“In Hell I Burn my faith is sustained… In Hell I burn for Satan!“ That line has always been the epitome of AMON / DEICIDE to me. A simple expression of their darkened desires yet no truer words were ever growled into a microphone and in the same breath no words more encapsulating of just what this Floridian horde is all about. Hell, the allegiance to it, burning alive forever, burning for Satan! In the sixteen years since "Legion" was issued and exactly where that lyric line was taken from, many acts have emerged to try and step in and take the place of these Death Metal masters. Some have made valiant attempts, some have failed miserably, and even a one or two wage hand-to-hand combat against this force of devils even as I pen this. However, in this writer’s opinion, in the blood sport that is brutal American Death Metal not one newcomer has been able to topple these undead kings outright. DEICIDE’s sheer power, aggression and ultimate conviction wield a mighty steel bearing hand to their opponents time and again. A venerable iron fist to the teeth! With their newest album "Til Death Do Us Part" already hitting the store shelves and being savagely ripped from the web. Many who already own this disc will no doubt concur that in the over twenty years that this band has been around, that not only is this record one Hell of an album for them to record, yet DEICIDE reaffirm without question their commitment to brutal Death Metal and the deliverance to the Hellions worldwide that lust for it. Welcome Steve Asheim!
When did you first start playing the drums?
”I was always interested in them from a very young age, 5 or 6. Started seriously with some lessons around age 11, the "synchopation" book. Had a snare and hi-hat at that age and would just work my right foot like a bass drum was there, just to get the chops down. Then at age 12 got my first kit, but hopped right on and started playing IRON MAIDEN’s ‘The Prisoner’."
Who were your inspirations early on? And who was it that initially made you stop and say to yourself “Fuck! I wanna play like that!“?
”Definitly Clive Burr from IRON MAIDEN. Back in the day he was the only drummer who was playing like that. With speed, precision, drive and focus. Everyone else was playing "rock" style drums while Clive was clearly a "Metal" drummer. He was taking it to the next level.”
What drummers nowadays keep your attention?
”My faves today are Lombardo, Hogland, Roddy…the usual suspects”
From another interview that I read online, you were quoted as saying “what pushed me towards extreme drum playing was all the lame ass pussy drum playing that was going on in the 80s. All the so-called Metal really made me pissed that it was even being called Metal.” What then to you are some of the attributes that a good, Metal drummer ought to have?
”The want to put drums in a song that doesn’t just "hold down a beat" or "carry the song from start to finish", but to put drums in there that are gonna be recognized for their sheer power and push the boundries, tastefully, of your own abilities.”
Tell our readers about your drum kit? The type and dimensions, cymbals, hardware, heads, sticks, et al
”Double bass of course. Had a Yamaha for years, still do. Great kit, quality stuff. Have a Ddrum now, also quality product. 3 mounted toms-10",12" 13", 1 floor-16", 6-1/2" inch snare. Lots of cymbals – Paistie – love ’em. 4 crashes & 5 chinas all ranging in size from 16" to 22", 1 set of hats and 1 ride. Axis pedals, Remo pintsripe oil-filled heads for the toms, emporer or ammbassador for snare. Vater rock sticks.”
Is this kit new? Old? And what changes / alterations have you made through the years to get it to where you are now?
”This new kit is about 2 years old. My set-up has grown over the years. Actually shrunken too. Earlier on I had more toms, an 8" mounted tom and an 18" floor tom, and less cymbals, probably like 6 or so. I’ve changed that around now. I dropped the 8" and the 18" toms and went up to 10 cymbals, adding more chinas. They sound so dark and powerful!”
With the advancements of drum equipment, the evolution of it – if you will, are there any pieces or hardware that you swear by?
”I’m not really a ‘gear head’ type drummer. But I will say I swear by the "rack system", position-lockable clamps, and especially the "falicon" rack system, because it prevented your kiks from sliding away from you while you were kicking the shit out of them. That was a great advancement. Triggering was a great advancement too. I’ll tell you what I would like to see though is a throne that doesn’t absorb sweat. Nothing worse than sitting down for soundcheck and having last nights sweat soak into your dry clothes.”
