We originally had planned to publish this interview with one of the most promising new Death Metal acts from the L.A. area a lot earlier already, but for reasons beyond our control the following chat with COFFIN TEXTS guitarist RICHARD GONZALEZ unfortunately had to be postponed several times… Well, after all we finally managed to get our requested info that Richard kicked off with the most important news…
Richard: "We just fired our drummer Marcelino for ripping off the band. He was cashing our royalty checks without our permission and for other various reasons, so you know it had to be done…"
COFFIN TEXTS origin is more or less connected to the bands BRAINSTORM, ENTETY, DEMOLITION, INFAMY and ENGRAVE. So, please go a little more in depth on each one of them and let us know who of you actually played in which band prior to forming COFFIN TEXTS.
Richard: "It would seem like all bands from the east L.A. area are connected one way or another. Bobby and myself were in ENTETY, Marce was in DEMOLITION, I was temporarely playing bass for ENGRAVE. As for BRAINSTORM, none of us played in that band, but our Death Metal brother Joshua Jagger Heatley (RIP) was a really good friend to us and all for that matter. Back in the day, it was almost certain that a backyard party in the hood would include these bands on the bill."
What lead to the origin of COFFIN TEXTS? Weren’t you satisfied with your old bands any longer, did they split up, did you start to incorporate different musical influences from now or was COFFIN TEXTS originally supposed to be a side project only?
Richard: "The way we formed COFFIN TEXTS was the coincidental break up of our previous bands that seemed to happen at around the same time (ENTETY and DEMOLITION) we would all agree that the former bands were both very brutal, but problems that were an ongoing thing just weren’t getting solved and eventually we knew that in order to move on to better things we had to make a decision of firing our drummer. We had problems with him too. It’s a funny thing we have always had problems with our drummers for some reason or another. As I told you earlier we just fired our drummer (COFFIN TEXTS) for ripping off the band. He had seemed to lose interest in the band so we agreed to have a meeting to discuss these issues but whenever showed up even though he had made a commitment to be there. So then we had to drive to his house and he knew something was up so he admitted to cashing the royalty checks and spending the cash on personal expenses, etc so that alone was the fatal blast to the cranium and we had to fire him. I think any band out their would do the exact same thing. You just don’t do that kind of shit to your so-called homies that you’ve been jamming with for so long. We didn’t dishone him, I mean we are still friends (I think) but you can never really forgive that kind of thing and let him back in the band and pretend it’s all good. Fuuuuuuuck it! Shit happens! Now that it’s out of the way we can go on and get ready for the new shit that is hopefully going to come out on World War III Records, which you will very soon be hearing of if you haven’t yet."
If I’m right you officially started to concentrate on COFFIN TEXTS back in November 1994… So, how long did it take you until you had written enough material to play out live for the very first time?
Richard: "From the time we started jamming together we must have had about three songs in about five months, which was about a 15 minutes set. I can’t remember the first time we played live though. We were hungry to jam in front of people and we quickly wanted to record and put the shit out for all to hear."
What kind of reactions did you get? I mean, even though some people might have known your former bands already, you basically started from zero again at the time…
Richard: "The reaction we got from the heads was really good, I mean we pretty much had all the fans from our previous bands come out and support the new band and gig after gig we started making new fans, it was cool to get the support from ENTETY and DEMOLITION fans but yeah we basically started from the bottom and worked our way back up."
Do you still recall some of those early shows? With which bands did you play at the time?
Richard: "I still remember some early shows which were with local Death Metal bands popular around the east L.A. scene. Bands like LETUME ASCENSUS, RISE, LEPRA, CREMATORIUM and the list will go on forever. It was awhile before we played shows with headlining bands like GRAVE and CANNIBAL CORPSE, you know bands of that caliber."
About a year later you went into the studio to finally record some material. Why did it take you so long? I suppose that people who came to see the band live back then must’ve constantly asked you for a release a lot earlier already, so… Did you previously spread any rehearsal tapes around?
Richard: "About a year later we finally recorded the five song demo, but the reason it took so long was because we all had to save enough money to pay for the recording. Another reason was that we did a couple of recordings on 4-track machines and other low budget recordings intended only for practice till we knew what we wanted on the main recording. I don’t remember spreading any rehearsal material, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we passed out some to our friends just to get a taste of the COFFIN TEXTS."
What made you work with producer Jim Barnes and were you satisfied with the result?
Richard: "We were first introduced to producer Jim Barnes by our orange county allies MORGION, PHOBIA and MINDROT. They had previously worked with him and all had a brutal sound, so we decided to do the recording with him and he was real cool and easy to get along with. This dude was the best. He practically memorized all the songs so it was like he was an actual member in the band. Whenever he felt something could be done better he made us do it again and again. We have worked with plenty of other people and I’ve noticed the difference in input from the producers and I feel Jim was by far the most interactive yet. So yes, we were definetly satisfied with the end product."
Were the five songs (plus the short instrumental / intro) originally meant to be a demo or did you have a full album in mind straight from the start?
