Considering the ridiculous delay it takes to see to the new Snakepit issue to be issued and being bored / annihilated to see some damn interesting interviews rotting on my hard drive, here’s some exclusive stuff for you lucky Voices readers! So far almost all the most impressive acts from the ’80s coming from the Bay Area have been covered in Snakepit (minus EXODUS, INSANITY and BLIND ILLUSION), needless to say that DEATH ANGEL were always one of my top priorities considering the amount of talent displayed so brilliantly on their three studio albums – "Act III" remaining as THE top notch recording even if some would argue with this comment stating how much more raw and savage "The Ultra-Violence" is – so a year before the band reformed (2000) I managed to track down former members when they were involved with SWARM and I thought it would be an easy interview to conduct. What a fool I was as it took three long years to have this finalized and only because, one of their friends, Swissman, managed to conduct this long interview with different members at different times – massive thanks goes out to the Swissman! Now I certainly wish that bassist Dennis Pepa and guitarist / mainman Rob Cavestany would have been more talkative and took this whole thing much more seriously for this very first complete historical piece on DEATH ANGEL / THE ORGANIZATION and not being so reluctant at doing this "ridiculously long" piece and being much more devoted to their long time die hard followers, a strange way to act to say the least. So here’s your chance finally to learn a bit more on their career, the previously named members being joined for this trivia thing by singer Mark Oseguada on the eve of doing a new European tour and releasing a much awaited new album.
Did you and your parents move to California from the Philippines very early on or was it only when you were like 12 years old? Then how did you discover Heavy Metal / Hard Rock as a whole?
Mark: "Actually, as far as the band goes the only member of DEATH ANGEL that was actually born in the Philippines was Gus. Other than that all the remaining members were born in San Francisco. Wow (laughs)! And again with me, my mother is only part Filipino anyway so… As far as Heavy Metal goes, we all grew up in the San Francisco scene so we were exposed to it through school mates and what not."
According to what Rob said back then, the band started in the summer of ’82 around him as guitarist and Andy Galeon as drummer being respectively aged 13 and 9, you only joined ‘em later… So how did you hook up with them exactly as a singer?
Mark: "Well, we all are cousins, so that helps. They formed the band well before – I joined in 1984 but by then we all saw each other and we all knew we were interested by the same type of music and we would go to the same type of shows. I was already singing around with friends that I kind of jammed with. I was planning on forming my other band outside of theirs someday, but I started helping them as a roadie for their shows and then eventually Rob wrote a song called ‘Kill As One’ and there were parts where they needed a scream and it was pretty much known that I could scream (laughs). I used to do their introductions and I would do these scream things. We started with ‘Kill As One’, but it definitely wasn’t known if I was going to be the singer, and then ‘Final Death’ and then from there it became three songs, four songs, and then I became the singer. I think on November 24th, 1984 was my first gig at the Stone with MEGADETH."
Rob: "He’s a cousin of ours and he was a roadie, the other hyper cousin of ours that was around our age category. I don’t know how but he stepped up to sing a couple of times at rehearsal or something screaming his head off and suddenly he was in."
I know they had a bass player before you, Dennis, became theirs… But according to what was said at the time, he sucked. Can you tell us a bit more about those previous members, about that very early DEATH ANGEL incarnation from late ‘82?
Dennis: "There was a period when we tried a number of people out, but nobody ever really joined the band. I don’t even remember what actually happened. I’m assuming he didn’t live up to our expectations so…"
Did Rob and Andy have consider some other bandnames before DEATH ANGEL- a band name which was taken from a book simply titled "Death Angel" from what I remember, correct?
Mark: "Yes it is from a book. Originally before that they were toying around with the name DARK THEORY, and I believe that they both went to the mall together to a book store and saw a book called "Death Angel" and they thought it was much more intense so they went with that."
Did you only sing when you joined ‘em or did you play guitar also since that point remains quite unclear and confused from the different interviews I read?
Mark: "Nah, I never played guitar (laughs). I roadied for them. Even now I wouldn’t say I play guitar, I have an acoustic guitar – as far as what I can do with it, I’m getting better at it."
Did you all have the same influences AEROSMITH, AC/DC, LED ZEPPELIN, KISS, BLACK SABBATH or were you already much more into the still somewhat “underground” sounds of MAIDEN, PRIEST, SCORPIONS etc…?
Rob: "What era are we talking about there? It all came in stages where I learned all about this different music. The very first era where we were getting into Rock music and all it was definitively those first bands you mentioned – KISS was definitely a huge influence and all those bands you mentioned in the classic Rock / early Metal or however you want to put it. Then it developed into the next wave with MAIDEN, SABBATH and we started getting into that type of more popular Metal, THE SCORPIONS, JUDAS PRIEST then developing into more of the underground shit like old METALLICA and so forth and it just evolved."
How did you get into your local underground Metal scene which was already somewhat big with bands like BLIND ILLUSION, EXODUS, VIOLATION, MURDER, METAL CHURCH, ANVIL CHORUS / LEVIATHAN etc building their own foundations?
Rob: "We just started playing shows here and due to the nature of our music we just started getting shows set up with the other Metal bands, the booking people ended up setting us on bills with these other bands so we would play with them, end up meeting them and that’s how the scene developed."
Dennis: "We just got to know everybody too. Back then once the scene started flowing alot of it had to do with key clubs like The Stone, Ruthie’s Inn – they were huge scene builders and helped keep the local scene going."
When DEATH ANGEL started, it seems they were playing mainly covers, do remember what those were? I remember that in ’83 you were doing ‘The Trooper’ and ‘Restless And Wild’ as covers
Rob: "Yes, we were playing cover tunes at the start back then but at the same time we were already trying to write original songs even from the very start. You named some of the songs that we used to cover, we also did ‘Green Manalishi’ from JUDAS PRIEST, thinking we were doing the PRIEST version and not even realizing we were actually doing a FLEETWOOD MAC cover (laughs). We did some TYGERS OF PAN TANG stuff at some point, we just messed around with the standard shit like SCORPIONS, PRIEST, MAIDEN, KISS of course as we did ‘Cold Gin’, we did a lot of weird covers…"
Dennis: "OZZY.. we played material from the "Blizzard Of Ozz" days."
Dennis: "Even METALLICA stuff. I don’t think we ever played their material live but we used to mess around with it and learn the tunes."
Then Dennis’ brother Gus joined the band as rhythm guitar player, how did that happen? Was it for you your first band experience or…?
Rob: "Not too much later though – it all happened within months. We were a four piece without Mark just like that."
Dennis: "We practically learned our instruments into the band – so this was our first band experience."
By the way what was the exact connection between each member of the band since all we know is that you’re relatives, cousins but
Rob: "Yes, that’s why we knew each other in the first place. That’s how we ended up forming a band because we were already friends as family hanging out playing as kids so we were the natural people to form a team with."
From that point as you had some originals written, you recorded early ’83 the “Heavy Metal Insanity” four song demo which showed a clear mainstream Hard Rock direction with lots of MAIDEN influences especially. And even if the band considered later that it sucked, looking back, what do you remember from that first studio effort and what’s your honest opinion of it nowadays?
