It’s already nearly a decade since "Evil" Chuck Schuldiner has passed away, but his music remains as fresh and intense as it was when the young hungry Metallers, that we were, discovered it back in 1984. It all started with MANTAS, a young three piece act based in Orlando, Florida back in late ’83. Joined in his insatiable quest for extreme heaviness – yet melodic even that early on – by drummer / singer, Barney "Kam" Lee and guitarist, Frederic "Rick Rozz" DeLillo, within a period of 15 months this bunch penned some of the most intense and memorable extreme Metal from that era. I can remember it like if it was yesterday, we the hardcore Metallers were incredibly delighted by such aural assaults coming from MANTAS and then DEATH… no matter if it was rehearsal, live or cheap demo recordings, the high quality, music-wise, was always at the rendezvous. Last year, I was pleased to get in touch with Rick – who happened to be nothing but a pure gentleman – and it was quickly decided to do an extensive feature on his career, a career that is far to be finished as the six stringer is back with a new band simply named, M INC. The feature is originally split in two parts, considering how much there was to cover. This one mainly does focus on the 1983 – 1985 era (the full Rick Rozz feature appears in Snakepit Magazine – Frank)…
So Rick, with your new band M INC you’re going back to Death Metal territories, but with a different approach soundwise as you had adopted a ‘lower’ sound… What made you go back to Death Metal after all those years considering that last time you had been seen associated with Metal was in 1994 with the "Promise" album from MASSACRE?
"It was really a coincidence, I didn’t really have any plans to put a band together, doing any type of Death / Speed Metal type stuff, just basically came across a couple of things… actually my girlfriend came across something on Blabbermouth and my name was mentioned, probably back in 2007… probably ten months ago, before we put the M INC together, 11 months ago, and it said something about "No, Rick Rozz isn’t doing this tour" and she saw that at work, and I hadn’t mentioned Blabbermouth or I didn’t see anything about this, so she called me and… it kind of just… like a little, lit a fire under my butt, you know what I mean? I didn’t read the bunch of stuff that people said, who said this, who said that, you know?! Coincidentally, Mike Mazzonetto had just quit PAIN PRINCIPLE, his band of 17 years… the drummer of M INC played for a local Orlando band called PAIN PRINCIPLE and I just asked him if he wanted to jam a little bit because I had wanted to play with him for about that long, about 17 years because myself and the MASSACRE singer had run into him way when he had joined PAIN PRINCIPLE when Billy Andrews and Terry Butler were still in DEATH and we were looking for a drummer because we had an opportunity to do a record with Earache, Bill and Terry were still in DEATH at that time…I’m getting off the subject but it all comes back to M INC… but basically it’s all a coincidence. Like I said, reading what was said on Blabbermouth, running into a few people at a couple of different local shows here and there, people who saw MASSACRE play live and how things were said on stage about me and I wasn’t even there you know?! I got a kick out of that, that’s free promotion, I’m not even there!, you know?! It was just a number of things I guess, because I hadn’t written stuff like this in a really long time, it’s not like I had been sitting around playing Death Metal songs because I’ve been writing like acoustic stuff you know?!"
But was it because you missed those times and sound or…?
"Oh definitely, definitely! I mean, I sat down and, like I said, when I first got hold of Mike Mazzonetto, we sat down and talked about all kind of things and then… it just lit a fire underneath me, especially when he started playing, you know what I mean?! It just all came back to… I mean this stuff now, they’re not DEATH songs and they’re not MASSACRE songs but what when we’re playing that stuff and recording I feel like it’s 1988, you know what I mean? 1989 and we’re in Morrisound Studios (laughs), that’s kind of strange, but it feels good you know?! Like once again I’m not forcing it, I’m not making believe, I’m not pretending you know… I’m into it, and so is Mike, so is Chris so…everybody’s into it, we just haven’t had a full rehearsal yet, it’s not even really a band you know, so there’s a lot of work to be done, we’re trying to finish this demo up, because we definitely wanna send some songs out before the Michigan Death Fest, to some labels just in case because we are willing to fly some A&R people out because we can make this into a showcase if people are interested to come out and see the band, if they like it you know?! So, it will be cool to have some demos out to…we have four labels, maybe five, but four definitely waiting you know, that are willing to give it a listen, so it’s gotta be good! I mean it’s gonna… it all depends if that’s what they want, and… I really don’t know. Because it’s not really Death Metal vocals, there’s not really a cookie monster vocal going on, but it’s also… I think it works, I’m really curious on what Chris is gonna do on these next five tunes because we don’t have any vocals, everything else is finished except the vocals now, and he starts next week (May 2010) so I’m really looking forward to that."