Richard: "The five songs we recorded were originally supposed to be a demo tape because we didn’t have enough material to put out a full length album, but after we did the demo we were really impressed with the quality and we just wanted to put it out and ready to take offers from what ever would sound the best (from labels)."
At which point of time did Dwell Records exactly get interested in COFFIN TEXTS? Prior or after those recordings and why did it not work out yet back then?
Richard: "Dwell was interested for the first time way back in 95 or so, but due to the lack of support by the executive producer at that time things fell through and we were assed out. But then much later Jerry Battle started building the label to where it got now, or then I should say, because he no longer works there or anybody for that matter. That label decided to stop playing hard ball, they dropped all bands they had in the Death Metal scene because the fuckin’ owner (Morman dude) felt that the morals in his belief were contradicting what he was working with. But the bottom line is that he made money from it and he waited all this time to just give it up at the end. So fuck that label, the only reason it got so far was all because of Jerry Battle… hail Jerry!!!!! And now he is running the show at World War III Records and if you haven’t heard of it yet you will soon hear all the brutal shit they have signed. He sent me a promo of HATE, a band they just signed and the quality is up there and they are fucken brutal."
Have you never tried to get together with another company after that?
Richard: "We are trying to get some distro in Europe because honestly speaking I don’t think people have even heard of COFFIN TEXTS. Well I’m sure the real die hard have, but you know how it is, if you have no distro it just makes it harder to get exposure. We have only sent limited quantities of CD’s to a few heads, so some in Europe know what’s up. We are hoping to get hooked up with World War III Records for the next release, but if not them we will look at other offers we have gotten."
But even without a record label backing you up, you went on a bigger tour with INFAMY in the summer of 1996… How did you manage to finance that? Did you lose any money on that tour?
Richard: "In the summer of ’96 we got invited to do a tour with INFAMY and we quickly said "Fuck yeah!" and were soon on the road with our former band mates. All of us pitched in for the expenses. I remember we were about thirteen guys packed in a van touring around road dogging it. That was one of the best times we have had out on the road. We always loose money every time we go out and tour. That’s Metal for you. We didn’t sell a whole lot of merchandise because the tapes had no covers at the time and we had about two dozen shirts. Bobby designed the covers later."
At one point you also played together with GRAVE, SUFFOCATION, INCANTATION and IMMOLATION… Was that on that particular tour or just local one off shows?
Richard: "All the shows we did with the "big" bands were all just as supporting or opening slots but that was cool because we just like jamming live. Yeah the only real tour was the most recent one with INCANTATION and SKINLESS which was back in early April / May."
What made you concentrate on your other project ENGRAVE again after that? When was ENGRAVE exactly picked up by Sounds Of Death Records? Do you have any explanations why COFFIN TEXTS didn’t get a deal at the time? I mean, where’s the difference between ENGRAVE and COFFIN TEXTS?
Richard: "This one should be for Bobby, but I think I have an answer for it… at one time COFFIN TEXTS took a pretty long break and Bobby started jamming with ENGRAVE and I jammed with INFAMY. During that time things picked up for Bobby and they sent their CD to S.O.D. Records and got hooked up, but I don’t know the details. I think the differences in the two bands are obvious being that one is more in the Death Metal spectrum and the other is more towards the Speed Metal / Death. You be the judge of who is who."
But in March of ’99 you finally signed to Dwell Records… what made them finally sign you after such a long time?
Richard: "We got signed to Dwell with the help of Jerry Battle (ex-Dwell), now executive producer for World War 3 Records. He really believed in what we were doing and loved the shit, so he is the one who hooked us up. We were supposed to get signed to them back in ’96 or something like that, but plans fell through for some fucked up reason. But anyway, we were happy to take the offer."
And then you recorded those two cover songs for the SLAYER and BLACK SABBATH tribute CD’s, which later also ended up on your album. Was that part of the deal with Dwell, that you had to contribute to their compilations as well?
Richard: "Those two songs were just dumped into the CD to make the whole thing about 40 minutes in length, but I explain all that in the next few questions. The songs (tributes) were only supposed to be on the tribute albums but shit happend to me and so the story goes."
What made you work with Gilbert Vasquez for those instead of Jim Barnes again?
Richard: "The only reason we decided to work with Gil Vasquez was because Jim Barnes was missing in action and I remember him telling us that he wasn’t going to do it much longer. He gave us his number, but we had no luck in trying to get a hold of him. Even our Orange County allies didn’t know his where abouts, so we decided to try out Gil and I have to admit he was pretty good too. We did a few projects with him but I was disappointed in some things that could have been prevented in a few songs. But he was a bad ass also, just not in the same ball park as Jim. We were introduced to him by INFAMY, he recorded "The Blood Shall Flow" and also ENGRAVE."
Have you recorded any other cover songs ever since?