Rob: "My opinion of it is I think when you judge it by who we were at the time and how young we were and how inexperienced and new we were to things as that was our first batch of songs we wrote and got to the point of recording, at that point Andy was like 9 and the rest of us were in the 13 range and for that point I think it’s killer. It showed our range and that we had our shit together, it was structured and if I listen to it now I would think that we were more professional than I even thought we were. The songwriting – we were really focusing on the songwriting aspect and for that it really wasn’t that bad for being a beginning band."
Dennis: "You know what’s funny, I wanted to add to that we were so young, that this was recorded at Lafayette or Pleasant Hill and we were so young that Rob’s parents had to drop us off at the studio and pick us up (laughs). And another thing is that this was our first thing and obviously we have grown into other things but the dude that produced that was Matt Wallace who went on to do FAITH NO MORE. I don’t think too many people know about that."
Rob: "Totally – he honed his chops on us. He owes us man! (laughs)"
On that demo Rob played also bass and that’s only after that effort that Dennis started playing bass – as he was doing only the singing before – while Rob was doing half of the singing also, is that correct first of all and how came that idea to have two singers in the band?
Rob: "Oh yeah! KISS maybe influenced the idea of two singers. We were trying to base ourselves around what KISS was doing and we both could sing so we just did it."
Did you play a lot of shows in ’83 when that demo was released and was it at that time that you opened for METALLICA?
Rob: "METALLICA was in 1985. I remember that experience because it was the single most exciting show that we got until we got this call yesterday (15/5/2003) that we were gonna open up for them again. I mean we had done a lot of cool shows but back then we admired METALLICA so much – they were like our heroes at that moment and we got the call to play with those guys, they asked us to do two nights and we were jumping around screaming like freaks, we were so excited about that. And it’s definitively memorable for me in a bad way at that – on the way to the first show the guy driving my gear, his van broke down and we were stuck on the side of the road and my dad had to come down with his van, pick me up and bring me out there. I missed almost all of our entire set – by the time I pulled in and threw all of my gear on stage the rest of the band was just waiting for me to get on stage, I arrived and I was like "Sorry man!". We could only play three songs and it was over – that was so crushing because that was our most excited moment. The second night we got to play a full set though. It was ripping man – "Ride The Lightning" tour."
Then you wrote some new material in early ’84 like ‘Priests Of The Black Oracle’ (a long Progressive / fantasy tune with hints of early RUSH all over it), ‘Silence’, ‘The Awakening’ (both instrumentals, the latter having a riff used later in ‘Guilty Of Innocence’), ‘Playing With Speed’ (with a riff later used in ‘EX-TC’), ‘Frolic Through The Park’, ‘Devil’s Metal’, ‘Silent Killer’, ‘Witches Of Naves’ (with a riff later used in ‘The Ultra-Violence’ and ‘Thrashers’ those being quite fast raging songs, so would you say that hearing METALLICA, EXODUS and others had a big influence for that radical change of style towards something faster and heavier but also technical?
Rob: "You nailed it! Absolutely., I remember going to see this band, METALLICA at this club called the Keystone in Berkeley and for me that was a defining moment – I had never seen that kind of thing before. I went to the show, there was a pit, there was stage diving and the musicians were playing so fast and heavy, and at that point I was like, ‘man, that’s what we have to do, we’re gonna play heavy and fast like that’. So all those bands you mentioned are the bands that we listened to and ended up playing gigs with, and it was an influence and at the same time these people just started getting heavier and heavier and play faster and kick things up a notch. At the same time we started to listen to a lot of Punk as well, so that would throw a whole different aggressive vibe on that tip so all together we were just loving it. The age that we were, it was great for the angst and the scene was thriving so we loved it man."
Talking about technicality, how much of an influence MERCYFUL FATE had on the songwriting as you started to use a lot of intricate parts, full time changes, shifting rhythms and melodies?
Rob: "Yes – between them and RUSH, both totally influenced our songwriting. Totally for sure"
By the way which show did you open for them in October ’84? Was it at the Kabuki Theatre or somewhere else?
Rob: "That’s right – we opened at the same place that we played the two shows with METALLICA, the Kabuki Theatre. That was our other exciting as hell show."
What was the place you liked to play the most in all your career and why?
Mark: "Waouh the place I liked to play most in all of my career… I’d have to say it would have to be between two venues ever, that I enjoyed playing. I used to love playing The Ritz in New York because the energy there was just wild and the people in New York back then were like voracious about it. And there’s a club called The Paradiso in Amsterdam, Holland that DEATH ANGEL played at like three times and it was just such an amazing room, it’s in an old church and the people there were so warm and responsive and that’s a wonderful place. That was probably the place I’m most fond of playing, but of course it goes unsaid that I loved playing in San Francisco – basically anywhere that there is a stage and the crowd enjoy it, I’m feeding off the crowd energy."
Rob: "I’d have to name a couple of them because there were a couple of places where they just stand out in certain ways. One of them for me was headlining the Warfield Theater in San Francisco because that was the biggest thing we did in our hometown and it was just a huge show and a great show. I think headlining the Dynamo Festival in 1990 was another huge show, and the Effernaar club that we just played at last year. Roskilde, Denmark was ripping as well."
Dennis: "I would say each show has its own favorite thing about it."
In the summer ’84, you played in Monterey, CA with SLAYER. Had the SLAYER style somewhat an impact on your style or none at all considering that they played much faster than the Bay Area outfits?
Rob: "I think that was with SLAYER and HIRAX, just the three of us. SLAYER not so much really – the time where I got a little more influenced by SLAYER was by hearing "Reign In Blood", I started to really get into that album and after that I got into "Hell Awaits". I used to listen to all their shit but not as much as when "Reign In Blood" came out. I got a real kick out of that album. After that we supported SLAYER at the Ritz in New York in support for that album, and that was ripping."
Dennis had a vocal style somewhat reminiscent of Paul Baloff with a raspy, somewhat growling voice while Mark had a lot more range on his voice, what made you go for a more melodic singer since you were a Thrash Metal band?
Mark: "Back in the day it was definitely more unusual for a Thrash band, especially then – but especially when I grew up… you know my father was really into 70’s Rock and I grew up listening to 70’s rock, I was really into stuff like 70’s AEROSMITH, 70’s QUEEN, BAD COMPANY with Paul Rodgers, I appreciated people who could sing and I’m not taking away from that whole movement because I really loved the power of Thrash and that’s what drew me into it. But as far as… one thing that did turn me off about it was just, alot of times people would just growl – it has its place, don’t get me wrong but it was not what I wanted to do and somehow we tried to work in some sort of melodic stuff. Plus in early DEATH ANGEL the stuff that they worked on prior to me joining the band, what influenced the band and made some changes in some of the early songs were influences like IRON MAIDEN, TYGERS OF PAN TANG, bands with a lot of changes and singers that actually came up with memorable melodies and hooks and stuff, that’s really grabbed us in that period and pretty much got sucked up into what we were going for, the power of Thrash which is undeniable and we fell in love with that too but we wanted to incorporate what we originally loved as well."