When tuning your drums, where do you like to keep the tension on the drumheads? What do you want to hear exactly when you tune your drums?
“On the toms I like the hi’s hi and the lows low. Definitly a big, booming sound for the big toms and a good solid tone that cuts through for the smaller ones. For the snare I like having that sucker tuned up nice and tight. Kick heads I like to keep pretty tight too, to get a good, hard feeling to them rather than soft with the beater sinking into the head, not good.”
And the snare? Somewhat loose or as tight as a nun?
“Tight as nun, always fun!”
Power and precision. These are the words that most aptly describe your playing style. What advice could you give, to those drummers out there, who not only want to play fast, yet play with absolute confidence?
”You’ve got to develope a good steady meter. That’s the key to giving that feeling of "controlled chaos". Know your chops before trying to play them at light speed. The speed will develop naturally, but you can push it a little. But maintianing control, for me, is of utmost importance.”
Stick control. Seems like an obvious necessity in any style of drumming, how important is it to you? Are there any exercises that you practice to keep up your control level?
”Stick control is obviously crucial. If you can’t hold onto your sticks you’re just gonna make a total ass of yourself. I’ve seen dudes use gloves, tape, resin-like a baseball pitcher, and it’s all a waste of time. The stick control is in the grip, and if you have a weak grip, all that other crap isn’t gonna help anyway. I just go with the bare-hand grip and hold on tight. And dry your hands between songs.”
In more than one review I have read it that you have been dubbed a “Master of the Fill “ for Death Metal drumming. How do you go about creating fills? Off the cuff, do you plan it out, or something else?
“Actually, I’ve never heard that, but it’s pretty cool, thanks. Most of it is off the cuff type stuff. I’ll just hear it in my head and try to make it happen. But also, as I get to know a song better, as we’re writing it, the fills will kind of find their proper places in the song. There’ll be kind of an order that they’ll fall into, to build up as the song progresses.”
Like your predecessors Dave Lombardo and Gene Hoglan, not only do you show expertise with fills, yet you have some of the fastest double bass kicks around. The drummers that I have spoken with always want to better their approach to fast and clean double bass. Did you always play double bass? Do you play heel up or heel down?
”No I didn’t always play db’s. I’d actually been playing for 5 or 6 years before I added the second kik. But it fell in line pretty naturally. And I play heel up. you’re not gonna get a whole lot of power or reflexibility with heel down. At least I don’t.”
And where exactly do you exactly position your feet on the pedal?
“Well the contact point is the front ball joint on the foot and that’s about 3/4 of the way up the pedal I guess. Just a natural position I suppose.”
Speaking of Dave Lombardo, some years ago I read an article on him, where he was stating that to play “slow” on a drum kit is much harder than most people realize. That it takes a certain type of drummer to play really fast, yet often times when that same drummer is asked to play a slower piece, often times that drummer can not pull it off with same amount of power or conviction. In that same article Dave went on to say that during “Christ Illusion” the song that gave him the most trouble was a slow song called ‘Catatonic’. This led me to want to ask you if you have ever experienced this within the context of your playing?
“Dave Lombardo may have a point, but for an older guy like he is I’m kind of surprised actually. Guys our age, when we started learning to play, there was no really fast drum stuff out there, so you learned slow parts. That’s just how you learned. I could see how nowadays, a young kid who wants to start playing, and all he listens to are blast beats and stuff, well the first thing he wants to do is start blasting his ass off. So he never really learns to crawl before he can walk, so-to-speak. A kid like that I could see playing slow being harder but for Dave Lombardo?!?! That’s actually quite shocking for me to hear.”
Getting back to the double bass for a minute, being that you are from Tampa, and what with all the other legendary Death Metal acts that originated from that city bands like DEATH, MORBID ANGEL, OBITUARY, MASSACRE or bands that immigrated to there like Sterling Von Scarborough’s INCUBUS. Not to forget either Speed Thrash like NASTY SAVAGE. How much did these bands affect your approach to drums in your youth?
“Well, I had known I wanted to play fast and intense before I’d ever heard or saw these other guys from the area, and had already started playing fast. But once we all started doing shows and seeing each others playing, it was like "ok, let the games begin!"