I also understand that you weren’t happy at all when you recently got to know that Kam was doing a MASSACRE tour back in 2007, is that correct? And did you get an approach to rejoin him for that new reformation that led him to tour Europe one more time?
"I didn’t know! I knew nothing about it… I found out when… I saw or read something on the internet and then I ran into Ben Meyer, the old NASTY SAVAGE guitar player, and he told me that he saw them live and then they were doing… they had done a European tour and this and that… it didn’t bother me at all, I wouldn’t have done it anyway if they would have called me. I wasn’t that interested in playing that stuff, that’s why I didn’t wanna… have anything to really call this band MASSACRE, and at one time we were thinking about calling it MASSACRE INC… and then I’ve seen how Billy (Andrews) shot Kam (damn, I said his name) down with what he was trying to do, and I talked to Billy and out of respect to him, you know, I don’t need to call the band MASSACRE, that was his band name you know, not mine. I was invited to join that band so… the singer was already with them, he already moved to Tampa and Billy had gotten the band going, Allen West used to be in that band before OBITUARY, he was the original guitar player."
I heard Bill Andrews wasn’t satisfied with that situation either….
"Right. I remember they went to Europe and they did a MASSACRE tour, they made some decent money too you know?! That’s fine man… even if they’re playing my songs, not that… Billy wasn’t there, there was Terry (Butler) and the singer, that’s all, pretty much. Then there was Curtis Beeson, I think this old NASTY SAVAGE guy was playing drums, I don’t even know the other two guys, was it with Steve Swanson? The guy from SIX FEET UNDER that plays with Terry (Butler). But to answer to your question, it didn’t bother me at all man. That’s cool. I’m doing my own thing now I got no ties with any of that stuff, I don’t have to play any of those songs with my brand new project, people might want to hear that but it’s… they’re not! It’s a new band, it’s got nothing to do with that, that’s the reason why the band is named the way it’s named, or the project is, it’s just something… it’s cool man because people… they’re not gonna want to hear any of that other stuff, they’re not gonna need to, because the stuff is gonna be cool enough, I really think it is gonna be really strong stuff. Short songs but they’re gonna be to the point you know?! I really have a lot of faith in it, and so does a lot of other people, which is the only reason why it’s really happening, just not like… we’re just trying to put something together just for the hell of doing it, which isn’t…we’re working really hard at it, we’re spending a lot of money because… the guys have got a lot of faith in it especially the studio owner, Timmy who’s playing bass in the project, that guy… Anyway, it’s really cool, we have a lot of cool people on our side, so we’re gonna hit it full force and see what happens. But the key is getting the demos out, and getting it out there so.. . we’ll see. And I’m looking forward to the Michigan Death Fest definitely because that can only help a little bit too because you don’t know who’s gonna be there. And we were invited you know?! It’s not like I chased them up, which is very very cool."
But I guess you’re expecting that people are gonna ask you to play MASSACRE stuff during live shows, how will you handle this situation?
"Go see MASSACRE play (laughs). Yeah, I mean, why not give M INC a chance you know?! It’s a whole different group of people, why would I wanna play MASSACRE songs you know, MASSACRE wasn’t all about me, there’s four different members in that band you know so… that’s the best way I can answer, if you want to see MASSACRE play, then maybe they’ll do a reunion but I won’t be there so… this is like if MASSACRE played some DEATH songs, why we would do that? I don’t know… so I played on it, big deal. No disrespect to the bands, that’s great but I think there’s no need to hear any DEATH or MASSACRE stuff, just listen to M INC, you’ll hear little isms from both bands in there, and you can, you know, make believe it’s that band, you know what I mean?"
How about the "Tyrants Of Death" release which featured old MASSACRE recordings done with the agreement of Kam Lee and Bill apparently, what were your thoughts on it?
