRUTALITY and ASTAROTH musically?
Larry: "The first two ASTAROTH projects, "Lost State Of Dreams" (L.S.D.) and "Songs Of Sorrow" (S.O.S.) pick up where "Metamorphosis" left off. The connecting the songs in one presentation was my idea and I carried on to the first two ASTAROTH projects. BRUTALITY speeded up after I was gone too. I had always admired the Swedish bands like CARNAGE, UNLEASHED, GRAVE, old ENTOMBED, DISMEMBER, etc, so ASTAROTH took on that tuned-down, sludgey Swedish style. If "Metamorphosis" had been tuned-down, it would sound just like an ASTAROTH demo. ASTAROTH did a 3rd demo in 1998 called "Burning Christians" (B.C.), but it was more of a DEICIDE sound with super fast riffing and higher pitched CRADLE OF FILTH style vocals-not at all like LSD or SOS."
BRUTALITY replaced you with Jay Fernandez and recorded another 3 song demo, which finally got them the deal with Nuclear Blast Records… Did you get to hear that demo at the time? What did you think about the material and did you regret your decision to part ways with the band when you heard that they had been signed?
Larry: "I was pissed. I heard the demo and thought it was o.k., felt it was missing something though… ME! I got over it and did my own thing. I always wanted to be in BRUTALITY, I never wanted to leave."
The tracks ‘Sadistic’ and ‘Spawned Illusion’ from that demo were released as a 7"… do you know why only two made it onto the 7" and whatever happened to the third track?
Jeff: "The first track, ‘Cryptorium’ was on the "Death Is Just The Beginning II" compilation. Then Nuclear Blast asked us if we’d like to put the other two songs out on a 7", and of course we said yes."
Did you actually still continue to follow their career, even though you weren’t part of the band anymore or were you more like "So what, I don’t care any longer…"?
Larry: "A little, it was a year or so before I started following the band again. I heard the demo through mutual friends."
Do you know how they got Scott Reigel into the band and what he’s been up to previously?
Jeff: "Scott was a friend of Jay’s, and he started as a roadie for the band. Then, about a year later, we decided that the band needed a lead vocalist, Scott went out and got the vocal equipment, worked on his style a little, and got the position. We never tried anyone else out."
Larry, how did you like his voice in comparison to your own vocal delivery?
Larry: "I like Scott’s voice. His is much different than mine. He has the low gruff growls, I have the higher screams, and Jeff is sort of in between. We have three definate vocal styles in the band now, and we intend to use all three on the album."
How do you judge the three full length albums on Nuclear Blast Records ("Screams Of Anguish", "When The Sky Turns Black" and "In Mourning") that have been released under the BRUTALITY banner and recorded by several different line-ups between 1993 and 1996? Do you consider them as real BRUTALITY efforts?
Larry: "Well… yes, I guess I have too. I wasn’t fond of the idea of me not being on the first three albums, and tried to convince myself that they were not up to par, but after the first year or two, I had started liking the first two albums. The first time I heard "When The Sky…", I was blown away. I don’t much like that "In Mourning" album. The production is awesome but it sounds as if the heart is just not in the music."
From all the shows you’ve played with the band, have there been any special gigs that you still recall (good or bad)?
Larry: "Easy one for me, Halloween 1991. We opened a show for DEICIDE at Jannis Landing. The place was packed with about a thousand people, the largest crowd we had played for up to that time. A few days later I was out of the band."
Do you know what actually caused BRUTALITY’s split-up in late 1997 / early 1998?
Jeff: "The band was just plain burnt out on each other and needed a break. There had been no vacations for the band since forming in ’86."
What can you tell us about this live CD "Brutality Live 6-11-90"? Did you release that on your own or is it a bootleg or something?
Larry: "It’s something I found last year while digging through the archives. It’s one of the best sounding early soundboard recordings of the band I’ve ever heard so I dropped it to disc and have been selling CDR’s with hand made color covers by me, I hope Still Dead might want to release it after the new album is done, until then fans can get a CDR copy from me. 45 minutes long and except for the first song where the first second is cut and the sound guy is getting the sound, it’s killer and has some of those songs that we did not get to do in the studio like ‘Psychological Preminition’ , ‘Agoraphobia’ and the original version of ‘Necromantic Infection’. ‘Return Of The Dead’ is also on the live disc, making it the best recording of that song."
You also re-released the "Metamorphosis" and "Dimension Demented" demos on CD… What made you do so? Has there still been a demand for those demos after all these years?
