GOREAPHOBIA are back! This cool Death Metal band, that brought us the classic "Morbidious Pathology" demo and "Omen Of Masochism" Mini CD back in the glorious 90’s recently decided to give it another shot. And while I type this, they are already in the process of releasing some new material pretty shortly… Reasons enough to hook up with original drummer CRAIG SMILOWSKI to find out all necessary details, past, present and future!
Craig, tell us more about the GOREAPHOBIA reunion… When did that exactly happen, who came up with the idea and what kind of expectations do you have?
"Well first off it’s not a reunion, that consists of all original members. We did contact Chris Gamble around 1999 /2000, and offered him to be a part of GOREAPHOBIA, but we felt his heart would not really be into it. He did offer to session, but we felt that due to him already doing the BLOODSTORM thing, he would not give it 100%. Plus we really wanted someone who could be dedicated to the vocal department full time. As for what expectations we have, that’s obvious – secure a record deal, tour, play as many shows as possible and most importantly (on a personal level), I never thought that GOREAPHOBIA reached its peak level of performance! And now we’re back with a more extreme focus on what we are capable of, and our newest material shows that."
Do you think that people are still remembering you? I mean, in the past you never even got the chance to record an album, so there’s probably only the real die hard fans that will appreciate your return…
"As far as people remembering us, we know we have our share of die hard fans. But this is not a reunion, this is a new beginning for GOREAPHOBIA. But don’t let this fool you, we are even more violent and extreme, with more thought put into our songs, which we are positive won’t disappoint any true fan of aggressive music, be it our die hard fans or someone hearing us for the first time. This promo is just a sample of what is to come. A full-length album from this band must be released, even if we have to do it ourselves."
You mentioned that the line-up is slightly different to what it originally was, and that Chris Gamble is not in the band these days, but Alex Bouks and John Litchko… So, please introduce the new GOREAPHOBIA line-up a bit more and if it will differ musically or lyrically in any way?
"The GOREAPHOBIA line-up is slightly different, but more evolved, with Jay Lawrence on bass, who has had close ties to the band for years and fronted by a very demented vocalist known as (No One)… Due to court order I cannot disclose any more information about him. Also with John Litchko, whom is on loan so to speak, from PERVERSERAPH, we have compiled some very aggressive material (old school style of course), which will breathe some fresh air into a scene that seems to be lacking in some ways what I felt, growing up listening too. As for music and lyrics – yes it will differ, but to me this is what I could foresee this band evolving towards anyway. The music is very versatile as always, yet it maintains its integrity through the exceptional writing style of Alex, whom with his guitar riffing attributes, the chemistry is still there after all this time. It’s like we’ve just picked up were we left off 10 years ago, and the creativity rapport between Alex and I as musicians is unbreakable. We (GOREAPHOBIA) all have equal respect for each other collectively and individually."
You have already announced the release of a promo CD in the near future… tell us more about that, like how many songs you plan on recording, who’s supposed to hear this material (will you also sell it?) and so on…
"We are recording a 2 song promo at Dungeon Studios. They have a decent facility which we will be producing ourselves, mainly for label interest. We are definitely not your typical same as every other band in the scene, because we really take the time to critique our songs, for we must be completely satisfied before it leaves the confines of the studio. It will also be sold directly from us, to help generate interest. It has been some time since this band has done anything."
How was the response on the shows that you’ve already been playing in New York City ever since you got back together again?
"Honestly, what shows we have done have been good ones and the response has been very good. We can’t complain, it’s great to see people remembering the old songs but more importantly the response to our newer material was well received and that’s our only focus."
Let’s go back in time a little bit now. How did everything start for you? I mean, how did you all get together originally, back in 1988? Was GOREAPHOBIA the first band for all of you or have you been playing in any bands previously already?
" Well I was in two previous bands before GOREAPHOBIA, but I could not find the right people, or they would wind being false to themselves, and pretend they were into it. But you can tell who really believes in this art form and it wasn’t until I met Alex that I knew that I finally could create the type of music that most of my local friends weren’t really concerning themselves with. And as far as I know, Alex was always into the scene and was playing this style all along."
Was there a scene for Death Metal in Philadelphia those days or did you basically stand alone with that type of music?
"Well that depends on what you consider Death Metal. The radio stations at the time were not big on the style, but they did have a Metal show once a week, and now and then you would hear something alright. But it wasn’t enough, it was mainly mainstream stuff they would play, only by request and if you’re lucky, you would hear the likes of all the old school stuff, but very rarely. Mostly you would hear METALLICA SLAYER, but that was about it. The rest was poser crap and Glam Metal. It wasn’t like you could put on the radio 12 o’clock Friday night and hear SACRIFICE, CELTIC FROST, DESTRUCTION etc. But I am forever calling the radio stations around here and harass them to play the real shit, not some watered down version of what they believe is heavy or what their playlist reads to them. These stations are here for the listener. They work for the public that’s the law, not for their superiors who will dictate what and what is not aired."