Part 2 of that last question – especially in consideration with the likes of Curtis Beeson, Mike Browning and Pete Sandoval right in your own backyard, how much of your playing was inspired by just fierce competition?
“A little friendly competetion amongst drummers is a healthy thing. I think all those guys would agree, it helped to push the art.“
And on that same point – when you were young, how much a point was it, as you got better at the drums that you would effectively create your own style? Was this a conscious effort on your part?
“Not really a concious effort in a drumming aspect. I was more worried with putting effective, convincing drumparts to the songs, to make the songs better, not to glorify myself.”
From an interview with a 60s Rock drummer by the name of Levon Helm (THE BAND), he offered up a quote that to me epitomizes your overall drum technique. He said “You have to play some real good music to get people on the floor. However, I want to hear the meat. Until you can do that, it’s all suspect to me.“ Your thoughts?
“I see his point I think, and he is speaking as a true drummer. Songs can be hits, or catchy and cute or whatever, but for it to have any real meaning, it’s gotta have "balls"!"
How has your drum technique changed / evolved over the years?
“It’s gotten more efficient I hope. I’ve always had the same vision I suppose, I’ve just been getting better at executing it.”
What is your favorite DEICIDE song to play? And what DEICIDE song captures all that you have to offer as a drummer?
“There’s a few – ‘Christ Denied’, ‘Serpents’, ‘Desecration’, ‘Children’… I could go on. I’d say a song like ‘Homage For Satan’ gives a pretty broad spectrum of some different drum beats and stuff to throw into a song.”
And now on to the new album, “Til Death Do Us Part “. Tell our readers if you would, about it, and how it compares to the last record “Stench Of Redemption”?
“I think the new record is right up there with "Stench…" as far as, well, everything goes. Leads, song writing, brutality, atmosphere, all that.”
The title of this new record is fairly tame for DEICIDE standards, what is the significance of its title “Til Death Do Us Part“ to you?
“To me, well it’s signifigance is that it’s my records title. Glen handles lyrics and titles so the true relevence is for him.”
I have heard that for a while now, you have been solely responsible for writing all the music for DEICIDE and that Glen handles the vocals and the lyrics. What prompted you, as a drummer, to want to take on such a noteworthy challenge?
“The fact that I loved what I was doing. The writing, the recording, the touring, all of it. The time when I feel I really stepped up to the task was when we were writing "Legion". We had some left over songs from the first record, and we, the band, together wrote some new ones. But there were only 5 songs done. So about a 8 months goes by, almost a year, and our guitarists had no new material and were not even trying. At that point I just got sick of waiting. I had written ‘Blasphereion’ ‘s music from the first record and figured I could write another one. I ended up writing 3 more, ‘Dead But Dreaming’, ‘Behead The Prophet’, and ‘In Hell I Burn’. That was enough to finish the record. I guess our guitarists were just totally burnt or didn’t give a fuck or were just lazy because neither one of them ever wrote a substantial amount of material ever again. At least nothing that anyone liked.”
What about in the early demo days on up through “Legion” were you writing the bulk of that material too?
“No. There was more of a communal approach. We’d come together at practice with parts and ideas and fit them together into songs. Though there were some total songs being written by single individuals, musically anyway. Later, it became less collaborative, but only because certain people had less ideas.”
Since promos were unavailable from Earache for “Til Death Do Us Part“ tell us about the overall recording for this album?
“I think it’s our best production yet. Good sounds, great playing. 10 songs, 42 minutes of pure DEICIDE Hell on Earth.”
As you are writing the rhythm guitar parts as well, I would think you might use a click track to keep everything even. Is this right? And what’s your take on the use of click tracks in general?
“No I don’t write to a click. I know what time signitures I mean to play in and everything is structured with no confusion. I just recently started tracking my drums to a click though. I do prefer for some reasons but dislike for others. I think I will continue to track to one though.”
A question I have always wondered about your playing within the studio… Do you use any studio enhancements to add to the power and brutal delivery of your drums when recording or is what’s recorded as close to Live as it gets? How important is the mic-ing of drums within the studio and Live?
