Within a short period of time, Flordia’s DIABOLIC have gained themselves a very strong reputation within the worldwide Death Metal underground. After the release of their "City Of The Dead" demo (which was later on re-issued on CD), they came up with another two very strong full length albums, "Supreme Evil" and "Subterraneal Magnitude". Most recently they managed to confuse a couple of people with an album entitled "Vengeance Ascending", which came out in the US almost at the same time as "Subterraneal Magnitude". There was definitely the need for some further explanation, so we tracked down the band’s drummer Aantar Coates for the following interview
Would you mind introducing each member of the band with a few words and what you guys all have been up to prior to forming DIABOLIC?
"Paul Ouelette – bass / vocals, Bryan Malone – guitars, Jerry Mortalaro – guitars and Aantar "Blastmasters" Coates – drums. Paul is the oldest I think. He’s 36 years old and now plays bass. He can play guitar but prefers bass because he’s a vocalist. Bryan is 27 years old and makes his guitar screem like a witch being burned at the stake. Jerry is 26 years young and has brought some great new rhythms to the band. As far as past projects, we all had bands that just didn’t really want to work hard to get to the level we are all at today. The most important thing we do is look to the future and only look back to learn from our mistakes. I have read in zines about other bands that talk and talk about their old bands and I can’t understand why."
Who came up with the name for the band? Don’t you think it was a bit risky because there’s so many bands around these days with similar sounding names?!
"I came up with the name and everyone thought it was taken. It was one of those names that no killerband had. We are truely diabolic, we deserve the name, so we took it for our band. Also we knew we would be the only DIABOLIC that would get the attention because we write visious music that kills the weak and destroys all barriers!! With a name like DIABOLIC we don’t need all the symbolism signs. DIABOLIC says it all!!!"
Did you play any cover tunes in the beginning or was it all original straight from the start?
"Originals from the start!!!! The cover tunes came later on. We just did a cover of MORBID ANGEL’s ‘Visions From The Darkside’. That song really kicks ass!!! (it certainly does – as it even inspired the name for our unholy magazine – Ed.) All the other cover tunes include KREATOR – ‘Under The Guillotine’ (Dwell Records), POSSESSED – ‘No Will To Live’, SLAYER – ‘Killing Fields’ (Dwell Records), SODOM – ‘Sepulchral Voice’ (Dwell Records), VENOM – ‘Buried Alive’ (Dwell Records), DESTRUCTION – ‘The Ritual’ (Dwell Records), METALLICA – ‘God That Failed’ (Dwell Records) and MORBID ANGEL – ‘Rapture’ (Dwell Records)."
Tell us a bit about the time between DIABOLIC’s origin and the release of your one and only demo tape "City Of The Dead". Have you already been playing live very often at the time?
"Our first show was after two months forming DIABOLIC. We released the demo five months later. It took Conquest Music 1 1/2 years later to release "Supreme Evil". By the time "Supreme Evil" came out we had "Subterraneal Magnitude" ready to record and had tours set up with CANNIBAL CORPSE and MORBID ANGEL and had already played festivals, booked our own tour and toured with INFAMY out in Califorina. Conquest Records are the slowest record label on the planet!!!!"
A lot of established bands seem to get the opportunity to re-release their old demo material on CD sooner or later. DIABOLIC also got this offer, but very quickly (only two years after the demo was originally recorded), so I was wondering if you were kinda surprised and / or felt honored when Wilko of Fadeless Records came up with this idea!?
"DIABOLIC / Blastmasters Inc came up with the idea to re-release the demo in CD format. We cut out some reviews and pictures. Wilko released it in the format we put together. I can’t understand why other bands re-record their demo songs and put those old songs on their new recordings. We like to keep everything we do new and fresh!!"
What was the actual reason that you originally went for a cassette release of "City Of The Dead"? Was it lack of money that you didn’t print up CD’s or did you feel that the material wasn’t yet strong enough for a CD at the time already? Or was it simply because you wanted to establish the band the "old way" maybe?!