Rob: "Baloff style! (huh). The raspy voice I like.."
Then the famous ’85 “Kill As One” three song demo effort was recorded with the help of Kirk Hammett as producer – whom you had recruited through your manager Kat Sirdorfsky – how do you look at it, now that 16 years have passed and it still remains a legendary tape?
Rob: "The 16 years is what made it a legendary tape. The fact that time has passed by and the level that we attained out of the band is what caused this tape to be what it is. We are actually hoping to get all of that shit out into the public."
Did Kirk by the way had some input on the material? Did he help you in one way or another later in your career?
Rob: "As far as input on the demo, maybe a few things as far as arrangements, a couple of things here and there as far as the producer’s role. As far as after that he didn’t particularly help us with anything as far as music or writing in any way but he actually did help out when SWARM was getting together as we used to rehearse at his house and he let us record some demos downstairs in his house, helped us out in that way and also jammed with us on stage a couple of times."
Would you say it was a good thing – even if you got a deal out of it at the end of course – to include three very long songs on it as they were and at the same time weren’t really representative of the band’s style since most of your material was more like four or five minutes long?
Rob: "I think a lot of our songs were very long to be honest with you, most of our songs weren’t four or five minutes long, they were much longer." (Oh really? ‘Evil Priest’, ‘Mistress Of Pain’, ‘I.P.F.S.’ etc… are those 10min long tunes? Not really – Laurent)
Did you often get criticized with the intro of ‘The Ultra-Violence’ being similar to ‘Tubular Bells’ from Mike Oldfield?
Rob: "No, I’ve never heard that before. (laughs)"
On January 3rd and 4th 1986, you did two Thrash festivals in Los Angeles and San Diego along with some of the biggest Californian underground acts such as SANCTUM, POSSESSED, D.R.I., DARK ANGEL, EXODUS… any memories of that?
Rob: "No, sorry – we played a lot of shows and I vaguely picturing playing with these guys and stuff but we played a lot of shows with some of those bands and I don’t particularly remember those exact sets of dates. As for that live career, it was great."
Also during that same year Restless Records issued the double album “Eastern Front” featuring a live record and a studio record where you appeared with ‘Mistress Of Pain’, would you say that this appearance opened some doors for DEATH ANGEL and would you have preferred to have a live recording featured on it than this “studio” recording?
Mark: "It’s kind of hazy thinking back to that period as I remember they were coming out with live things at Ruthie’s Inn. I believe they tried to record the song once but the outboard gears was acting really odd and we had just completed a demo post “Kill As One”, it was just a demo for Enigma with eight songs that we were going to do for "The Ultra-Violence" album. Since it was a new track and people had already had the "Kill As One" demo we decided to pick that song to give to Restless Records so we got on the demo side. It still worked out because "The Ultra-Violence" demo had gotten circulated and spread out so fast it really helped as something else for the fans to sink their fingers into, with ‘Mistress…’ it put more of a buzz on the band when "The Ultra-Violence" finally did come out, cause everything was so underground then… tape trading."
During those years – the mid ‘80s – it looks like you have played with every Speed / Thrash / Hardcore band imaginable, no matter if it was local or international acts from ARMORED SAINT through G.B.H. to WHIPLASH, anything to say about that remarkable live career?
Rob: "It was great – those were the days of the scene rising and all the bands coming out – it was definitely our roots and where we came out from – it was a great time."
Also how much did the tape trading scene help you building a fan base considering that your shows have always been very often recorded from the early years to the point when you were called THE ORGANIZATION?
Rob: "Yes – I think it probably helps, I like it a lot. I don’t mind that distribution and trading of tapes in music, that’s a cool thing."
So with the “Kill As One” demo, you started looking for a deal, got interest from Black Dragon, Combat and Enigma? Why did you end up being with Enigma exactly? Was it mainly because of the Capitol distribution?
Mark: "I’m not sure (laughs). To be honest, yeah we wanted to reach as many people as we could and we didn’t want to get lost in a mix of say a label that had predominately Thrash bands. Enigma didn’t have anything like that, I mean they had Metal Blade but this wasn’t Metal Blade, it was Enigma and they wanted us so we figured we wouldn’t get lost in the mix of Thrash bands, they have major label distribution and they are excited about the project so we said let’s do it and it seemed to work out well as far as the distribution."
There was rumours early ’86 that you were going to do an EP for Combat as a part of their Bootcamp series, how close were you to do that?
Rob: "We were very close but at the end of the day we wanted our first release to have our very own artwork and put out a full length LP which was our dream to do so we just opted not to do that EP because for one thing they were just using their Bootcamp artwork thing, it was just like a camouflage looking thing but we wanted an album cover."
So how was the general feel to be signed to a label – Enigma – who had never worked with a Thrash band before as they had mainly mainstream / Glam stuff on their roster?
Rob: "It was cool – we liked it, we liked being different and having our own thing going on."
The album “The Ultra-Violence” was recorded in June ’86 with Davy Vain as co-producer, how was it working with him? Looking back, do you think he was the right guy to help producing your first two albums considering he was coming from a whole different musical area than yours?
Rob: "Yes I do – I wouldn’t change anything that we did back then with the things that happened, the people that we worked with, all the steps had their purpose and fit the moment and everything worked good. Even though Davy wasn’t from a Thrash background he still had a good background with work in the studio and working on songs and working with music, he was a friend and it was comfortable working with him, and that’s really what it’s all about, he’s comfortable in bringing out the best in the artist."
Late ’86 you went to NYC for the first time to open for SLAYER and OVERKILL at the Ritz theatre on the first night of a two nights metallic attack – the second having ZOETROPE and AGNOSTIC FRONT as openers – do you remember what kind of welcome you’ve received on that East Coast trip?
Rob: "It was just killer in general, it fuckin’ rule everytime we went outthere to play on the East Coast – especially with those shows with SLAYER and all the bands we played with. It was so ripping man, it was fuckin’ bad ass, those were some of the best shows we ever had. And we are coming back to East Coast for the first time since 1990 in September, we have some dates booked in New York and stuff, fuckin’ exciting man."
The album was finally released during the Spring of ’87 after being postponed during eight months, so what caused that delay exactly?
Rob: "Just a regular combination of stupid shit. I don’t remember the exact reason, I think the artwork had a little bit to do with it, just general bullshit, there was no specific crap going on or something, just random shit."
What about ‘I.P.F.S.’ which sounded a bit like a joke song, I mean to me it sounded out of place on this release because of it’s basic, short structure, why didn’t you include a track like ‘Witches Of Naves’ for example that you were still playing six months after the recording of the album?
Rob: "That’s why we forgot the ending. Just process of elimination – we could only include so many tracks, we picked up the ones that we liked the best and we put them on there and ‘I.P.F.S.’ has a weird different field to it, we decided to throw something trippy on there."
How did people react at school at the members who were still attended school like Mark and Andy?