"Oh, I didn’t really know about it. Billy had called me and told me about it and put me in touch with Iron Pegasus Records that put it out and… I think it’s great, the guy did a great job, it looks really good, I mean he did it in a gatefold vinyl, very professional and the whole history of the band, that’s great. I think it’s very very cool that he even took the time… and spent his time and money on that, I can’t remember his name of the top of my head (Costa Stoios), the guy that runs it… but it’s cool! I have nothing against it at all. They just wanted all my songs you know what I mean, just like I said, I had nothing against MASSACRE going on tour you know, with all those songs, all the music, those guitar parts were written by me, somebody else is playing them, they were getting paid, not me…they got a good chunk of change to do that but to answer your question, I think the "Tyrants Of Death" thing was really cool, you know?! That’s a true MASSACRE fan I guess, it shows the history of the whole band and not just what happened with "From Beyond" you know, which was pretty much the only reason why MASSACRE got a record deal because Digby Pearson from Earache was a fan of the band, we weren’t shopping the demo to any labels, we didn’t send anybody anything and I mean, I got a call from David "Vincent" (Stuppnig) from MORBID ANGEL – who had just done "Altars Of Madness", he told me that Digby was a MASSACRE fan from the demos who would like to know if we wanted to do a record – that easy. He came down to Florida to meet me and the singer at the singer’s apartment, I played him a couple of riffs thru a practice amp sitting on the coach, we had a four album record deal the next week. That’s simple, three pages the deal, Laurent…it was four, but one of the pages was merchandise and I told them that we wanted to keep the merchandise, he told me to mark it all off, so three pages… three pages, four album deal…there you go. Even if we didn’t finish the record deal but I’m gonna give… I like Earache, I think they’re a good label and I’d like to give them, you know, first dibs on the M INC stuff you know what I mean because "Promise" was a pile of crap you know so we’ll see what happens."
Do you recall how you got informed that Charlie "Chuck" Schuldiner had passed away during late 2001, following a cancer battle?
"Well, I ran into Chuck two times before his passing locally here in Orlando, I got to spend two hours with him right after his first surgery and we got to talk, had a couple of drinks… it was kind of weird, we sat down and just talked about all kinds of stuff, it wasn’t about how’s your music thing going, how’s this going… I didn’t ask him about his condition, he brought it up to me… and he showed to me behind his right ear where they did the surgery, you couldn’t even see the scar or anything like that… but we sat there and talked about old times, about all kinds of stuff… he explained to me how he started losing his motor skills in the studio, you know before his first surgery happened, how his motor skills were just shutting down and he couldn’t even finish the record. I don’t know if that was a CONTROL DENIED record or the last DEATH, I’m not really sure, but like I said, we spoke, we made our peace, we never really had any huge falling out, we had minor disagreements, he had his own vision with this band you know, that’s all, no disrespect to that, anybody disrespecting that would be a fool. So, he did what he wanted to do and the only thing… DEATH kind of lost its sound other than his vocals a little bit and little isms in the music, I just think it kind of just got to me, just got a little too frolicky, you know?! It had the name DEATH, it should have been more power, that’s where our differences were you know? He was more into the technical side and I was more into "Okay, let’s go real fast and straight heavy" (laughs). So, I ran into his sister (Beth) after I ran into Chuck and we had this conversation, she told me he had a relapse and they couldn’t do surgery this time… and his last request was that he wanted to go home and when they pulled up into his house you know, to the front of his house and he had a big smile on his face, and he was happy to be there and that’s where he passed away. He passed away at his home so… It’s quirky how I ran into these people, I ran into Chuck and then I saw Chuck again then I ran into his sister and I was like "Oh man!" so… but we had some real good times man, we all dropped out of high school together you know?! We were kids you know?!"
How would you like to see him remembered considering you’ve spent quite a few years with him and performed together some of the greatest stuff ever made in extreme Metal?
