One of the biggest surprises to me lately was an email that I received from DETERIOROT mastermind Paul Zavaleta in which he announced that the band’s second full length album "The Faithless" (that has been in the works since 2002 already) would finally be released now… Due to the fact that I was anticipating this release almost as much as the equally long overdue new releases by likeminded acts such as COFFIN TEXTS, INFAMY and SADISTIC INTENT, I got back to him right away of course… In the meantime an advance CD-R of the album (partly still not with the final mixes of certain songs) found its way to Germany and I can guarantee you this much already: it totally lives up to the expectations you may or may not have had in the band! If you liked "In Ancient Beliefs" you’re gonna love "The Faithless" as well, there’s no doubt about it! DETERIOROT still deliver first class oldschool morbid Death Metal and by no means have adopted any Black Metal influences or changed into a more technical or blastbeat direction… So, in order to find out what really happened within the last couple of years and why it took so fuckin’ long until this album was finished, I contacted Paul again for the following interview…
Paul, you already started the recordings for your second album "The Faithless" way back in 2002 at Network Studios in New Jersey (were you already had recorded "In Ancient Beliefs"), but due to a lot of bad circumstances you unfortunately weren’t able to finish it completely… At first your longtime drummer and close friend Jon Brody left the band… Jon had already left DETERIOROT once in the past, didn’t he? Did he have similar reasons this time?
"Jon Brody had been my best friend and writing partner for many years. I feel I really knew him well and we had alot of chemistry when it came to creating music. At the same time I knew him well enough to know when things would get kinda weird with him. Yes, he left in 1994 at that time after Drowned told us our 3 album deal is dead because the label will close, then the entire band lost its motivation. Jon took the news pretty rough as all of us did. He was rather distant and reserved, completely out of his character. Anyone that knows him knows how much fun he can be to have around, has great sense of humor. He would always make us laugh when we hangout with him. He seemed unmotivated at rehearsals and kinda quiet, not saying much. So it would affect everything really, playing without heart didn’t feel the same for me and I had a feeling it was not gonna be much longer that we would be a band. It would affect my mood and as well. In 2002 he seemed really unmotivated when Repulse Records shut down and sold the album to WWIII Records. At band practice he was getting weird again and I knew he wasn’t gonna last much longer."
What made him re-join the band in the first place?
"When Jon left in 94 the band was over. Then 6 years had passed and we had gotten back in touch again, sometime around 2000 we were very nostalgic and then talked about what if we got together and recorded that album that never came to be ("In Ancient Beliefs"). We rented a rehearsal studio and felt the same chemistry. 2 weeks later after rehearsing on some of the older songs, I wrote ‘Unholy Return’ and ‘Endless Hauntings Of Demons And Despair’ and it was an amazing feeling, I had not written music in 6 years so it was awesome. When we played them, the same feeling was captured."
Had he already finished his drum parts for "The Faithless" by the time he decided to quit this time?
"Yes, by the time "In Ancient Beliefs" hit the stores, from all the delays from the label issues – it had already been well over a year since we recorded it. And around the time the album came out, we were getting booked on several shows, and some required traveling. WWIII was a very good label to us and they got us paid gigs to some shows and got us a spot at the NJ Metal Meltdown and we got paid for it (local bands had to pay $2000 in tickets to play). After a few months of gigging and promoting "In Ancient Beliefs" Jon didn’t seem like himself and it reminded me of the same feeling as in 94. He was turning down shows we had booked. He was coming to practice less. He was losing motivation again. So we had a new album full of new material well rehearsed and I did not waste time, I put the money together to get Jon in the studio and start laying the beginning tracks to the next album. We had some great new songs and I didn’t wanna lose them. I thought ahead and figured as long as I have the ground work laid down, even if it’s just drum tracks and some scratch guitar. I can always finish the album anytime after that."
From what you told me it was extremely difficult to find a suitable drummer to replace him… Please tell us a bit more about all this, the auditions you went through and how long it took you until you finally noticed that it was more or less an impossible task…
"I had teamed up with a new guitarist named Kevin Basca and we both worked together on him learning the material for a few months and by 2003 were ready to start auditioning drummers. It seemed most drummers we auditioned were U.S. gore grind type or Black Metal, they can play fast blast but when it came down to playing slower steady paced traditional BOLT THROWER style beats with drum fills and rolls it would just fall apart. It was rather frustrating and after 2 years of meeting drummers with the same outcome I decided to stop looking and needed to focus on other things in my personal life."