Rob: "I had just graduated from school that year as well. That summer was just when the album had come out and we had been in the band all throughout our years of school, people always knew we were a part of a band. We were always these outcasts, fuckin’ freaks in school and hung out with the stoner crowd."
During that summer, you shot a live video of ‘Voracious Souls’ at the Stone in S.F. where the crowd was totally frenzy to say the least, any memories of that first video experience?
Rob: "That was fun – we had to play the song repeatedly a few times and it was funny because everyone thrashed as we kept playing the song over and over again. It was a great experience and a fun first video. I love it, the crowd was going nuts on it"
Then on July 14th you went back to NYC as support for EXODUS and ten days later it was time for you to appear at the first Milwaukee Metalfest, what can you tell us about that first festival you ever played especially considering the bill on that festival – TROUBLE, SACRIFICE, KING DIAMOND etc.?
Rob: "I just remember that we were very excited to be part of all that stuff, play with all these main bands that we knew of. We just went outthere and had a good time and kicked some ass, that was fuckin’ fun."
That show was part of the Midwest / East coast tour you had started with BLOODFEAST as co-headliners and the small Canadian tour with SACRIFICE in the summer, was it a hard time for you guys as it was your first tour experience?
Rob: "No! Looking back on it it wasn’t hard for us at all because we were just so excited to go on tour."
Would you say BLOODFEAST was the appropriate band as support for a co-headlining tour considering that they were still very underground?
Rob: "Hmmm… I don’t know if it was a co-headlining tour, I think we were headlining and they were supporting us. But yeah, it was fun, it was cool. I don’t know who else was really supposed to be playing shows with."
Then in September, you embarked for Europe for an headlining tour and you managed to play in somewhat big halls like the Paradiso in Amsterdam for example on your own name, was it the result of a great promotion on Music For Nations had done for you or…?
Rob: "Maybe that helped but I think in general Europe was just more hip to the sound. Even though the Bay Area Thrash bands had their following in the Bay Area, Metal always was more appreciated in Europe."
On those ’87 tours, you played as encore a brand new song ‘Dehumanization’ which was never used later surprisingly, what went wrong with that tune?
Rob: "This interview is like being on a show called ‘This Is Your Life’ (laughs). How do you know that? That’s true, how do you know that?! I’ll tell you, ‘Dehumanization’ is going to be coming out, the demo recording is going to be one of the bonus tracks on our re-release of "Frolic Through The Park". So it was just another song that got weeded out ,we wrote alot of stuff, more than the album could hold, picked through songs and some of them just couldn’t get on there."
Did you find a big difference between the European fans and the U.S. fans?
Rob: "Yes – European people, they spoke a whole different language (laughs)… in general like I said before they just seemed a little more hip to Metal in a different way, I can’t really explain it but…"
Late ’87 was spent to complete the material for the second opus which was recorded in March ’88 with Vain again, with help from Rob and Andy, did Vain had a bigger hand on this recording than on the first as far as arrangements or whatever?
Rob: "Maybe a little bit more with the arrangements… yeah he’s got a good ear and he’s got some good ideas and he collaborated on some things."
How come ‘Devil’s Metal’ which was performed since ’84 was used on this album while songs like ‘Silent Killer’ or even the song ‘Frolic…’ didn’t make it on any album?
Mark: "Again it’s an odd one… we went back before "Frolic…" and we recorded more little demos for ourselves. For the time that we were in and how much we thought we had progressed – just what was going on we thought we wanted to put on "Frolic…" – that ‘Devil’s Metal’ musically still holds its own but lyrically was a little elementary. But still that’s why we only put it on the CD as a bonus track and with no lyrics. It was another ploy for people to buy the CD and it was another rare track, to see those who actually knew of DEATH ANGEL prior to us getting signed, and other riffs from ‘Silent Killer’ and ‘Frolic Through The Park’ were used in later DEATH ANGEL songs that we created."
Songs like ‘Confused’, ‘Open Up’ and ‘Bored’ sounded really different, was it spontaneous written material honestly since it sounds so different from the rest?
Mark: "As far as ‘Bored’ – that was written more like… me and Rob and the rest of the band was heavily listening to U2 at the time, during the albums "War" and "The Unforgettable Fire", even earlier than that with "Boy" and "October", we were listening alot of that. We really liked The Edge’s guitar playing, that ‘chicka-chicka-chicka’ sound, a lot of simplicity with a lot of just catchiness and we were blown away by the dynamics that him and Bono had together, I saw them live and I was just blown away. So Rob and I wrote that song and it wasn’t necessarily meant to be a DEATH ANGEL song, but we did demos of the song and local radio stations started playing these demos and live we did the song a couple times as a joke and it really caught on, people started loving it so Enigma really wanted to put it out. It kind of came by accident. ‘Confused’ – we wanted to write a heavier, kind of slow song and that came about that, and as far as ‘Open Up’ – again it’s because we were listening to a wide variety of music, such as U2, Funk and we wanted to expand our horizons as much as could but still remain a powerful band and we thought we could lend to the genre so."
“Frolic…” was a concept album, who and why did you have the idea to do that?
Rob: "Ah, that was Davy Vain’s idea (laughs)… I think I had this weird concept – it started as a title for one of our other old songs we never put on an album… and surely there’s a question in this interview about why that didn’t appear on an album. The actual song has nothing to do with the concept – the song was about taking a walk through the park and getting slaughtered by some maniac that is waiting in the park to kill people. We used it about going through the stages of your life."
Would you say that “Frolic…” was somewhat an experimental album comparing to the other releases?
Rob: "Yes I would say so."
The KISS cover ‘Cold Gin’ was used by Enigma on a promotional 12” single, did it open some doors for the band on a more mainstream market?
Mark: "I think it might have in some Rock stations but in all honesty when it boils down to it ‘Bored’ opened up even more doors than the ‘Cold Gin’ cover. It was us paying homage to a band that kind of KISS – it was mine, Rob’s and Dennis’ first concert ever, we all went together, 1979 at the Cow Palace and they were like a major influence on us."
In June ’88 you were back in Europe for a new headlining tour, weren’t you supposed to come over as support for NUCLEAR ASSAULT at first?
Mark: "You see, I don’t even remember that. I myself don’t know if that ever was supposed to happen."
Was it hard doing that tour considering your album was only released in July ’88 near the end of the tour so the public wasn’t really familiar to the new stuff?
Mark: "It was interesting because that album was supposed to be released simultaneously there and in the states and what had happened, a subsidiary in Europe lost their distribution. So we got out there with no album except for in England with Music For Nations – but outside of England no one had it and it was quite interesting as we did have a set that combined the two albums so it was odd. But some people had bootlegs already of the album so that helped – you know back then people were so voracious for any type of Thrash music all over the world, let alone a San Francisco Thrash band so the crowds were still wonderful, very wonderful."
How did you end up being distributed by Virgin in Europe this time and not by M.F.N. anymore – except in U.K.? Did you get a bigger promotion and tour support with Virgin?