"I don’t know… I’ve never been asked that question, that’s interesting. Hmmm… he definitely had a vision, he had his own vision for his projects that he was doing and I give him all the credit in the world for that because he just went after it you know, so I would say, remember him with respect for what he did for Metal and… that’s pretty much it. He’s a forefather you know?! We’ve created, I believe, we had a creation together, we created something coincidentally, it’s not like we were sitting on a garage going "Oh man, we’re gonna invent this style of music and…", we weren’t doing anything like that, we were influenced by VENOM, SLAYER, MERCYFUL FATE, METALLICA, RAVEN, you name it… HELLHAMMER and… so there was a whole conglomeration of stuff and then we just started playing some stuff and it worked out… Anyway, so the best way to be reminded of him you know, be remembering him is thru respect, and respect for him, his views and his visions on whatever he was looking for. Hope that makes any sense.. that’s a good question dude but I’m clueless on that one. You stumped me…"
Did you have got back in touch altogether during the ’90s at one point despite the fact that you had left the band back in mid ’89 during the DARK ANGEL tour?
"Yeah… we had, just encounters… getting together and… but not as far as music goes, there was no music involvement but every once in a while I would see him out, and I was polite to the guy, you know what I mean, there was no hard feelings, I’ve never… was being a cry baby about being fired twice and this and that, or owed something…I just go with it man, I’m not gonna get all beat up about something that is not meant to be you know?! I try not to… getting along in the world and relationships in general are hard enough you know, I mean getting along with a bunch of guys in a band, and sometimes there’s girls in the band, and… people, you know, different opinions, you just gotta be on the same page and sometimes it’s hard for everybody to be on that same page you know?! And that’s respectable, who am I to say "No dude, it’s not gonna be that way and no you can’t fire me", that would be freakin’ stupid, you know?! So… he had a vision dude, that’s it. Also had a lot of people in that band so… but, what can you do? I’m getting off the subject again man, I’m sorry."
So, can you tell the readers how you got introduced to the Heavy Metal world back in the late ’70s? What were some of the bands/ acts that really marked your mind at the time?
"If you talk about the ’70s, probably SABBATH if you’re going back that far… then it was the first METALLICA, the first SLAYER… HELLHAMMER, as far as that type of Metal but as far as getting into Metal prior to that, like JUDAS PRIEST or… But if you’re talking about heavier stuff like Speed, Death or Doom I’d definitely say early RAVEN, you know I was turned on to early RAVEN, early on you know, the "Wiped Out" record, and MOTÖRHEAD, the first HELLHAMMER "Apocalyptic Raids"… BATHORY, you know that stuff from the ’80s, but yeah all that stuff, VENOM, BATHORY, SODOM, DESTRUCTION, VOIVOD, I was into all that stuff in the early ’80s but as far as what got me into like the speed thing, it would definitely be "Show No Mercy", so I just remember having "Kill ‘Em All" and a couple other records and then when "Show No Mercy" first came out, and I put that record on, I totally forgot about "Kill ‘Em All"… you know, it was total intrigue as far as kind of like the whole speed thing and… Tom Araya was cool too, but that didn’t really bother me, usually I’m not really into the high-type vocal thing but he was kind of… it was kind of different, that was really cool so, I wanna say 100% SLAYER so… so that’s pretty much what I would say… as far as the late ’70s or ’70s, it would be definitely be like SABBATH, old JUDAS PRIEST because a lot of the old JUDAS PRIEST stuff, you know, really got me into the whole whammy thing too, as far as K.K. Downing on the live record…"
Before joining Chuck and Barney "Kam" Lee back in late ’83 to form MANTAS, I understand you were already playing with a local band in the Orlando area I guess… What can you tell us about this high school band? Was it already a somewhat ‘extreme’ Metal band?
"No, not at all, it was a band called HIDDEN FORCE, it was my very first band and it was… we did like a JUDAS PRIEST cover. We had some originals but it definitely wasn’t extreme Metal or anything like that, it was more of a… I can’t even explain it to be honest… kind of like JUDAS PRIEST, but not so much as JUDAS PRIEST vocals… but we were doing some JUDAS PRIEST covers, IRON MAIDEN covers, MOTÖRHEAD, that kind of stuff and then I was in another band called THATCHER before I… used to play some backyard parties with that band, I was like 14, 15 and then I met Chuck late ’82 at a backyard party, we swapped numbers and began getting in touch with each other and I had known you know, the singer for a while, and drummer also and as you know, Chuck was singing also but anyway ..I’m gonna say his name, but Kam was playing drums and singing on about 80% of the songs in MANTAS because Chuck could sing like two or three and then let Kam sing the rest."