"The old way is the best way!!! The same three songs on each side of the tape is how we hooked our fans for the "City Of The Dead" demo tape. Then we gave two extra songs for the CD that we did not release on the tape and put together a killer layout."
You just mentioned it already – on the CD version there’s two additional songs (‘Encarta’ and ‘Inborn’) – what were they originally recorded for?
"Those songs we recorded to be released onto the DIABOLIC "City Of The Dead" EP. We plan out everything we do way before its ever released."
Another thing which kinda surprised me is the fact that none of those demo / MCD songs were ever re-recorded for your albums. Why?
"Like I said before… I can’t understand why so many other bands do it. We will keep that classic underground production. Why go back and re-record demo songs when we have so many new fresh ideas. There will be a live recording someday. Maybe we will do a demo song on it. But it’s not the thing to do for DIABOLIC."
I really liked that idea of putting together a photocollage for the booklet of "City Of The Dead" as it reminds me on all those classic 80’s Thrash Metal releases who came up with a similar innersleeve design. Was that the intention of it? That you still feel very much connected to those glorious days?
"Yes, because those days are the days when everything was new and Metal was bigger here in America. The way we clipped all the reviews and pictures really brought back those days for me. Bands like POSSESSED, SLAYER, VENOM, EXODUS and METALLICA did the same thing. We all come from the early days of Metal. It just seemed like the right thing to do and everyone seems to agree."
Why did Trey of MORBID ANGEL end up in there as well?!
"That picture was taken back in 1991 the day he went to reccord the "Blessed Are The Sick" CD at his band practice. Trey was a good friend at one time and I wanted to show my respect for him for helping me out, get my drums out of pawn to pay rent one month. I showed the CD picture to Trey at our band practice at the warehouses and he was cool with it being on the inside inlay next to INFAMY and the rest of our friends from back in that time."
How did you get together with Conquest Music and why didn’t the co-operation work out in the end?
"I met Lee Harrison back in 1991. He and I were good friends at one time. At the time DIABOLIC was looking for a record deal. Lee was really into it. In the end Conquest Music could not keep up with DIABOLIC so now we are with Olympic Recordings / Centra Media. Conquest are out to help MONSTROSITY and not DIABOLIC. Just check their website. It hasn’t been updated in years!!!"
You seem to like the art of Joe Petagno quite a lot as you’re using his work for your covers. Who’s idea was it and how did you get together with him? Did you have other artists in mind as well?
"Gene (ex-ANGELCORPSE) gave us Joe’s phone number. He’s easy to work with and his paintings rule. We thought about doing another "City Of The Dead" cover but the record label didn’t want "Supreme Evil" released without a well known artist, so we contacted Joe Petagno."
When I compare "Supreme Evil" to "Subterraneal Magnitude" I would say that the drumming ended up a little bit more in the background on the latter mentioned. Was that intentional or did that happen by mistake during the final mix of the album?
"The drums are only one part of the mix. I feel that both recordings came out good considering I recorded my drum tracks in eight hours for "Supreme Evil" with a $2000 recording budget and six hours recording "Subterraneal Magnitude" on a $3000 recording budget. We started working with "Punchy" and he understands that the drumming needed to be more up front on "Subterraneal Magnitude." (?! – and then they still ended up more in the background?! – Ed.)
Talking about the drumming. What I really appreciate about it, is the fact that you seem to stick to a rather natural sounding drum production, instead of going for a clinical, digital one, which most bands are coming up with these days. What do you think is the reason for this fashion nowadays?
"I have a really good team working with me these days and we make the digital drums sound real. I don’t think people understand the whole digital drum thing, but I will try to explain. Digital drums are just as important as electric guitars. Bryan, Jerry and Paul don’t play acoustic guitars. When they turn up the guitars I can only hear myself if I have a 1000 Watt power amp and my own speakers and my d-drumtrigger brane. They have volume knobs to turn up and so do I. It’s all about power!!! I used the Alesis DM5 on the "Subterraneal Magnitude" (with triggers) CD and for the "Supreme Evil" I used 50% mics and 50% Alesis DM5 with triggers. "Subterraneal Magnitude" was all recorded digital with triggers. I just picked out some good drum sounds and we recorded and mixed the sound I had. Technology has come a long way for musicians and for everyday people. I don’t put bullshit on my records that I can’t pull off live, so… I can do everything I record."