Would you say that DETERIOROT was officially dead by that time?
"I never would consider DETERIOROT dead as long as I am breathing, But we can say as long as I am alive there will be DETERIOROT music. I have always been the only composer and the only one in the band that would have to make things happen. No matter how long it takes between releases. But dead to me is the end. I will take my time to prioritize my life. Fans that reach out to me, mean alot to me and they remind me of who I am deep inside, they motivate me to continue its legacy even if no other original band member chooses to."
What about your guitar player Will Kuberski… what happened to him? Are you still in touch with him?
"Will has been producing his own music. If I am not mistaken, I believe he is going by the name of WORTHLESS. He put out a Black Metal CD called "Famine" and it’s really good stuff. I apologize if I made an error with the name or anything. I saw a video on http://www.vimeo.com/channels/4514 and it was really dark, creepy, eerie. It‘s really cool, he’s very talented. Will Kuberski I think is a great person. If you are his friend, he will give you the shirt off his back and be there for you! I have alot to be greatful to him. When it was time to record "In Ancient Beliefs" he didn’t wanna be in the band again but he did me the great favor and the honor to record his solos and some of his rhythm parts on the album. When I got married in 2006, he was the only one of all my friends from the music business that flew to Las Vegas to be there for me. We just kinda lost touch around the time I had alot of things going on with work, I had a new business, and focusing on my new marriage, so I lost touch with alot of people."
Metal Archives also lists a couple of other names that should’ve been DETERIOROT members over the years: Steve Horvath, Omar Davila, Rob Solberg, Jim Hoffman, O.D. Lallo and Chris Machado. Would you mind telling us a bit more each one of them, what they’re up to these days, when they were in the band and why it didn’t work out?
"Steve Horvath, Omar Davila, Rob Solberg are my current line up. They have been good friends of mine through many years outside of the music business. Omar, I would meet up with in Miami when he was living there, I would stay at my sister or mothers house for a few weeks. Omar and I would go look for women and have a great time at clubs in South Beach. I also got Omar a job with me 5 years ago in NJ working in the financial sector. We worked in the same office together for many years. Steve I know for many years, we would go to baseball, basketballl games (Yankees, Mets, NJ Nets), he has been dating one of my best friends Iris for a few years, she’s been a friend of mine since I was 18 years old. So he became one of my best friends too. And I know Rob Solberg through her as well. He’s a great dude. I know him somewhere around 7 or 8 years. Jim Hoffman was our original bass player from Feb 1991 through October 1992. I thought he was a nice guy. When it came to band practice, he seemed to not show up often. One time he cancelled practice and said he was sick, and on our way to the studio we saw him playing basketball at the park. So then we replaced him with Chris Machado who played in a local band called HORDE OF DEMONS. Chris really brought a new energy to the band and was fun to hang out with. Became my best friend for years after DETERIOROT. He’s had a successful music career as the lead vocalist for ILL NINO. Now he thinks he’s too big of a rock star to remember his old friends. He played in DETERIOROT from October 1992 to June 1994. O.D. Lallo played in DETERIOROT from December 2000 to June 2002 he and Jon Brody play in a band called LOMF."
From what you told me, you then began to focus on various other things in life, not connected to music or the band in any way… please tell us about that…
"I started working in the banking financial sector and then started my own company with a few partners I met from the home mortgage industry in NYC. We had a contract to buy and sell student loans to Deutsche Bank through an affiliate partnership called NextStudent. Our company was quite successful until there was a change of power in the U.S. Government and certain laws were passed to monopolize the student loan industry by lowering the government subsidy that is guaranteed to the banks in order to fund a student to go to school. The intent of this law is to cut out competition in the market, which we know competition is what drives prices down and is good for consumers. And then the end result is the student’s only option is to get the loan directly from the government U.S Dept of Education. It seems the USA is interested in turning to socialism."
You also moved from New Jersey to North Carolina… what was the reason for that?