“I’m not quite sure I know what you mean, but we mic the kit, get it sounding as powerful as possible, and then start tracking. I do like keeping the sounds as real as possible though. I hate fake or industrial sounding drums. The point is keeping it all sounding real. Nothing worse, for me anyway, than an overly clicky or sampled sounding drum kit. A nice natural sounding snare and toms and kicks are what I like. Micing is pretty important, man. You’re not gonna hear much with crappy mics or a poorly mic’d kit” (as this was an interview via email I didn’t have the chance to include a better explanation of what I meant by “studio enhancements“ that some drummers use when recording. Adding mic’d effects to various points of their kit like with the toms, snare, and of course their kicks to add depth, clarity or whatever to their sound. Also too the use of drum triggers, and that if you remember Steve spoke a little about in the beginning of this interview – Wes)
Is there any spontaneity in the studio with your drums parts? Or do you have it down what you want prior to going in?
“I’ve been trying to incorporate some more spontinaity in the studio. For years it’s like I scripted my parts and didn’t waver. And that’s cool, it works and is efficient. But I like being a little experimental now that I’m older. Maybe I’m just bored with the old way, but it is fun to see if you can make some magic happen on the spot. To see if you can capture something totally radical and unplanned.”
How did the drums go on this record? Can you tell us what tracks you aced? What if any sections or pieces gave you trouble? And of these new songs what specific ones are you most proud about drum-wise?
“I aced them all man! Seriously though, for years I kind of pride myself on efficiency in the studio. Not getting in there and dicking around but getting the job done well and fast. So since "Serpents…" I’ve been setting up, getting sounds, and tracking all my parts in 1 day. I know what I want to do and how to do it. Any endurance or playing issues are worked out well in advance."
In your career has there even been a time when you knew you were pushing the boundaries of your skills to achieve that perfect take?
“Well actually, that is the whole point for me. With every album, every song for that matter. Push myself little by little, faster, longer, stronger, all of that.”
This brings me to my next question… As the founder / and main writer of music within the band now, how does it work when you have to rely on the rest of the players in DEICIDE to help execute your ideas?
“It’s alright I suppose. I can’t get out there and play it myself and play drums at the same time so somebody’s gonna have to do it. Live anyway. For "Till Death…" I actually did play the guitars. I might as well, I figured. I wrote it, I know what I want to hear. And saved myself a bunch of time and trouble teaching others what I already knew and could do.”
I had heard from somewhere that at one point, you would even video tape your material, video tape how certain guitar parts would go and then send it over to one of the guitarists to review. That to me seems the quickest most beneficial way of going about espousing your ideas to another individual that you don’t have time to sit down with and go over a song note for note. Was this video method used quite a bit prior to your rehearsals?
“Yeah, that’s the whole point. They show up at practice already knowing the riffs. This way I don’t have to dick around showing them, I can just start putting drums to it. For "Till Death…" I saved myself the trouble and just tracked the guitars myself.”
How long have you played the guitar?
“Since about ’84 I guess.”
Whose guitar playing influenced you the most early on? And who got you motivated enough to move forward and pick up a secondary instrument?
“I just started learning heavy riffs from METALLICA, SLAYER, DESTRUCTION. Bands like that with lots of riffing.”
Who inspires your guitar playing nowadays?
“Same type stuff, and Ralph Santolla and Dave Suzuki. I want to start playing leads because of those guys. I actually did put a few leads on the new record. They weren’t too bad either.”
In my opinion the sheer brutality and level of musical Metal craftsmanship of these past couple of albums speak for themselves. How satisfied are you with the progression of your own work?
“Very satisfied actually. After the Hoffmans left the band, I was able to start creating songs without interference or having the ideas editied down to half there original size. You’ll notice since their departure, our records are on average about 12 minutes longer. That’s from nothing we added, just stuff we didn’t take out.”
What areas are you least satisfied?
“I’m least satisfied with our touring situation. It’s always been kind of a problem. Just being consistent, I think. It’s been a career long problem, not because of me, but definitly for me. It’s the type of problem I’m ready to be rid of.“
After “Til Death Do Us Part“ is released… Any chance a copy shall be sent to the interrogation unit at Guantanamo Bay?
“I’m sure one will find its way in there somehow.”
