Do you remember that old school, raw and violent American and Teutonic Thrash Metal sound? A killer style pushed to the limits of brutality by bands like early SODOM and KREATOR, SADUS, DEVASTATION or DEMOLITION HAMMER, just to name a few. They sounded like Death Metal, but they were 100% Thrash Metal to the bone! Well, if you’re into these brutal and aggressive forms of Thrash Metal, you certainly ought to listen to the debut album of CREATE A KILL. An all-star band that was born like a one-man project by the will of Gus Rios (guitars and drums) and that has just released its first full length album, entitled “Summoned To Rise”. Gus is a well known name in the underground, mostly for having played with MALEVOLENT CREATION and for being the drummer of GRUESOME. He has agreed to answer our questions and this is the result…
When did you come up with the idea to start your own Death / Thrash Metal project? How was the original plan: a one man band or did you already have on your mind to bring in some of your musician friends?
"I had written a few songs for what was to be the next MALEVOLENT CREATION album, but then I quit the band. My style of writing always leaned heavily on Thrash so it just made sense to me to re record the guitars tuned higher (MALEVOLENT CREATION tuned to C sharp, CREATE A KILL is D sharp) for an even more Thrash vibe. My initial idea was to come off the drums completely and have a bunch of my buddies guest on each song. That was way too ambitious of an idea for an album without any real budget so in the end I played drums on 7 tracks with Alex, Tobias and Dirk helping me out."
To be honest, I’ve never been into all-star super bands, but I have to admit that you’ve just started a project that is a real dream for every fan of old school American Death / Thrash Metal, just like me. CREATE A KILL is very reminiscent of some of the best American bands from the early 90s: DEMOLITION HAMMER, DEVASTATION, SOLSTICE, DARK ANGEL, MORBID SAINT etc. Something very refreshing nowadays, since both the underground and the mainstream audience is constantly bombarded by old school Death Metal bands. Do you think that the time is ripe for a comeback of extreme and brutal Thrash Metal?
"I don’t know if the time is right, but I didn’t make this album for any reason other than this is exactly the style of Metal that I love most… aggressive Thrash Metal. And the Death Metal elements are just natural to me… I mean what IS Death Metal other than REALLY aggressive Thrash right? Thrash was just Death Metal with guitars tuned higher, vocals that were in the higher register, at least the Thrash that I liked anyway. I was never into what I called happy or party Thrash. I like the records that you could tell were the blueprints for Death Metal… really fast, aggressive vocals, and lyrics that were basically Death Metal. I mean “Pleasure To Kill” was NOTHING like “Ride The Lightning” and not that METALLICA records weren’t great, because they obviously were, but they weren’t the precursors to Death Metal as much as the more extreme Thrash bands."
You really have surrounded yourself with legendary and great musicians on this album: Matt Harvey, Daniel Gonzalez and Alex Marquez, just to name a few. This latter is one of my all-time favourite drummers with many killer titles in his discography (SOLSTICE, MALEVOLENT CREATION, DIVINE EMPIRE and RESURRECTION among others). But I didn’t know he had such a powerful voice. How did this partnership with Alex come about?
"All of these guys I’m proud to call my good friends and I’m very fortunate for that! Alex and I have been really close friends for years now and like you he was always one of my absolute favorite drummers. Years ago he and I did a more traditional Metal project and he sang on that so I figured that he would have a killer Thrash style voice. Plus he KNOWS Thrash Metal as well as any human being on earth so it was a natural fit. That’s the main with EVERYONE involved with this album… they ALL know Thrash very well because they came from that era."
I’ve read that you wrote some of the songs that appear on “Summoned To Rise” during your years with MALEVOLENT CREATION, right? Were they intended to be used for MALEVOLENT CREATION or were you already thinking about a new project?
"Several songs were actual MALEVOLENT songs that just hadn’t gotten vocals recorded yet. You can hear a clear Thrash influence on all of the songs I’ve written for that band going back to the “Fine Art Of Murder” album in 1997 to 2009’s “Invidious Dominion”. MALEVOLENT was basically a Thrash / Death band that leaned more towards Death Metal… I just leaned the songs back towards Thrash more now."
Since many musicians are involved in this album, can you explain to our readers who plays on each track and which instruments?
"I play rhythm guitars and bass on the entire album, I did all the solos except for Daniel on ‘Sow Is Mine’ and ‘Gauntlet Of Pain’, I played drums on 7 tracks with Alex on ‘Praise The Beast’, Dirk on ‘Sow Is Mine’ and Tobias on ‘Premeditated’. Alex did vocals on all songs except for ‘Praise The Beast’, ‘Reap The Whirlwind’, ‘Cold Blooded’ and ‘Flesh Blood And Stone’ which feature Matt."
Please, tell us something more about your main Death Metal and Thrash Metal influences. Where did your inspiration come from when you write a new song?
"When it comes to guitar I’ve always been a Thrash guy through and through. I got "Reign In Blood" when I was only 9 fucking years old man! That shit is my BLOOD! But in the late 80s and early 90s Death Metal took over because Thrash Metal was trying to become mainstream and a lot of the bands were releasing more commercially acceptable albums. Fans like me who wanted to hear music as extreme as possible naturally gravitated towards Death Metal. I think my main influences are fairly obvious… SLAYER, KREATOR, DARK ANGEL, early SEPULTURA, DEVASTATION but also VADER and MALEVOLENT CREATION for the more extreme elements. When I pick up a guitar to write riffs I get really stoned, turn my Marshall up to a decent volume so I can FEEL the riffs and just try to write riffs that make me feel aggression and anger. It becomes in a lot of ways my release and I think that’s something that many fans of extreme Metal have in common… Metal becomes our vehicle for releasing those inner demons of aggression which I think is a very positive thing!"