Mark: "I would say when it finally caught on – but not to take away from Music For Nations because M.F.N. were absolutely wonderful – Under One Flag for "The Ultra-Violence", they were great for setting up promotion and getting the material out there, it’s hard to say. It was a different level but the warmth of being on M.F.N. was great too."
On that tour you appeared at the prestigious Roskilde festival in Denmark and at the Kushrock festival in Finland, any memories of those somewhat huge fests?
Mark: "Oh yeah – both festivals were amazing – as far as Roskilde that was the biggest show DEATH ANGEL had ever played, 75,000 people, it was with STING and INXS, it was mind blowing, I mean it was 1988, we were kids and we just had an amazing time. We got great reviews for the show and it opened a lot of doors for us there in Denmark and it was phenomenal. The Kushrock fest in Finland too was amazing, we couldn’t believe the response we got there. We had never been up there that far north in Finland, it was a two night festival and on the second day it was U.D.O. and DEATH ANGEL along with a bunch of other bands but we were the top two. The day prior included Stevie Ray Vaughn, it was just unbelievable and the crowds were unbelievable, they were chasing us down the streets and stuff, it was amazing! I have fond memories of both."
Then a month later, you started a full U.S. / Canadian tour with RIGOR MORTIS as guests. Did you have the feeling that the crowds were bigger on that one? In other words, do you think it increased your fan base in the States?
Rob: "Yes, we had a lot more people. We had a bus for the first time and we were playing bigger clubs, on "The Ultra-Violence" tour we were out in a van, some of the gigs were really small and on "Frolic…" it definitively picked up, packed out the clubs, good clubs."
How come that RIGOR MORTIS near the end of the tour pulled out and you had local bands as support from that point?
Rob: "Was it due to Mike (Sciccia) joining MINISTRY? No, that was way later… I don’t even remember that happening. I thought they did the whole tour."
Late December ’88 saw the band doing two shows in London as support for the mighty MOTÖRHEAD and a headlining one at the Stone which kind of closed a chapter as the band spent ’89 to write and record the third album, anything to say about those shows?
Rob: "I don’t remember it particular, MOTÖRHEAD shows were great, everytime we’ve played with MOTÖRHEAD was fuckin’ great, we had a blast but I don’t have an exact memory about those particular ones or about The Stone one you’re talking about. We played at the Stone so many times man, I can’t define one show from the next but they were all ripping shows, pretty much every shows that we did back then ripped and that was fuckin’ fun and had a great time at every single one."
So what happened exactly during ’89 as it was when you split from Enigma to go with Geffen? How did you end on that major label?
Mark: "Odd enough, I think the buzz was getting around about us in a very big way and that’s when METALLICA was really exploding so I think major labels were looking for their own thing, basically that’s how major labels think and operate, they’re looking for their own METALLICA, you know what I mean?! A+R people extend their hands and at that point we had made such a large name for ourselves and I think we had enough variety in our sound and originality that they expressed an interest. From then on we got the ball rolling with Geffen and made the jump – and it was an absolute jump."
I understand you had around 35 songs ready for “Act III” to choose from, something quite unusual for a Thrash band as it’s something which has more in common with huge Hard Rock bands such as DEF LEPPARD, AC/DC
Mark: "That’s what jumping to a major label is like back then. I’m not sure how it is now, but that’s how it was, we came up from an independent album, you come up with eight songs, ten songs, those are going to be on the album. This one, you get on a major label, you get major backing, we were working with Max Norman who produced "Blizzard Of Ozz" and "Diary Of A Madman", big studios with new equipment, and fortunately as well as unfortunately you are working with producers, you’re working with A+R guys who are going back and forth and dumping a significant amount of money into you compared to say an indi label so they want the product to be good. So between all parties we just wanted to come up with the ultimate album, so a lot of times we were getting frustrated by it and a lot of times they were, but in the long run bless the fact that we did because we came up with "Act III" which in the long run we are all very proud of."
So the album was produced by Max Norman, did he had a lot of input on how the material sounded like considering how polished the material is on this release?
Rob: "It was a combination of his professional input and outlook and us coming to our third album and getting better arranging and creating albums and getting deeper into it so we were better at making albums and he was fuckin’… god damn! He’s an experienced guy man, you are talking the guy that produced "Blizzard Of Ozz" man, the money that we worked with, the studios, the equipment that we used, the time that we had to work on it, everything was incredible."
Was it a lot more different to work with him than with Vain as a whole?
Rob: "Everything equipment wise was a huge jump and the experience of recording was a huge difference to the two Enigma albums simply because the budget was completely different – everything was like up ten levels of the game."
Would you say that the move that can be heard throughout the three albums is due in part to the fact that you were expanding your musical horizons listening to different musical styles?
Rob: "Always – we are constantly progressing to different music, opening our ears to different shit and by "Act III" we were evolving out of the plastic bubble of listening to only Metal. Like after a while you start listening to different sounds and other shit and you like the music because of the musicianship or just some killer guitar player and sure enough we had expanded our musical tastes and our influences."
‘A Room With A View’ was released as a promo single, was it the band’s choice to try to make a hit out of this song or was it a label idea?
Rob: "A combination – label suggestion and us thinking that it was probably a very good idea…"
Did you get a lot of criticism in the Bay Area or elsewhere as you were the first Thrash band to come up with a ballad?
Rob: "No, as a matter of fact it trips me out that this song is plenty of people’s favorite song. With our entire catalog of songs a lot of people remember ‘Room With A View’ the most, so I don’t picture any fuckin’ criticism at all which is pretty cool."
More videos were shot for this album, ‘A Room…’, ‘Seemingly…’, how do you view those compared to the earlier efforts of ‘Voracious…’ and ‘Bored’?
Mark: "Again, it’s major label versus an independent label. As far as ‘Voracious Souls’ and ‘Bored’, we hit at a time when MTV was just beginning to play Metal bands, actually ‘Voracious Souls’ never made it on to MTV because of the lyrics – at least the American MTV. And ‘Bored’ did, but then again both those videos were shot in like a day, in less than a day, just a few hours. When say you get to the major label, ‘Room…’ and ‘Seemingly…’ are doing with major directors and again that’s when Metal was hitting big with METALLICA and stuff so we had major directors hitting us up then. ‘Seemingly…’ was done by a director named Matt Mehurnen, and that was the first Metal video he ever directed, but prior to that he did U2 ‘With Or Without You’, Tracy Chapman ‘Fast Car’, so we were his first Metal band and ‘Seemingly…’ was big into the black and the white and shadowy things, and then after that he did ‘The Unforgiven’ (METALLICA) and after that he was doing nothing but Metal videos. MTV was more accepting of it and the way we saw it wasn’t selling out, we just saw it as seeing our music reach as many people as possible and that helped to get there."
Rob seemed to be the main songwriter and even the mainman in the band, didn’t it – at one point maybe – create conflicts, some tension or was it something the whole band was happy with?
Dennis: "Never been a problem – I think it’s naturally always been that way."