And how funny and ironic is that? That the Military would choose DEICIDE as an “alleged” tactic of torture?! Sleep deprivation, starvation, water boarding, DEICIDE – isn’t that like the old rhyme that one of these things doesn’t go with the other
“It’s definitly a far out story, one I don’t think any of us expected. But now that it’s out there, what are we supposed to do? It’s like that story drug us into this political debate, and DEICIDE are not by any stretch of the imagination a political band. But people ask me about it and I start telling them what I think and they start flippin’ out! Some anyway.”
From a source on the net I read that the deluxe edition of this album will carry with it a bonus track called ‘The Great Lance’ – is this correct? This song is about the Spear of Longinus, yes? Can you tell us a bit more about this song, and why it was chosen for as a bonus track?
“This is totally false. I’ll bet you got that info from "Wikipedia" or something. There was some info on there that some guy from some Black Metal band "helped with the guitars on the record" which is also total bullshit. I would not trust Wikipedia as a source for good info.” (actually this question was derived some interesting hearsay (Heresy?) posted within Encyclopedia Metallum…the other Wikipedia, ha! – Wes)
Will Jack Owen get more of role to play in the song writing and direction of DEICIDE in the future? What with his involvement within CANNIBAL CORPSE for so many years, and the classic Death Metal albums he’s had a hand in, I would think his input could be nothing short of amazing if properly utilized.
“Actually, no. When he first joined the band and we started writing "Stench…" I kind of thought the same thing. I was like "Hey Jack, any ideas, parts suggestions or actual songs you want to contribute just speak up" and he was like "No thanks, I just wanna play." I was like "ok, whatever."
Your thoughts on Ralph Santolla? As this record is his second album go round with DEICIDE how is he holding up? Also, is Ralph now a full time member of DEICIDE? I mean, Ralph also plays for OBITUARY these days too, most notably on “Xecutioner’s Return“, will this present any problems for touring for your new album?
“Well, he’s actually not in the band. He’s with OBITUARY. But he was able to stop by between tours and help us with the record. As always, he did a phenominal job. When it comes to touring we’ll have to wait and see what’s what with everyone’s schedules and stuff and go from there.”
For those that don’t know a great deal about Ralph Santolla, what is his background and why was he chosen to walk with the Devil… that is DEICIDE?
“Plain and simple, we needed a guitarist, and he was available. He just happened to be one of the greatest guitarists on the scene today. I guess it worked out well. We had actually known him for many years so it was a smooth adjustment.” (the first time that I noticed Ralph was in a melodic Hardrock band called EYEWITNESS… they put out at least one or two albums – Frank)
After “Scars Of The Crucifix“ in 2004, was recorded and released – the last album with the Hoffman brothers. I had read a couple interviews afterwards where Glen was bashing them a bit, and I was wondering why such a toxic situation like that could of gone on for so long. My question… Were you as ready as he was to see them exit the band?
“Yeah at that point I was. The Hoffmans and Glen never really did get along very well and then later on, not at all. So after such a long time of that kind of thing I think everyone was ready for a break from each other, it’s just who was ready to break from the band. They just happened to be the first to break off.”
And too the release of “In Torment In Hell” prior to “Scars…” suffered because of this fractured union within DEICIDE, that was unresolved right?
“That’s right. We were either gonna break up or do a record. We decided to do a record, but it was obvious that it wasn’t a cohesive record because we were clearly not a cohesive band.”
How were you able to salvage what was delivered on “Scars…” whereas “In Torment…” seemed wholly like such a un-cohesive and audible structural failure?
“I think part of it was that Eric Hoffman wrote the songs for "In Torment…" and I wrote most of the songs for "Scars…".
And how has the transition been, in your view, since their departure? Obviously with two impressive records completed, not to mention a tour for one finished and another lined up and ready. This transition appears like it must have been somewhat pain free. Did you expect that?
“It was like we never missed a step. The Hoffmans bailed, came back, then bailed for good. 10 days later we had the new line up and were heading out to do the tour. Same with getting the record done. That was never a problem musically because as we went over, I wrote most of the music anyway.”
VITAL REMAINS. Inescapable when mentioning DEICIDE, especially in these times, how comfortable are you with sharing the limelight with Glen? Now that he is out of the closet so-to-speak with them?