How did you end up picking up a guitar in the early ’80s as you were probably 13 or so? Did you learn by yourself to play this instrument back then?
"Yeah, pretty much… I think I took one lesson one time, then got home and forgot what the guy showed me (laughs). So… it was like, "How did that go?"… I kind of just like, just picked it up on my own you know?! Listening to like, a lot of… my first Rock’n’Roll record I would say was… that I ever had in my possession was STEVE MILLER "Fly Like An Eagle", but the very first song I’d ever heard was ‘Hand Of Doom’ from BLACK SABBATH on a juke box in a pizza store when I was about… I was still in New York so I was probably about 8 or 9, maybe 10 because I moved here in ’77 when I was 10 so my first turn-on to like any kind of doom, and I remember I saw the name BLACK SABBATH and ‘Hand Of Doom’ and I was listening to the song and… that really hooked me at a young age but my first record, my father brought home to me was Steve Miller "Fly Like An Eagle", a friend of his at work handed it to him "Hey bring this home to your boy!" and then I went on from Steve Miller to KISS immediately, as soon as I saw KISS that was it! Ace Frehley all the way, I blame him, it’s his fault! (laughs)."
I understand you were very early – just like Chuck, while Kam was more into Punkish stuff according to him – into obscure / heavier styles of Metal such as VENOM, HELLHAMMER or MERCYFUL FATE… Was it quite easy to get hold of those records in Florida?
"Yeah, actually there was a couple of really really cool places like not far from where we lived that happened to have all that stuff (laughs). So there was this one in particular called Wax Street Records, they’re not around anymore but… yeah, I used to go up there all the time. They had everything. Then there was a couple of other ones, East West Records, but then even in like this other chain record store called Peaches Records, we were able to get them there you know, the VENOM and they always had an import section where you could find your VENOM, find your SODOM, the KREATOR and DESTRUCTION and… just everything! BATHORY and… it was good stuff man, I was all over that, I would keep up with when records were coming out, and I’d know when they were coming in and when shipments came in. Yeah, so it really wasn’t too hard to get those here, which was really a bonus, to be honest with you… "
When you’ve heard that new stuff with VENOM, SLAYER etc, was it something that immediately got you excited compared to the traditional forms of Metal à la PRIEST, SCORPIONS etc?
"Yeah… it’s just made a lot more sense, you know what I mean. Yeah it was just more aggressive and more rebellious you know, and not so… not commercial but just not so fine-tuned you know?! I guess it’s what it was, I guess the aggressive, darker kind of sounding stuff just, you know, attracted me more as far as saying, to my ear, was more my style of music, not that I don’t enjoy some old Metal, but I don’t really listen to it much other than the oldschool stuff that I will play on my radio show, on Metal Messiah radio so…"
From what Kam said, it seems you are the one who approached him in school to play drums in a band, so does that mean that it was your idea to form a new band at first?
"Hmmm… I guess, I never really looked at it that way. I mean like I said, I ran into Chuck, so I let on I knew a drummer and you know, Kam was more like a Punk Rock kind of drummer then so… I mean we listened to a lot of Punk and Hardcore also along with the new breed of.. as far as Death Metal, Speed Metal… At those times, you know…now if you ask someone to hear some Death Metal you know, you’re not gonna hear your old (laughs), you know because the names have changed , the styles have changed but that’s cool. But I guess you know?! I guess it’s what happened… something kind of like that happened with the… after Chuck did "Scream Bloody Gore" you know? I heard that he was back in town, and I had left MASSACRE, and caught him up, showed up at his house and he was like "Uhh?!"… he didn’t know what to say so… cause I didn’t call him, I just showed up, and he was just like "What?!" and I’m like "I heard you were back in town, man"… I said "You don’t look ready to talk right now, so if you want to give me a call I got some stuff to run by you", so I actually put that band back together as well, so that’s cool, and we learned "Scream Bloody Gore" and we went and toured "Scream…" with Chuck, and it was a lot of fun! So, yeah I guess I did, you know… I ran into Chuck and told him I had a drummer, and like Chuck was listening to… like I said, a lot of, he had some heavy records but he was more into the melodic kind of, you know, guitar playing type stuff… KING DIAMOND type stuff, MERCYFUL FATE… but there’s nothing wrong with that, you know what I mean? So… nothing wrong with that at all. But I hadn’t really thought about that question because, I guess I did ask Kam to uh… yeah, come and play drums."