Have you mainly been inspired by Horror / Gore movies at the time or what made you choose the name GOREAPHOBIA? Did you also base your lyrical themes around that?
"As a child horror films fascinated me, but I grew out of that because like the scene today, there is definitely a certain degree of feeling absent. The horror film industry seems watered down as well. The last film that impressed me was "The Exorcist" and most films today have that degree of comedy which does not belong. But we never carried any element from films into the music. And as for the lyrical themes, that was Chris Gambles department. He, as far as I know, did not refer to horror flicks for inspiration, but nevertheless the name GOREAPHOBIA has absolutely nothing to do with horror movies. Alex came up with the logo and Chris came up with the name."
Chris and Alex have already been jamming together for about a year until they finally found you to become their drummer… So, was there already a drummer before you in GOREAPHOBIA? How did they get to know you?
"There was another drummer, but that was in the early stages of the band and a different singer who committed suicide for one reason or another. Alex heard about me from Anne Bowman, who now writes for Metal Maniacs Mag and Ill Literature. We knew each other for some time and she worked at one of the only Metal shops in the city. She told Alex that he should give me a call. I was not in a band at the time and he decided to give me call and I was available, so we set time to see where each of us were coming from and we were all on the same page and the rest is history."
Where did you all draw your musical influences from at the time? I remember a GOREAPHOBIA live video that I used to see a while back, where you played an old DESTRUCTION song… Was DESTRUCTION an influence on GOREAPHOBIA?
"All our influences come mainly from each other. We feed off the creativity that we all behold and build from that. We basically as a band influence ourselves. By this I mean we constantly want to become better musicians, even if a song is completed it could always be better. But sometimes you have to know when to say when, and I think DESTRUCTION was an influence on all musicians weren’t they? To me DESTRUCTION is one of my all time favorite bands. I remember hearing them when I was like 15, hearing "Sentence Of Death" for the first time, is something I’ll never forget. And that’s exactly what I mean. True talent. I had the opportunity to meet Schmier when I was on tour with IMMOLATION, 1991’s "Tour Of Possession". The day of the show we did in Switzerland, he was there like hours before the doors opened. We smoked up, he acting almost as host, that day was one for the books of Metal."
How about these days? Have your musical influences changed in any way or have you got newer influences?
"Collectively yes. Individually we’ve all grown as musicians influenced by many things, due to we all knew each way back. And now we return, reformed and refined as individuals. It makes for very interesting results musically. But I am not influenced really by much of what’s out there now, but I am inspired by what some few bands are accomplishing."
You got the opportunity to support quite a lot of bands very early on, like IMMOLATION, INCANTATION MORTICIAN, EXMORTIS, FATAL, AUTOPSY, DEATH, CARCASS, NAPALM DEATH, NOCTURNUS, NUCLEAR DEATH, MORBID ANGEL and many others. How was that possible? As far as I know you didn’t even have your demo out at the time, so…
"Well we know all those bands through mail and tape trading, what have you plus Anne has helped us in the past. She at one time was booking shows for awhile around the area. And as for the demo, we circulated that at shows before Seraphic Decay new anything about us. We got the chance to play with real good bands from the start which gained us a wider audience almost immediately and over time we got to play even better shows and so-on."
You gained quite a lot of attention in the underground with your classic 3-song demo "Morbidious Pathology"… What kind of memories do you have on its origin? How many copies (approx.) got spread around of it?
"What memories I have on the first demo are good ones. That demo really got around, due to the cards we had been dealt, we gained a lot of recognition. As for the amount of copies exactly, why don’t you ask the individual who reaps the harvest and that would be Seraphic Decay. That individual ripped us off like countless others."
You also worked together on that with the infamous Seraphic Decay label… Tell us more about that co-operation, like how you hooked up and if you had any problems with them.
"Who hasn’t had problems with that low life label. How we hooked up with them was obviously a mistake on our behalf. No further comment on this matter. I’d rather not shed any more light on that subject."
When IMMOLATION approached you to play drums on their debut album in 1991, how did your bandmates in GOREAPHOBIA react? Did you already have in mind to leave GOREAPHOBIA to join IMMOLATION at that time?
"Well Alex was concerned about it. But at the time it was just something I had to do for myself and GOREAPHOBIA. My intentions were to help IMMOLATION do their album and hopefully in return it might help GOREAPHOBIA get signed to Roadrunner but the IMMO guys asked me "Well, are you gonna join the band or what?" And at first I did not want to leave Alex and Chris hanging, but Alex said if I wanted to stay with them he would understand, so with their support I made the move to New York after the album’s completion."
For the next release, the "Omen Of Masochism" 7" EP, Kenny Masteller did replace you… How do you judge his playing on that EP? Were you still involved in the songwriting of that material?