Rob: "So anything that you’ve been wanting to say or feel about me, say it! (huge laughs)"
Talking about tension, did the family relationship in the band has ever been threatened for some reasons like when Geffen dropped the band in ‘91 or anything else?
Dennis: "No. I don’t see any reason why."
Over the years, you and Rob continued to perform ‘Thrashers’ as singers live instead of Mark, any reasons besides the fact that you originally sang it in ’84?
Dennis: "We wrote it when Mark wasn’t in the band, so that’s why we continue to sing it."
How come that Rob happened to be the main vocalist for ‘A Room…’ and that he was doing more and more vocal parts on this album?
Mark: "Rob was writing a lot of acoustic material at that time, Rob was a deep kind of character and he had a lot of emotional baggage around during this time. He was getting stuff out, writing a lot of acoustic stuff and he pretty much wrote that song all on his own, presented it to us and we thought about a way to make it heavy and after a while we spiced it up so I would sing some and do harmonies because we always wanted to work on harmonies like the bands we grew up listening to, which was pretty rare for a Thrash band back then to do that. Then eventually they started writing more, him and Andy, singing more for harmony reasons and after a while it did well."
Then following a short warm up set at the Omni, Oakland in April ’90 with VIO-LENCE and FORBIDDEN, you embarked for a new European tour with FORBIDDEN and VICIOUS RUMORS as support. You performed in never before visited places like Spain, Italy, France and in bigger halls than before… What about the Dynamo festival you did on June 4th where you played a 95 min set and you easily won the crowd? Does that festival remain as one of your fave performances ever?
Rob: "Yes, that I remember. Headlining Dynamo on "Act III" was incredible. Me and Gus had fuckin’ technical difficulties through out the set with our amps and shit, I was so pissed. Looking back it was a killer show probably because I was very aggressive for the performance, taking it out on the guitar. Back then I used to get real mad about shit and it wasn’t easy to roll with the fact that something was going wrong but now I look back on it and think it was completely great. Gus was talking about some sabotaging that went on, I got over it later."
Early July ’90 you went to Japan for the first time, how did it happen that you had never been there before and how was it to play in front of such die hard Metallers?
Dennis: "I don’t think we ever had the offer to go outthere or the budget to go out there until the later years. It was just incredible – it was the closest we ever got to feeling like it must have been for THE BEATLES. People swarmed us the whole time that we were there, the people make little dolls of you."
Then it was time to start a new U.S. tour with FORBIDDEN as guest again, and you were booked in bigger halls this time, theatres, but according to the material I have on video, the halls weren’t that full in some places despite the major support behind you, would you say that the decline of interest towards the Bay Area Metal scene was a reason for that?
Dennis: "I think it was the beginning of the scene being open to Metal starting to open up to the bigger venues, outside of the four big Thrash bands. Most of the other bands were still playing the clubs and not trying small theaters. The doors were just beginning to open up, along with timing."
You also headlined the Milwaukee Metalfest this time and critics all agreed to say that you were destined to become the next big thing considering how professional and mature your live performance and material was, so where do you think you failed as you didn’t enter the league of the big four – METALLICA, SLAYER, MEGADETH, ANTHRAX?
Dennis: "We ended it – I think if we didn’t get into that accident we would have kept on going, we definitively would have been… we would have been the Fab Five instead of the big four."
Rob: "If we had stayed together something would be different about the band today. We could have been on the road to total destruction because with what was going on at that point… personally I know, none of us… nobody was grounded in the right way, the reality from the non-reality because we had been doing it since we were kids and we were getting crazier and crazier and having fun, and stuff but dude I tell you if things might have gone further, bigger who knows by the next album something tragic might have happened to somebody because we would have gotten into a terrible dispute with each other and just really not even talking to each other anymore but it ended the way it did and now it’s cool, we are hanging out with each other, we’re having a good time together."
During December ’90, your previous label, Enigma, released a live album “Fall From Grace” which contained a live recording from ’88 in Amsterdam. How did you feel about it as I understand that it was done without your approval, correct?
Rob: "We hated it – we were so pissed about it, we made them discontinue it."
That same month as you were doing a Southwest tour with CHRIS POLAND as guest, an accident between Arizona and Las Vegas happened with the RV, leaving Andy having cosmetic injuries – and at first a fear of brain damage – and Mark losing a part of his toes, do you remember what happened exactly?
Rob: "Should we go through the whole accident? Well we crashed…"
Dennis: "Mark had to get a glass toe (huge laughs). Like Tony Iommi. Whatever you said, that was what happened, it was terrible but he has recovered from then."
The next weekend, a benefit was held at the Omni to raise money for Andy medical bills and members from METALLICA, EXODUS, HEATHEN, FORBIDDEN, TESLA, Chris Poland showed while Dennis and Mark performed ‘Veil…’ and ‘A Room…’ as acoustic versions…
Dennis: "Yeah it was Mark and I that did those acoustic versions."
What was the general vibe in the band from that point since Mark left DEATH ANGEL after a final gig in Omiya, Japan in April ’91 (Chris Kontos, ex-ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT etc, playing drums) to continue his studies and leaving the whole music business? What happened exactly?
Rob: "The general vibe was just shitty. We didn’t want for that to happen but it happened and accepted it as destiny."
The band without Mark performed some shows in the Bay Area following that split as THE PAST doing acoustic sets. First can you tell us how many shows you played under THE PAST and also which songs? Why did you choose to play those shows under that moniker?
Rob: "Just a handful of shows and it was just a bunch of acoustic songs that I had written on my side, just to play and have fun. I called it as THE PAST as a tribute to the things that we had been through before."
Geffen dropped the band around that same time – mid ’91, as it seems the sales of “Act III” failed to live up to their expectations. Anything to say about that and that transition period?
Mark: "Geffen didn’t drop the band while the band was still together – the band broke up, then we got dropped. It had absolutely nothing to do with the sales. The band broke up and they treated everyone like individuals, put options on some people and didn’t keep options on others. If DEATH ANGEL had remained together we would have had another album on Geffen."
At one time Geffen also tried to market the band as D.A. instead of DEATH ANGEL, how did you feel about their choice? Did you agree with it because of course D.A. sounded a lot more mainstream and acceptable?
Mark: "We didn’t mind it at the time, just for the simple fact that what we were trying to do was getting our music to reach a larger audience, get a larger fan base and that’s why we were trying to get MTV, to get ‘Room With A View’ in heavy rotation, but back then just the stigma of having a name like DEATH ANGEL MTV before they would even watch the video was like Headbangers Ball without even hearing the song. The song was very easy to digest for everyone, it was just a standard Rock ballad and so they sent it to them as D.A. with hopes that it would and years later I talked to a person that used to work at MTV and they said it missed heavy rotation by two votes – so that’s the only reason why. We were trying to expand our sound as much as possible and back then DEATH ANGEL was pigeon holing us past Thrash Metal – and tons of Black and Death Metal bands started coming up and out around that area and they had names similar. Eventually we started to get put on to all these shows with all these Death, Black Metal bands which is nothing against those genres but it’s not what we play. Now it’s great that they are having mixtures of shows like that, but back then it was really odd."