"In October 2007 my wife told me we were going to become parents and the high cost of living in the NYC area became worst as the US economy weakened so I considered selling my home in NJ and thinking about my child before me. Alot of my family had moved from NJ at least 10 years ago to Miami, Fl. Then 4 years ago they relocated to Atlanta, GA. My wife is from Greenville, SC. So I then decided it would be better for my child to be closer to family. I chose Charlotte, NC because it’s a major metropolitan city in the south and it has a big banking financial center. It’s 3 hours of a car drive to my mother’s and 1 hour from my wife’s family. A few times I needed to go to NJ and it was a 10 to 12 hour drive. Things are a bit slower here in NC than NYC. But it does have its Metal scene here too. And people sure are alot nicer."
Considering the long silence that surrounded the band the last couple of years I guess that nobody really expected to see "The Faithless" being released anymore, but the long wait finally seems to be over now as Xtreem Music will release the album in the next couple of months… Please tell us what happened and how you managed to finish the recordings after such a long period of time… Were you able to put together a completely new DETERIOROT line-up or have you finished the recordings all on your own?
"I knew the album would come out someday but I was never in a rush for it. It actually feels good that it looked for me. It’s meant to be that way. I always said to myself "I will only finish the album if a label contacts me for it and is interested in paying for the recording". I was at the beach on vacation and I get an email on my Blackberry from Xtreem Music. After some negotiating on studio costs we come to an agreement. After I came back from my vacation, next thing I know I am now preparing a trip to NJ to record the new album. I didn’t really wanna go to NJ because of the extra costs but I had recorded all the original material on Analog 24 track 1 inch reel to reel. And I searched and searched for a studio here in NC that can transfer the seperate tracks to digital ProTools. I was unsuccessfull and contacted Network Studios in Union, NJ. Good news was they still had the machine, but they didn’t have an engineer any longer. I then found the engineer that worked on "In Ancient Beliefs" through the internet and contacted him. He has his own studio also in Union, NJ but he does not have that Analog Reel Machine. I worked it out with Network Studios to have the old engineer come in and use their machine to transfer alll the seperate tracks to my hard drive. Now he made it clear that he only had a few days open for me so we had to record and mix an entire album between Thursday and Sunday. So we were going to have 4 days of between 10 to 12 hour sessions. We then went back to his studio the next morning to start recording. When we get to his studio, I could not believe the conditions we were in. It was a dirty disgusting basement with garbage everywhere. The whole place smelled like cat piss, you had to constantly walk and step over garbage and junk. I was horrified, the place was hot and it’s the middle of August and we had to turn the fans off to record. No air conditioning there. I could not wait to leave and I had to be there for 10 hours a day. Getting back to the music. Since it’s been 7 years since we recorded these 9 songs, I had only remembered 5 songs we had on a rough mix. The other songs I had, I never even arranged how the vocals would go or how the harmonies or background guitar would be just some raw solid composed riffs on one guitar track and some solid drum tracks. So when I listened to the recording from the reel is was as if I were listening to it for the first time. So now I had to learn how to play these new songs, and write some additional guitar parts to go with it. Oh, and need I mention that I had to write lyrics for an entire album in 3 days total. It was alot of pressure. I would record all day then I would get back to the hotel room around 11:30pm and would be so exausted, but I had to write at least 3 songs (lyrics) that night to stay on schedule so I can record the vocal tracks the next day. By Friday night, I was so tired and mentally drained and by the time I had 1 more song lyrics to write, I really felt like I had no more. For 2 hours I wrote nothing. I was so frustrated, I even considered the last song being an instrumental. But finally I had an idea by 3am and wrote my last song ‘Alone And Cold’. And I believe it’s my best so far. So all the frustration helped me write a great song. By mix day the engineer was so difficult to work with. His ego was really inflated and he was acting unprofessional by making constant comments and complaints about working so long. You know he was being paid $50 an hour so I don’t know why he was complaining. I paid his bills for the whole month in 4 days. That whole time we were there I didn’t hear one phone call from a client, only phone calls coming in were his buddy or his girlfriend. It didn’t sound like he had much business going on anyway."
Were you able to use some of the recordings that you had already finished back in 2002? You may remember that you sent me a five song rough mix of the album back then, so at least those five songs seemed almost finished, weren’t they?