“I don’t mind. People have to work. I like to stay busy myself and have another project coming out soon, September probably. Look for it. ORDER OF ENNEAD."
How impressed were you with having Dave Suzuki (from VITAL REMAINS), playing with DEICIDE on the “Scars…“ tour?
“Dave was one of those guys that stepped up in a days notice and was ready for action. Super talented guitarist and dedicated musician and he really helped us out big time. So I guess you could say I was very impressed with and have alot of respect for him.”
Have you heard VITAL REMAINS “Icons Of Evil”? What are your thoughts on this record and how do you feel it measures up to “Til Death Do Us Part”?
”VITAL has put out some great records lately but comparing their records to our records is like comparing different flavors of Skunkbud, it’s all killer man. It just comes down to personal preference.“
As Glen is now fronting both of these great acts officially, do you feel any added pressure to perform? To up the ante as they say, whether it’s in the live situation or when you are writing material for new songs?
“Man, no matter what Glen is doing I feel the pressure to create and perform at my best. Although "pressure" isn’t the right word, it’s more like a "need" or "want"."
In all honesty I can think of no better rivalry off hand to have than this scenario of VITAL vs DEICIDE. As both bands seem to be competing these days almost to make even more brutal, even more sinister Metal than the other. Am I right with this?
“You may be right, but again, I think ‘rivalry’ is the wrong word. It’s more like a "friendly competition"."
The cover art scene of “Till Death Do Us Part” is also exceptional. The horrified look on that woman’s face alone, as she’s getting gnawed and gnashed by that skeleton devil, is fucking priceless! Tell our readers more about this choice for artwork?
“It fits along with Glens lyrical concepts for the record… He found it scanning online. It’s a Rennaisance era painting by an artist who’s name I don’t know. But it’s in some gallery somewhere.”
“Doomsday L.A.“ – the new and latest DVD, the second in line for DEICIDE and the follow up to 2006’s “When London Burns”. In a previous interview with you, I read that you couldn’t be more pleased with “ When London Burns” and that you were hopeful for another opportunity for a DVD. What do you have to say about “Doomsday…”?
“Doomsday L.A." was kind of a botched effort. We were supposed to tape in Chicago but the moron who was supposed to tape the audio was asleep at the chicken switch, as they say. So they had to rush together the team for the L.A. shoot and I think it shows.”
One aspect of DEICIDE that I personally could always count on was the fact that you all would bring out on the road some of the best new bands around, as support acts, bands that were just phenominal and available at that particular point in time to go out on the road. For those anticipant fans, like me, who are eager to catch DEICIDE live again or even for those who might be first timers and are amped up owning either one or both of these DVDs. Can you give some details as to when the tour will start for “Till Death Do Us Part“ ? And of whom your supports shall be?
“We don’t have any dates booked as of yet, but when we do you might look out for a package with DEICIDE, VITAL and ORDER OF ENNEAD. And some locals thrown in there for good measure.”
In the over twenty years that AMON / DEICIDE has been around as a dark force within the U.S. Metal scene and the fact and your band specifically has been creating some of the most classic, instantly recognizable, heavy and evil Death Metal… When you take a step back and look at what you have accomplished and what ground you have conquered, the media frenzy with DEICIDE in the early 90s. To me at least, it’s all kind of awe-inspiring. In the spanse of all this time spent in one band, and now revamped with two new guitar players – what is the most important lesson you have learned from AMON / DEICIDE?
Second to last question… As this interview winds down… Thought I would include some words from an evil grave urinator from your past. Since we are mutual friends of the same maniac, and see what he would like to ask… Enter “Grandpa” (Bryan Morowski)… “Hey man, have you sat on Santa’s lap lately?”
“Tell that fuck he’s gonna be sittin’ on Satan’s lap, with Satan’s dick going right up his ass!”
Your last words?
“You had alot of questions. Alot more than usual. Over 3 times more. But I did them all because they were good questions, and you seem to be a fan and know your DEICIDE history. So I hope this was a good interview for you, it’s my way of thanking you for years of support. Hope to see you on tour and hope you dig the new disc.”