You already had to face a couple of line-up changes ever since you started out, so let’s talk a little bit about the reasons. Why did you part ways with original bassplayer Rutger A. Cole and how did you get together with Ed Webb?
"Rutger had some personal problems at the time and Ed Webb turned out to be the wrong guy for the job. I never talk about the line up changes because it’s not something we like to remember. I will say that when the "City Of The Dead" CD came out I did give Rutger his CD’s and when "Supreme Evil" came out I did give Ed Webb his CD’s and LP copies. It takes alot more to be in DIABOLIC than just band practice. You have to keep in mind the big picture and never give in or take the easy way out. We all work day and night jobs. We don’t get government assestince to play in a band when we don’t tour so some of our past band members got caught up in the "this band doesn’t pay my bills" way of thinking, so they just fell off. Some people just want think that they’re gonna be rich making millions overnight. Everything takes time."
But it seems Ed didn’t work out, as Paul took over the bass for the new album and you recruited former BRUTALITY guitarist Bryan Hipp. What lead to this decision?
"Bryan was fired shortly after we recoreded "Subterraneal Magnitude". We thought he was going to work out but he had so many personal problems you couldn’t count them all!!! Pete (ex-ANGELCORSPE) told me that Bryan Hipp said he wanted to join ANGELCORPSE when he came to a party we had years back. Pete didn’t want Bryan in ANGELCORPSE, he just let me know that we had a trader in our band."
By the way, is BRUTALITY still around these days?
"Back in our old band house we live next door to the bass player in BRUTALITY and he called the police on us because we were practicing a little loud. He didn’t even have the balls to come over and talk to us eye to eye, he just called the police. Then moved out a month later!!! What a pussy!!! BRUTALITY broke up after our first show opening for VADER."
If I would have to nail you musically, I would probably say that you combine the furiosity of Black Metal with the Death Metal brutality of MORBID ANGEL (especially in the midtempo / slower parts) and the insane soloing of early SLAYER. Could you live with that? How do you see things yourself? Where do you draw your main influences from?
"Bands like POSSESSED, EXODUS, CELTIC FROST and BATHORY. Also OZZY and DIO. I can’t understand why people just compare us to MORBID ANGEL. I think it’s because of the druming style. What about TERRORIZER or OBITUARY??? I think we are a cross between BATHORY, POSSESSED, DRI and TERRORIZER. My drumming is the only reason people are saying we sound like them and if you’d ask Trey he will tell you we don’t sound anything like them. If I don’t play drums the way I do, it wouldn’t be me. I have always been a fast drummer by nature." (well, I wouldn’t limit the comparisons to the drumming only – it’s the overall style you’re playing which quitea bit reminds on MORBID ANGEL, but… what the heck… – Ed.)
What exactly is the story of the "Vengeance Ascending" album, which just came out as well?
"It’s really about pushing on to the next level. We waited for "Subterraneal Magnitude" to come out last year and it just came out last week here in America. Conquest Records could have released it back then but they refused for no good reason. So now everyone is wondering why we have two releases this year. It’s because they couldn’t keep up with our band!!! Now our vengeance is to ascend to the next level. They did their best to hold us back, but their best wasn’t good enough!!!!"
What are your next plans? You mentioned an upcoming US tour. Tell us more about that and about the possibilities for the European crowds to see DIABOLIC live in the near future.
"We just got back from the Metal Manicas tour with ENSLAVED, MACABRE and ELECTRIC WIZARD today. We are touring with MARDUK next month and are working with the booking agencies here in America to continue touring. We will tour Europe spring 2002. Thanks for the interview. Cheers Aantar."