"The only contribution I made from what I can recollect is the song ‘Morbidious Pathology’ that was the last song Alex and I were working on before my uncertain departure. And as for Kenny, he is good, he had an interesting style, it was good to know that they found a drummer who’s own style did not change the band in too much of a way. I think he did fine for them, but who am I to judge anyone."
In 1992 IMMOLATION and GOREAPHOBIA hooked up for a two-month tour across the U.S. – even though GOREAPHOBIA still didn’t have an album out… Did IMMOLATION pick GOREAPHOBIA as their support act? How was the whole trip financed?
"Since Alex and Chris were cool enough by letting me go ahead to record with IMMOLATION, I personally wanted to bring them out with us to give them the exposure they deserved. Well, the tour was originally going to be financed by Roadrunner, but due to a clause in our merchandising contract, RR said "Well, the people who are making your shirts can finance your tour as well." What it all came down to was, we didn’t use them for T-shirts, so no tour support. Only by the forces of Metal did we have the means to make the tour happen without financial help from Roadrunner. They thought they had us backed in a corner, and would lay down our weapons, when really we were celebrating a war won."
How was the response on GOREAPHOBIA on that tour and how many songs have been available at the time (I suppose there was more than just the demo and 7" songs, wasn’t it)?
"GOREAPHOBIA was getting great response for a band that didn’t have an album out. They were a perfect support act. That tour was one insane experience, they played I think a total of 7 or 8 songs."
After that tour Alex was loosing interest in the band, left and GOREAPHOBIA splitted-up shortly after… Why didn’t they just continue on with a replacement? Was Alex the driving force in GOREAPHOBIA?
"Actually Alex found himself losing interest in the band before the tour began, but as time would tell he was not happy with the way things were heading and decided to split from the band. But he did accompany IMMOLATION during the U.S. tour in 91."
There was also talk of some line-up changes already before he left, so what happened there?
"Well, after I left – I think that was when he felt that it was not in his best interest to continue, plus there were conflicts within the band, and one thing lead to another and there you have it. He’s gone. It seemed to spin out of control and the fact that I was no longer a part of the band affected his attitude towards his writing. And I can’t say I blame him either, but that is something he could elaborate more on better than I can."
It seems that you’re still good friends with the IMMOLATION guys, as they are (again) giving you much support these days… Has there never been any bad blood between you and them after you went separate ways and they got a new drummer? When and why did you actually split up with IMMOLATION?
"We are still friends, and yes they are helping us out in a sense. Those guys were there for us since the beginning of this band just about and it’s great too have friends like that, real people. And as for bad blood, no not really. I can’t say my departure from their band didn’t hurt, because it did. I can only say what’s done is done. Sometimes things don’t work out. As far as details on why I was asked to leave, like I said, sometimes things don’t work out."
Did you live with them (or in their area) while you used to be a member of IMMOLATION? When did you return to Philadelphia and what have you been up to until Alex contacted you about a GOREAPHOBIA reunion?
"No, I stayed at my mother’s house now and then, but I mainly lived with Bob Vigna for almost 5 years. I moved back to Philly, almost immediately, returned to my non Metal form of employment, got married, kicked back, took a break from it all and then it was time for a new beginning. And that’s when I found myself needing to create. And being a drummer in this type of music affects my natural thought process when I’m not playing and it becomes overwhelming on a persons well being. If I can’t create musically all my thoughts race around in my head, and it becomes hard to focus on everyday things, so that’s when I said it’s time to reform the band, and that’s helped close the chapters of insanity within my life to a degree."
Have you already finished some new material? Let us know more details on the new songs! When can we expect the release of it?
"Well we are in the studio now finalizing the promo, mixing and what not. And by the time this is printed we will be sending out CD’s. The new material is definitely more involved, there is a lot to listen to. This promo has 2 songs with a total of 16 minutes and some seconds of music that never let’s up. This is a reformation, not a reunion. There is a greater violent outlook in the new material. We are more intense with more emphasis on the music."
What are your future plans for GOREAPHOBIA? I guess most important of all for you is to find a good label, so that you can finally record your debut album, right? Any particular companies that you would like to work with?
"We will weigh our options when we send out our promo. As for companies, it will depend on the who has the better offer, and we can only wait and see. We have several labels in mind but will see what happens. The promo will do the talking."
Would you include some of the old classics as well, if you’d get the opportunity?
"Why not. Those songs still hold their own and it would be a look back at the band’s history. We’ll see what happens."
Anything else you’d like to add here?
"Lookout for the official GOREAPHOBIA website in the spring and our promo due out around the same time. Thank you Frank for this breakdown of the last 11 years, and to the GOREAPHOBIA fans of the past and new listeners… you will RETURN TO THE SHADOW LANDS."
235 Penn Boulevard, 2nd flr apt
East Lansdowne, PA 19050