"You would think so but it was mainly like a well put rehearsal with some overdubs. That rough was just intended to record a good drum track. The rhythm guitar, bass and the vocals were recorded live in the same room. I just overdubbed some guitar solos and some harmonies to get a good rough mix for me to work with. I had only sent out maybe 10 copies at most to some close friends including yourself. It was just a sample of what our new songs were gonna be for the next album. Somewhere down the road I have read that is was reffered to as "The Faithless demo 2003" and it was self released. That I assure you it was not. Nor was it ever released or intended to be. Everything on the album had to be recorded as new again. The bass had tons of mistakes all over, but it was just a live take so I don’t blame anyone. I would expect it to have mistakes. So that was unuseable. I had to record the bass myself. The rhythm guitars on the rough also had mistakes and they were live in the room so in the separate track you will hear noise like from the drums and so forth. So all the rhythm guitars had to be recorded new and harmonies and guitar solos. There were 3 guitar solos that were good. And that’s about it. Everything else is completely new recording."
By the way, what was the reason that you re-named ‘Into The Abyss Of Loneliness’ into ‘Into The Abyss Of Sorrow’?
"It just sounded better to me. I randomly took a survey from a few people that knew nothing of the song and I asked them what title they prefer. Sorrow was the winner. Now you know I have to ask you too. Which title sounds better to you?" (I also prefer sorrow… – Frank)
The album now features those five songs (‘Apocalyptic Holy War’, ‘The Phantoms Cry’, ‘The Faithless’, ‘Restless Spirits’ and the just mentioned ‘Into The Abyss Of Sorrow’), as well as a short intro, a re-recording of ‘In Ancient Beliefs’, the SODOM cover ‘Outbreak Of Evil’ and four previously unreleased tracks… Would "The Faithless" have had the same tracklist when it would have been released as planned a couple of years ago or did you replace one or another song now with more fresh material?
"No, It was originally intended to have 8 songs. I really wanted to have the SODOM cover. It was intended to be a bonus track if needed."
The re-recording of ‘In Ancient Beliefs’ and the cover song come across a bit like lacking in enough new own material… was that part of the reason why they were included?
"No, not at all. The 8 new songs were 40 minutes and was enough for an album. One of my favorite sophomore albums is still METALLICA’s "Ride The Lightning" (same here… I still think it’s their best release EVER!!! – Frank) and the second album being 8 darker songs was a big influence for me and I am a traditionalist. Adding a few extra songs was just a bonus for everyone including myself. I had the idea to re-record ‘In Ancient Beliefs’ last month on the last day of recording. I wanted to take advantage of the moment of me being there at the studio and I had never been happy with the original version of it. It was not the way I had visioned it sounding so I had many years since then to pick apart what I would have done different. The other fact is that when it comes to my music, it never sounds good enough for me. It’s the anxiety in me that dwells on it constantly what I can do to improve it. So being there at the studio I suddenly felt an obsession to pull that song and strip it down to just bare drums and start over again (now the engineer really hated me for that because he was lazy and didn’t wanna work on one more song). I had to do it for myself. I even changed one word in the lyrics at the end. I want to see if anyone notices and also to prove that it’s not the same vocal track. But everything was recorded new again and everyone agrees it sounds better. I have to ask you which version you prefer? 2001 or 2010? (I just listened to both versions in a row again and still I can’t tell… I guess I like them both equally… lame answer, huh? – Frank) Also I need to add that after mixing and mastering, I still was not 100% happy with the mix and thought it can be better. I since then I have completely re-mixed the entire album and it sounds way better. I do admit that I can be obsessive compulsive about it. But I just did not want to release something that was just ok sounding. I plan on sometime in the future releasing an album of just alternate mixes. I want to remix the 7"EP (I was able to get the seperate tracks into protools recently). I really believe the 7"EP from 1993 would really sound amazing totally remixed. I’d like to either remix or completely re-record ‘Unholy Return’ and ‘Fallen Misery’. There’s a few things I personally was not happy with on those songs. For example, ‘Fallen Misery’ has a section with keyboards but you wouldn’t know it because the engineer buried it in the mix. I know I can’t hear it. Just a few things I plan on doing to make myself happy and at ease with it. I’m sure fans would be interested in hearing a different and better version too as a bonus."
What actually was the reason to do a cover by a German Thrash band anyway?