Larry: "Absolutely, I have my own small label, Mega Rabbit Recordings and the demand was pretty big mainly for the "Metamorphosis" demo, so you get both versions linked together. And I also decided to give you the three songs in never before released unlinked versions. Since the "Metamorphosis" demo was so short I also decided to throw in the full eight song "Dimension Demented" demo as well on the first pressings only. So far the response has been positive, alot of fans have heard one demo or the other, but not both. The second pressings will not have the "Dimension Demented" demo on them."
What have you all been up to musically ever since and when and why did you decide to reform the band? Who’s part of the band nowadays? Is it true that you’re working with seven members these days?
Demian: "Yes, seven members. The first five members have signed the contracts with Still Dead. Larry (Mausolus) – Brutality / Astaroth founding member, guitar and vocals; Jeff Acres – Brutality founding member, bass and vocals; Jim Coker – drums. Jim has been in many major bands like BRUTALITY, NASTY SAVAGE, GARDY LOO, DEAD and now he is in CONTORTED. Jim hasn’t been on any current demos yet; Demian Heftel – lead guitar and vocals, previously in DRY SEPTEMBER, TKD and also back in ASTAROTH again; Scott Riegel – vocals. Hasn’t been on any current demos yet; Don Gates – lead guitars. Not currently jamming, but he is receiving demos and has agreed to perform on the album; Bryan Hipp – lead guitar. Cradle of filth, Promise of Sorrow, now in After Death. He was rehearsing with the band previously from August to November. We hope that he will perform on the album also. We are also open to any other former Brutality members who would like to play a part on the album to contact us A.S.A.P."
You already announced a bunch of "new" song titles, like ‘God’, ‘World War III’, ‘Agoraphobia’ and ‘Earosion’… But I suppose that ‘Agoraphobia’ is probably the same song you wrote shortly after the "Dimension Demented" demo and ‘World War III’ seems to be a remake from the first BRUTALITY demo, isn’t it? So, does that mean that you’re musically heading more towards those thrashy type of songs again as opposed to the brutal Death Metal stuff that came after?
Larry: "’Agoraphobia’ is the song done after the "D.D." demo. We had started to work on it, but decided we would set it aside for now, it has a few good riffs that may pop up in other songs in the future. ‘God’ is an acoustic piece I wrote. It too was considered, but I don’t think it will be on the album. I wrote ‘Earosin’ in 1995 and it will hopefully be on the album – everyone seems to like it. We will remain a Death Metal band, we just thought it would be cool to rework some of those old tunes with the style of the first two albums. No, we will not be going back to the thrashy style of the early days. We are hoping the feel of this album is like the "When The Sky Turns Black" album."
There was also talk of a new demo, which was supposed to feature the songs ‘Azathoth’, ‘World War III’, ‘Ashes And Snow’ and ‘I Deny’… Did that ever become reality?
Larry: "Yes, ‘Azathoth’ and ‘World War III’ will not be on the album – but ‘I Deny’ and ‘Ashes And Snow’ will be. We have been demo-ing songs like crazy since October of 2002. ‘Gates Of Thorn’ is the newest completed song written by Bryan Hipp, Demian Heftel and myself. This one may be on the album. There is also talk of revamping the original song, ‘Brutality’, from the 1988 demo for this album."
Why did you change the title of the upcoming new album? As far as I can recall it was originally supposed to be called "From The Darkness" and now it seems to be "As Darkness Falls"…
Larry: "That’s just how we do things, "As Darkness Falls" is just the working title. We come up with new ideas and sometimes things change, the title could change again. The original title for "Screams Of Anguish" was "Torture"."
How did you hook up with Still Dead Productions from Poland for the release of it?
Demian: "Julius heard that we were getting back together. He said that he would sell his soul to sign us. He was really psyched to hear that Larry was putting BRUTALITY back together and wanted to sign ASTAROTH also. Larry and I went over to talk to Mike Garrett and got the ball rolling and put ASTAROTH back together. We are also looking for a drummer for the recording. If we can’t find one, Jim Coker has agreed to step in and fill the shoes. I am really psyched to be on my first two albums (at the same time)."
Ok Larry, that’s about it – I hope you enjoyed this journey into the past as much as I did – if there’s anything else you’d like to add / mention, feel free to do so now… All the best with BRUTALITY in the future!
Larry: "Thank you, I thoroughly enjoyed the trip with you too. We hope to be in the studio in may of 2003 for the new album, write to Stilldead@stilldead.com and get those pre-orders in. Any drummers interested in the ASTAROTH drum seat for the album should write to Originalbrutality@hotmail.com Any race, sex or age will be considered. I’d also like to thank Julius for his backing on this project, and I’ll take good care of your soul."
Interview: Frank Stöver
all live pics by: Keith "Splattergod" Suchland