How did you work during the composition phase of “Summoned To Rise”. I guess you didn’t have many chances to rehearse together, right? If yes, was this your first album based on remote working?
"I wrote all of the music myself and even sent Alex, Dirk and Tobias finished versions with drums but of course asked them to interpret them with THEIR style and just use my drum tracks as a guide. Alex would come into the studio with lyrics and arrangements and then I would just tweak things here and there. Matt was totally remote in California and I sent him finished songs that he would then just record vocals over and email me the tracks. It’s actually a very easy work flow!"
Let’s talk about the production and the sound. I think that this album is able to capture the essence of some classic Morrisound recording sessions from the past, especially the thrashier ones like “Tortured Existence” by DEMOLITION HAMMER or SOLSTICE’s self-titled debut. Did you produce it in your own studio, right? Which equipment did you use? And how did you get this sound?
"I was very fortunate to have watched Scott Burns record MALEVOLENT’s “In Cold Blood” album. I was that annoying kid asking A LOT of questions, but thankfully Scott was very gracious and giving with his time and knowledge with me. His production style was based on a simple idea that just isn’t very popular anymore these days which is to capture good sounds and performances. Today most producers rely heavily on technology and less on performances and natural tones. That’s just NOT my thing at all! What you hear is what happened in the studio… period! Scott would record natural drums and then he’d heavily eq things to get them to pop in the mix. The kick sound was a sample of the actual kick used but everything else is 100% natural and real. I used a fucking Marshall AMPLIFIER, not a digital profile. I understand the ease of using that technology but I’m always like “WHY?!”, just get a killer amp to sound good on day one and then you’re good to go. Everything was recorded into pro tools so it’s missing that tape saturation but I don’t have a tape machine or the money for one! Just mic’s into mic pre amps into an interface into pro tools. Nice and simple."
Who did write the lyrics and what do they deal with?
"Both Alex and Matt wrote their own lyrics and I asked them to think “Pleasure To Kill meets Reign In Blood”. All things evil, murder and mayhem! Matt did write one song about the failing planet and the cancer that is mankind at fault, but that’s a pretty scary and dismal topic because it’s real!"
Who did draw the cover artwork and the logo?
"The cover art was done by Cesar Eidrian from Soul Asphyx Arts and the logo was done by Joser Barrera. I couldn’t be any happier with the cover art… to me it’s PERFECT! Evil as fuck!"
How did you get the deal with Repulsive Echo? Is it only for one album or does it include the option of releasing a second one? Are you already working on new material?
"Kostas from Repulsive was the main dude pushing me to finish this album all along. I had sent him some songs years ago but then the GRUESOME thing took off and it took a back seat to that. Kostas was always messaging me on Facebook urging me to finish the album because he really believed in it. That to me was more important than a bigger label picking up another “supergroup” album and marketing it as just that to simply recoup funds. Repulsive Echo really believes in this album and have partnered up with me on it. It’s only a 1 album deal and I have already written 3 songs for the next album… which will be even more extreme with elements of Grindcore mixed in!"
Do you have any plan to play live? If yes, have you already thought about a live line-up?
"It’s my dream to take this project live and already have some ideas for the line-up, but that greatly depends on demand and record sales. It’s very hard to get quality musicians in their 40s to do live engagements without budget! Haha! For now though I’m focused 100% on promoting this album and writing the next one."
I’ve read on your Facebook page that CREATE A KILL has recorded an exclusive song in memory of the late Bret Hoffman (R.I.P.), but it wasn’t included in the album. Is this track available online for download?
"Yes, it was a song that I thought I had lost and it was the last song I had written for MALEVOLENT CREATION. When I recently found the session files I re-recorded the guitars and asked Matt to write lyrics honoring Bret. Bret’s passing hit me very hard and Matt did an excellent job on the song… I fucking cried when I read the lyrics along with the music! I’m very proud of the song and it’s FREE to anyone who buys the CD or Bandcamp download. There will be a lyric video coming out soon as well. RIP Bret Hoffman."
Since you’re both a very talented drummer and a killer guitarist, which are your main influences for both instruments. I know that you’re a great friend of Sean Reinert, who is one of the best Death Metal drummers ever in my opinion. Have you ever had the chance to study and play with him? Is he so overly technical as he sounds on the albums?
"Thank you for the kind words! I got guitar at age 9 shortly after hearing "Reign In Blood" for the first time. I cannot overstate the importance of that album on my life! It gave me the life I have! So it’s safe to say that my main influences are Jeff Hanneman and Dave Lombardo from day one. Chuck Schuldiner is also a massive influence, which of course lead me to discover Sean Reinert. I studied with Dave Culross first, learning all the basics and developing a solid and technically sound foundation. When I met Sean and started studying with him he was the one who turned me onto guys like Vinnie Colaiuta and David Garibaldi whom I became obsessed with! Sean opened me up to genres like Jazz Fusion and showed me where he got his influence from. I always say that Culross started me on the right path and Sean gave me a wide vocabulary. Guitar I only took a handful of lessons back in like 1987 so I’m definitely not a virtuoso or as schooled as I am on drums, but I have always been more into guys that write great riffs and songs as opposed the shredders. That said, I do wish that I could shred on guitar too! Haha! My solos are total Hanneman / King style, but that fits the music… and the music is most important!"
You live in Florida, a state that gave birth to many killer Death Metal bands and to a very influential sound. How is the Floridian scene nowadays?
"I get asked this question a lot and while there are always new bands coming along, it’s really still just us old guys keeping it real! Haha! OBITUARY is playing better today than EVER, DEICIDE is still releasing solid music, etc etc. We all get together when we can and talk about the kids don’t know shit! Haha! Thanks for the interview and support! CHEERS!!"