Looking back, seeing the problems you had got with Enigma before and with Geffen with the band name, would you have choosen something else, less deathly / evil sounding, when you were ready to sign your first deal?
Mark: "No, because now we are so proud of the name that it doesn’t even matter (laughs). Proud to be DEATH ANGEL!"
Summer 91 saw the band opting for a new name, THE ORGANIZATION, can you tell us what motivated that choice? Was it like a new start for the band?
Rob: "THE ORGANIZATION name came from one of the songs, it was cool. I was excited to do a new band and we just looked at it as a fresh start and we wanted to jam and we were very excited, very into it."
A three song demo was recorded early ’92 and you also rejoined forces with former manager / friend / roadie, V.J. Benz at the time. What kind of response did you receive for that demo effort from people in general but also from DEATH ANGEL fans considering the more Rock sounding nature of the material?
Rob: "(laughs) It was depending on who it was from, but it was pretty much a mixed response I’d say. Especially people who knew we were constantly evolving and progressing, of course the hardcore fans, the people who listen mainly to heavier music so they were probably disappointed by it, we didn’t play any DEATH ANGEL music in that band so they were disappointed about that but what can you do, you can’t please everybody."
Then André Verhuyssen from the Dynamo festival invited you to play a 45 min set at this fest in June ’92 despite the fact that you were labeless, what kind of response did you get from the crowd who had celebrated DEATH ANGEL two years earlier and who didn’t know who THE ORGANIZATION were?
Rob: "Great. It was killer. That was a great fuckin’ show, I remember being very excited and very happy about it, the crowd was very warm to us, always in Holland and… great time."
Did you play a warm up show at the Dynamo club the day before by the way? If so did you include DEATH ANGEL songs on that set, something you didn’t do the day of the festival?
Rob: "I don’t remember, we might have "
Was it hard getting that Metal Blade deal? Was it by the way only a distribution deal or…? What was that “Unsafe Unsane Recording" thing named on the two albums also?
Rob: "No just a distribution deal. A friend loaned us money to do the recording and they licensed it and put it out. Unsafe Unsane Recordings? That was our own label."
How did you describe THE ORGANIZATION music personally as it was still mainly Metal?
Rob: "Not really – it’s kind of very Heavy Rock with Metal in it, with lots of different influences in it, but I don’t know if it’s like true Metal in the sense of the word because it’s got alot of influences out of Metal, lots of the stuff is not Metal on there so…"
Also was it an obvious choice to have Rob as lead singer or did you try out other singers before you decided on him?
Rob: "No I just wanted to sing."
How did you get offered that support slot for FIGHT in October ’93 all over Europe?
Rob: "Somehow we got offered and it was killer. Lots of fun man! It was great man, we had a fuckin’ good response all the time." (well, I remember the show they played in Hamburg, Germany and there they didn’t really get any response AT ALL! – Frank)
In February 94 you played in Montreal, Canada in front of a very small crowd. Was it only a one off show or was it part of a US / Canadian tour you did there? Did you have the feeling that most people gave up on you and to a certain extent on the whole Bay Area scene?
Rob: "I don’t remember that exact one show… I recall playing Montreal as a part of the tour. I guess some people that are only looking for that kind of music, I guess because THE ORGANIZATION music was different from DEATH ANGEL and it wasn’t intended that we were trying to be like DEATH ANGEL so…"
What can you tell us about the digipak CD release of that first album in Europe on Bullet Proof which had four bonus tracks added, three live tunes and a studio cover of Tom Petty’s, ‘I Need To Know’?
Rob: "That’s one of my most favorite release that we had, different artwork and stuff. We also did an all acoustic version of ‘Wonder’ like with a whole different arrangement of this song which is one of my favorite songs that we did, I love that version that we recorded on there…"
In May ’94, you appeared at the Dynamo festival for the second time. It seems André had a lot of faith in you guys as it was quite a rare privilege to play so often there, something very few bands have accomplished besides you and TROUBLE
Rob: "Just great man, the Dynamo festival is one of the greatest shows to play and every single time that we played it we were very excited and very thrilled and André’s a great guy, we love André and we really appreciate him for believing in us because of him we had alot of great times coming out to Europe."
Do you think the fact that you introduced the DEATH ANGEL songs ‘Stagnant’ and ‘Seemingly Endless Time’ in your set increased people’s interest in the band or just simply gave a chance to the old fans to hear some old killer tunes again?
Rob: "Maybe so – we didn’t really do it that much though."
Why did you choose to include only stuff from “Act III” and nothing from the other albums – minus “The Ultra-Violence” intro to ‘Seemingly…’?
Rob: "We were barely going to do anything off "Act III", we wanted to change our sound and be the new band."
Also there was a change of look as some of you cut their hairs etc, was it somewhat done to follow the process to be less and less Metal sounding and looking?
Rob: "Not necessarily for that – it just went along with that era of our lives, that phase of our lives."
Then in ’95 comes “Savor The Flavor", an even more Rock sounding affair where Metal had almost disappeared, how do you explain that? I mean what made you go towards a somewhat more laid back direction?
Rob: "Just natural progression. I mean Rock music is the music we listened to more than Thrash or Metal, most of us listened to straight up Rock, alot of old school bands and stuff so I liked to put music out like that too, I still want to sometime. I don’t only wanna play the Metal that DEATH ANGEL plays which is a great thing that we like to play but… different styles of music."
What about the sales of those two albums? Did they live up to your expectations considering it was a new start for you and you had to built a new following?
Rob: "No – but there are a lot of factors involved that lead up to why the albums didn’t sell that well. The fact that whatever we put out wasn’t DEATH ANGEL material and stuff like that but certainly had to do with the fact that we had a very poor structure of a label with no promotion, no support. We borrowed money from friends to get anything going. We toured and we did the hard work behind it but I think with a better push and the right team behind it could have done much better."
Looking back, what areas on every album of each band you did would you have improved personally?
Rob: "I believe strongly that the music on those albums is great – I love the songs on those albums and everything. I would just wish that we had a better label and a better push behind it, just a better machine. We did our work, writing the songs and recording and performing and promote the material ."
From that point, what happened to the band as nothing was heard later from THE ORGANIZATION?
Rob: "We just quite literally had had it."
What were the best moments and worst you have witnessed in the 18 years you have spent in the Metal scene?
Mark: "The best moments I ever recall spending are again just the amount of travelling we got to do, the shows I mentioned in prior questions like headlining the Ritz in New York, headlining the Warfield in San Francisco, headlining the Paradiso in Amsterdam, headlining the Dynamo Festival. Those are probably the best memories that I have. The worst memories I have are our accident – that’s absolutely the worst memories that I have – and signing a bunch of shit that we had and seeing the repercussions of that that we shouldn’t have signed."
Which records and shows have marked your mind the most?
Mark: "All three DEATH ANGEL records – but "The Ultra-Violence" and "Act III" especially. Obviously "The Ultra-Violence" because it was the first album and "Act III" because it was just such a major jump."