Who came up with the bandname at the time by late ’83, which was obviously influenced by VENOM’s guitar player, Mantas?
"Very much so! As far as I remember it was either Kam or Chuck came up with that, I don’t think it was myself… I really don’t remember. I know Chuck came up with the DEATH name but as far as the MANTAS thing I’m not really sure who did. It was definitely taken from the guitar player from VENOM."
Did the three of you guys decide right away to play heavier / faster music?
"Yeah pretty much…When we first started playing you couldn’t… there was nowhere to play here in Florida as far as that style of music at all and… we played some covers when we first started jamming together you know?! METALLICA covers…we actually played the SAVATAGE cover and actually I think we even did it ‘Live Wire’ from MÖTLEY CRÜE" (talk about a revelation! – Laurent). I believe so…(laughs)…at a pizza place, yeah because we couldn’t get a gig anywhere else pretty much at that time. When we started going full original, is when we got offered our first gig because we used to go out to Ruby’s Pub in Tampa a whole bunch, and go and see NASTY SAVAGE and SAVATAGE out there a lot… in the early days, you know, ’83 / ’84 and… well actually that was ’83 because our first gig was ’84 at Ruby’s Pub opening for NASTY SAVAGE, that was like an all original gig and there was probably like 300 or 400 people there but nobody was at the front of the stage because they didn’t know what the hell we were playing (laughs)… that’s cool. We were a three piece, we never had a bass player the whole time so…"
Who had the idea to record very early on, by early ’84, some band rehearsals and spread them around via the tape trading circuit?
"Well, I had this radio which I still have, which I had bought off a friend of mine and it really for what it was, as far as recording and just… we would put a towel over it in the garage… and put it outside of the garage actually and… just started recording that way, that’s it. Started making tapes and me and Chuck would sit there with the double tape deck, and dub tapes all day long, and package them up and mail them off. We were pretty much in that garage seven days a week so…"
Were you all aware of that new movement that was taking place worldwide known as tape trading or was it through friends that it happened? I think about John and Mark from Guillotine ‘zine especially
"There was some friends of the band that had a little fanzine, Guillotine, John Gross and Mark Conrad, they were pretty much the ones that guided, they had a lot to do with that you know, they kind of like grabbed hold of it and kept people up on stuff, and even though it was a real low underground thing, it kind of got around, so… they kind of… they had a lot to do with it too because they were able to put addresses and stuff in there for people to get hold of it so… I would say that they were a huge help in that, so…"
There’s that "Emotional" demo / rehearsal that I did get back then – and nobody else except a Californian guy, Steve Main, had it in the circuit – dated from early ’84 featuring ‘Legion Of Doom’ (3x), ‘Evil Dead’ (2x) and ‘Mantas’ (2x), does that remind you of something, this recording?
"I don’t know… because there was only two demos done and then we did a live recording at Ruby’s Pub that somebody released so that’s the only things that I know that were recorded. So, it’s either something that was done at a place that was called Music City where the drums are really really low and the…no, that’s not the one, because that was ‘Zombie’ and ‘Corpse Grinder’… so, it’s the one before if you’re talking about MANTAS and ‘Legion Of Doom’ is not… damn I really don’t know which one it is, if ‘Legion Of Doom’ is on it three times… I don’t know…I never heard that then so I don’t know if that’s from the jam box, I would say it probably is because we didn’t record anywhere else so it has to be from that radio that I have pictured on there… yeah, that’s weird. I’m clueless about that, I don’t have a copy of that."
But the most surprising thing is that it features a bassist on it, actually the only recording from that era with a bassist, so who was this mysterious guy who joined you to record that rehearsal / demo?