"It was very personal for me. When I was young kid (12 years old) it was Black Sabbath, MotÖrhead, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Megadeth and SLAYER that made me a Metal fanatic and inspired me to learn guitar and I wanted to play every METALLICA song I could (also IRON MAIDEN songs were way too hard for me to play). But it was the German bands in the 80s that changed my life completely. Sodom, Kreator, Destruction was my gateway to an extreme side of Metal and I loved it. I was 14 and now I was playing ‘Blasphemer’ on guitar instead of ‘Seek And Destroy’. These 3 bands then led me to the path of Hellhammer / Celtic Frost, Bathory, Possessed, Death, Autopsy, then years later it was Morbid Angel, Carcass, Entombed, Bolt Thrower. I felt a need to do a cover of one of the big 3 and it would be my tribute to them and to my German Metal brothers that have always been good to me too. We were also rehearsing a cover of ‘Tormerntor’ and ‘Some Pain Will Last’ from KREATOR. ‘Black Death’ from DESTRUCTION. ‘Blasphemer’ and ‘Outbreak Of Evil’ from SODOM. But the winner was ‘Outbreak Of Evil’ by SODOM. From the big 3 it was the first album I had gotten, "In The Sign Of Evil", so it holds a special place in my heart." (and it turned out to be a great version for sure! If my hearing isn’t completely fooling me, it seems that you even adopted their strong German accent in "deasss stands behind sssse door…", didn’t you? – Frank)
When I listen to DETERIOROT’s own material (past and present), I wouldn’t necessarily associate the band with those kind of influences…
"If I point it out, I bet you will. Listen to ‘Eternal Darkness’ from the last album "In Ancient Beliefs". That opening riff is totally influenced by DESTRUCTION. I originally wrote this song in 1988 tuned to E. The second riff (fast part) I was totally thinking of KREATOR "Pleasure To Kill" album. The higher pitch screaming vocals in that song is influenced by KREATOR. On the new album "The Faithless" listen to the last song ‘Alone And Cold’, the opening riff you can hear my SODOM influence if you then listen to SODOM "Obsessed By Cruelty". Let me know, what do you think?" (hmm… never thought of it that way… but I did notice some obvious BOLT THROWER overtones in ‘The Faithless’ – Frank)
What do you expect from an album, that you had so much trouble with, when it finally hits the stores?
"To know that we are the real deal, we are not a new band following trends, we are not one of these new retro imitation with a boss Heavy Metal pedal from ebay. We are one of the actual original oldschool bands from 1990. We are not influenced by INCANTATION as some unschooled newjack bloggers seem to mention. We’re just from the same school. We are oldschool for life. My only satisfaction is for underground fans to hear it and appreciate it. Nothing else really."
I suppose you won’t play any shows in support of the release, will you?
"I do have a new line-up to play some shows in the next year. We’re not gonna play alot of shows really. It’s really difficult with me being in NC and the line-up is in NJ. But maybe 2 or 3 shows in the NJ / NYC area in 2010. It would be possible to arrange for some tour dates in 2010. But I am interested in a European tour only. I would like to find a tour agent that can get this arranged, I would like to play Wacken, so if you know anyone. Please send them an email for me. Haha." (hmm… maybe the Party.San Festival would be an better option for a band like DETERIOROT – Frank)
Any other activities planned for the near future, now that DETERIOROT is finally back in the spotlight again?
"Knowing me, probably doing alot of picking apart this older material. I have tons of live footage too that I have been getting together on my hard drive. Possible DVD of live shows. I posted tons of shows on YouTube user name NJDeathMetal."
Before we end, I’d also like to know something about a demo that you did back in 2000, prior to the release of your debut full length "In Ancient Beliefs", entitled "Unholy Return"… That demo is supposed to exclusively feature songs that also ended up on the actual album… So, was that more or less a pre-production tape that you basically did for yourselves and / or the label or did you officially spread that around as well?
"No that was not an official release at all. Something else I see mentioned on various websites too. You know "In Ancient Beliefs" took such a long time to hit the stores. Probably close to a year and a half. So as a marketing tool and to spread the new DETERIOROT music, I made CD-R copies of 4 of the songs and made a CD cover using microsoft publisher and would give them away for free at big concerts in NYC. I would probably make 100 copies and hand them out at one show. If there was another show next month then I would do the same thing. That’s all it was."
Ok Paul, that’s all for now… I’ll leave the last words up to you. All the best and take care.
"You know I enjoyed this interview. It’s a great way for me to vent. It’s a bit of therapy for me. I just wanna thank all of my greatest supporters. Most of them are from Germany, Spain and Finland. I really hope at some point in my life I will be able to play my music for you in person and meet every single one of you. You "the fans" are the only reason why I do this and will continue to inspire me."