DEATH ANGEL reformed for a one off gig in S.F. August 2001 for a benefit show to raise money for Chuck Billy’s medical bills, can you tell us how it went?
Mark: "I was the most sceptical of the members who wanted to do it, and I ended up just having a blast. And my feelings before we went on were just intense adrenalin and sheer excitement and it blew me away how much fun I had. It was wonderful, magical and in all honesty I didn’t want it to end, so I’m glad we are going on."
I was extremely impressed and found your show to be the most intense of all, it sounded like you had never been gone from the scene, for how long had you rehearse for that?
Mark: "We had two days rehearsal (laughs)! We had a new guy in the band with Ted Aguilar (from SIFT) on guitar, but he’s been with DEATH ANGEL from the beginning, he was a fan of DEATH ANGEL and came to all the DEATH ANGEL shows back then, prior to "The Ultra-Violence" days. He bought Gus’ guitar off of him when Gus quit DEATH ANGEL and when it came to re-learning some of the songs Ted knew them better than we did, so it was a natural fit. We had two times to rehearse as far as with the whole band but me, Rob and Andy were on tour with our band SWARM with Jerry Cantrell and we got back so Rob and Andy were coming up with stuff during soundchecks whenever we got them on that tour which was rare. After that we just listened to the albums in the van and just tried to learn it as best as we could from there. It was second nature because we have been playing together for so long. There’s always going to be a connection via the fact that we are family. We got on stage and it felt magical for all of us. I had an amazing show, they gave us an hour and we didn’t have an hour’s worth of material worked out. I told them to give me time and I can make it an hour (laughs), we got off stage at 59 minutes. People said I talked too much but we could have played more songs if we had more songs rehearsed. Nowadays you come see DEATH ANGEL we can play for an hour and a half and I’ll say what I need to say."
You were supposed to appear at that Brazilian Thrash Of The Titans festival during April 2002 but it was cancelled at the last minute, do you have an idea why?
Mark: "I don’t know why – to tell you the truth that was never really completely honestly presented to us, it was hearsay to us. No one ever approached us about it, so I don’t even know."
The summer 2002 saw finally the real DEATH ANGEL comeback as you played two shows in the Bay Area followed a few days later by two Dutch shows which included the Dynamo Open Air Festival, so first of all what made you go for an almost full time comeback?
Rob: "It started with the Chuck Billy benefit, we did it for Chuck – that was the only reason that were gonna do it, we were going to do one time for that, had a blast, a great response, felt the vibe and wanted to do it some more."
How did the S.F. crowd at The Pound react to that first real headlining show since 1991? Did you see a lot of old timers in the crowd and would you say that this show attracted a newer generation also?
Rob: "It was amazing, you were there. It was packed, sold out, we went under a different name even (as KILL AS ONE) and we sold it out, all the vibe was there and the emotion was high of that packed house, and coming back and play in S.F., it was a great time, a great show."
Let’s talk now of course about the Dutch shows where you always had a strong fan base, so how did that go?
Rob: "That was ripping. The show at Effernaar the night before the Dynamo, when we headlined the club, we sold it out and that was better than the Dynamo show itself because we headlined, the sound was just so kick ass man, the whole vibe, the crowd was singing with us, the whole fuckin’ place was packed, it was twice the size of the Pound show. Packed with people singing all the words, amazing. That was one of the best show we ever played."
I was surprised to hear that ‘Wrathchild’ (IRON MAIDEN) cover, something totally unexpected, who came up with the idea to add this in the set?
Dennis: "We just messed around with it and sometimes Andy would do the intro to it…"
Rob: "I don’t know why it seems to be a weird song for us, that’s one of my favorite fuckin’ bands and the early MAIDEN albums are just about one of the hugest influences ever so… in the early days we used to do ‘The Trooper’." (Well for a band who stopped to do covers live since 1984, I guess it’s natural to say that it was a surprise huh?! – Laurent)
From what I heard the Dynamo Open Air fest show was recorded as you planned to issue the show as a live album but lately there’s rumors around saying that it won’t happen because you’re not satisfied with the recording, is that correct?
Rob: "Nope, they didn’t record it. They weren’t able to get the recording equipment, which is just as well, it was a great show but as far as recording it and releasing that particular performance, it just wasn’t our best."
Dennis: "Maybe we should have recorded the Effernaar show, that would have been better."
Rob: "It’s painful to know that if we had recorded that show somehow that would have been our fuckin’ live album right away but it wasn’t recorded."
Is there any chance that Gus would rejoin the band at one point despite the fact that it seems he has relocated to the Philippines?
Rob: "I really couldn’t tell you and like never say never about anything but at this particular moment and time it doesn’t look very likely."
What can we expect from the DEATH ANGEL camp in the near and distant future?
Rob: "You can expect a new album next year hopefully by spring followed by a full tour in the summer. I’m sure the stuff I’m saying right now will be passed already but we’re going to Europe in November, hopefully Australia in October, we’re doing that east coast week in September. The two re-releases should be out soon as well of the first two albums, at least by early winter with bonus tracks on each one."
For the upcoming new studio album, can we expect something close to what you were doing back then soundwise and songwritingwise or would you say that it might be more modern sounding in terms of the musical approach?
Rob: "Oh no it will be totally different, it will be way mellower, not even heavy, not technical…(laughs) This is sarcasm."
Dennis: "It will be exactly like the latest LINKIN PARK album, exactly! (laughs)"
Rob: "Put it this way, it’ll be kind of like, more like THE ORGANIZATION but even way more lighter and poppier and slower and Metal than that (laughs)"
Well would you say everything was covered from DEATH ANGEL to THE ORGANIZATION?
Rob: "Yeah – but there’s probably a lot of stuff you missed but we’re probably get that in the second testament of DEATH ANGEL."
By the way, do you think a reunion gig from THE ORGANIZATION can happen sometime in the future just for fun?
Rob: "I think it could happen, except I guess Ted would be involved."
Anything to add?
Mark: "From the original interviews I gave I was saying that we would probably never reform beyond putting out a live album with some b-sides and that would be it. Since the demand is out there and the love is out there I am eating some of my words and say, just be patient, DEATH ANGEL is in the studio right now writing another album and we are coming out with some new material, and then we will hit as many places in the world as we can with intensity and excitement."
Rob: "I lived in the same place for nine years and I moved. I’ve got a lot to add – I need to add a few things. First of all, when we started in Andy’s garage, when Joe was hanging out… anything to add?! You don’t leave anything for me to add! I want to add something but there’s nothing I can add without repeating something in there."
The Ultra-Violence (Enigma, 1987)
Frolic Through The Park (Enigma, 1988)
Act III (Geffen, 1990)
Fall From Grace (Enigma, 1990)
The Organization (Metal Blade, 1993)
The Organization (Bullet Proof – digipak incl. bonus tracks, 1993)
Savor The Flavor (Metal Blade,1995)
Interview: Laurent Ramadier
Conducted by the Swissman
Transcription by Matt Coe