Richard: "Yeah, we recorded ‘1000 Days In Sodom’ for the VENOM tribute with Gilbert and also ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ for the MORBID ANGEL tribute. But for this one we recorded with Berny from AGENT STEEL and if I was forced to do another tribute (which will not happen!!!) I would go to him, because he is a bad mutha fucka man! And we also did the ‘Call Of Ktulu’ for the METALLICA 2 comp and this is the ultimate fuckin’ prime example on how a producer can fuck up your sound. We recorded it in Marces brother’s studio and he had the gear to do it, but he fucked up on the mix and other shit. There was a click that he couldn’t remove and you can clearly hear everything (I don’t mean good it’s all shit) – never again with him! I could have done a better job with my Tascam 424 porta studio."
Even though you finally got a deal, you still didn’t manage to record your "real" debut album yet as you injured your fingers pretty badly. What kind of reactions did you get from Dwell when that happened? Who came up with the idea to release an alternate version of a debut album instead?
Richard: "When we got the green light from Dwell that we were officially signed we planned to re-record the five songs along with new material to make it all the same sound. But before we could make it to the studio some dude at work fucked me up with a rail road tamper machine (I bet you’re saying "Whatever that is"). He slammed a big ass heavy door on me while I was going throught it and it crushed my left hand and fingers. It was real fucked up. My shit was hanging by a thread literally, but the doctors re-connected my shit and healed the severed tendon. When I play even today the strings hurt my finger when it slides between the scars, but I can still pull it off."
How did you get the chance to replace VITAL REMAINS on INCANTATION’s "Infernal Storm" tour in April 2000? Were you already doing fine again at the time? Tell us a bit more about that tour…
Richard: "I remember playing a show at the Whiskey in Hollywood with IMMOLATION (one of my favorite bands) and John from INCANTATION was doing the tour, playing guitar and John was really impressed with us. And that’s what eventually led to him inviting us to do the tour with them and SKINLESS. By that time my fingers had healed and I was good to go. Well as for that tour, we got fucked from day one with the contracts and shit like that. The finger seems to point at some dude named Chip from Relapse (I heard he got fired for various contributing reasons) but anyway the bottom line is we weren’t being compensated enough to keep on doing the tour, so we had no choice but to bail out with our SKINLESS brothers in Nuevo Laredomex. We don’t regret doing the tour because people didn’t know who we were and by opening up for SKINLESS and INCANTATION people were introduced to COFFIN TEXTS."
Your album "Gods Of Creation, Death & Afterlife" finally hit the stores on April 18, 2000. What kind of reactions did you get on it? Did people notice that you used old recordings for it?
Richard: "The reaction was "ooh fuck listen to this" basically. I mean people dug the shit but iI have read about two bad reviews and it’s funny to hear somebody talk shit. But that’s good because it makes me write meaner riffs… can’t please everybody… People didn’t know they were old songs until we told everybody… A few heads did know, the ones who had gotten a copy on tape way back in 96. Like Lenzig from CEPHALIC and James from PROPHECY and heads from MOSHPIT in Colorado, just to mention a few."
I read some reviews in which the writers not even recognized the fact that there’s two cover songs on the album. Do you see that as a kind of compliment or as simple stupidity of those guys who wrote it?
Richard: "Hahaha! That’s fuckin’ funny! Yeah, I have noticed that they don’t know what time it is. I wouldn’t say they are stupid (maybe I)."
Did you have this Egyptian concept straight from the start already? What exactly inspired you in this department and also the band’s moniker?
Richard: "The Egyptian concept was from day one. It was introduced by a friend and we just basically kept working with it. Bobby is the one behind all concepts and all lyrics. All I do for the band is write the riffs and occasionally do an interview but usually it’s Bob everybody hears from."
You already must have written a lot of new material by now, so does it differ in any way from the stuff on "Gods Of Creation, Death & Afterlife"? Feel free to tell us some of the titles and how the songs sound like?
Richard: "So far we don’t have enough to do the full length but that just means I have to get off my ass and finish the tunes. But remember we have to get a new drummer and that will set us back a little. But I think that with three more songs we should be straight and the new shit is fuckin’ brutal! I recently recorded three of the songs on my Tascam just to fuck around and I showed it to Jerry and he was like "fuck yeah it’s brutal" so, I’m glad I got his attention. The new shit is more technical and has a bit more harmonies and shit, but it is no doubt brutal as fuck. Some of the titles are ‘Unseen World’, ‘To Manifest’, ‘Divination’ – they are written smarter and harder. Can’t wait to unleash it."
Have you already booked a studio for the recordings of your first "real" album? When can we expect to hear it?
Richard: "We haven’t booked a studio date just yet but all I can say is that it will be worth the wait and COFFIN TEXTS fans won’t be dissapointed at all. However we anticipate the recording to be complete by June at the latest and hope for a speedy release. Well Frank I want to thank you for the interest in COFFIN TEXTS and sorry for taking so fuckin’ long, but you were given the exclusive story behind the firing of our drummer ha! ha! ha! Thanks alot bro, horns up, way up Metaaaaaaall!!!!!!"
Interview: Frank Stöver
Live pics: Hacker; COFFIN TEXTS Homepage