"With a bassist? Oh! It must be that one guy that is pictured with the glasses on… he must have come and jammed with us…was it wrong, was he playing the wrong stuff? Or did it sound right (laughs)? There’s only one bassist if it’s MANTAS, because he is in that one promo picture with us and I can’t even think of his name. Yeah, we took a picture, we’re all in corpse paint except for him. He’s wearing sunglasses and he has curly hair, and he actually played bass. I remember him but that’s weird, and that has to be from that… has to be, so now it’s coming back to me because he did play with us in the garage so we must have recorded with him, but he was only in the band for like two rehearsals. Cause that’s the only other person if that’s ’84 you’re talking MANTAS, and those songs… it has to be… because that’s the only other person that was involved in that, and like I said, it was like two times that he came to Chuck’s house. And then Chuck was like "Hmm". That has to be it. I can’t think of his name though. If you can get a hold of Kam or whatever, he might know the guy’s name but… I don’t know. That’s the phantom… phantom bass player (laughs)… I forgot about him!" (well, Kam got asked about this of course and he replied it was not this guy so it’s hard to know more about this mystery – Laurent)
Who was responsible right from the start for the songwriting?
"Me and Chuck, right off the bat. We were always writing every day, that’s all we did. We would get together in his room and sit there and play and write stuff and, you know what I mean… then I would go get Kam, you know, I would always bring Kam with me, so he always wrote with me."
So, you split it between you and Chuck right away
"Right away, yeah. When we were evolving into like writing originals because like I said we started playing some stuff off from "Kill ‘Em All", from the first SAVATAGE record, some SLAYER that we sort of incorporated… that’s pretty much it, we didn’t really steal anything… from anybody, we were just influenced. Because we knew what we wanted to do, you know what I mean, because Kam was more into the Punk thing but he was still also into VENOM, HELLHAMMER and all that stuff also, so… and he played drums more like a Punk Rock and a Hardcore guy, but for him to be able to do it and sing a little bit, it was cool you know?! He was in time, it wasn’t perfect but it worked. It was fun! Like I said, seven days a week man! That’s it, all three of us dropped out, me and Kam dropped out the same day and Chuck dropped out the following week, that’s all we did. We all had girlfriends, and that’s all we did. We didn’t drink, we didn’t party, we didn’t smoke, nothing. Me and Kam smoked cigarettes, Chuck didn’t. Yeah we definitely… right from the start, it was a combo, the two of us."
How about the vocals which were split between Kam and Chuck, although Kam apparently sung the majority of the material during those early (MANTAS) days, correct?
"It was really simple. I mean, either Chuck had some lyrics or Kam had some lyrics and… if Chuck presented music without lyrics and Kam had something, he would kind of say "Hey, I got something, let’s see if it works", you know?! So, there was never really any arguing with music or lyrics then, between the two of them lyrically or between me and Chuck musically. Then Chuck would have a couple of tunes with music and lyrics and he would present those, you know, so… we were just a garage band man! That’s it. We weren’t looking to play, we played out a couple of times but people just didn’t understand it at all. They were clueless, they were like "What?!", so… but right off the bat it was… it was smooth, you know what I mean, so they pretty much collaborated right off the top too, like I said Kam was singing most of the stuff, he was singing a good 70 / 80% of the songs. Definitely, back then. Cause Chuck was singing like two or three and we had like 12, you know, so Kam was singing a good… between eight and ten songs."
Then, by mid ’84, you had that legendary five song "Death By Metal" first real demo released, captured apparently on your Panasonic tape recorder… What do you recall from that first effort which was instantly loved and praised by underground Metallers at the time?
"Basically we just had the songs rehearsed… played them as best as we could and whatever, then when we found out about the tape trading thing, we were like "Hey!". And Chuck was really good at that, you know what I mean?! And we both got into that, it was… we did really good. Kept up on it, and sent people their stuff and… but it was basically an average garage day rehearsal and we pushed ‘record’, we probably did it more than once you know? And found the best recordings and copied them onto tape then mass produced it (laughs). It’s not rocket science, that’s for sure! It was a lot of fun man, it was! I pass by that street every time I go to the studio to go to practice or go to record for this project, every day. It amazes me, I drive by there and go "Goddamn, man (laughs), look what I’m playing now and I drive right by here ever day". It’s cool, though. And then I drive by the house every once in a while, and…it’s just memories, man, you know?"
Do you recall what is EXACTLY the original track listing on it considering many different versions have flooded the underground over the years?
"I have the picture of the cassette, it shows the insert and it has me and Chuck’s handwriting, he wrote out all of the song titles, so it’s all hand-written, it has a black and white picture of the three of us on the front and we’re wearing corpse paint (laughs). But those song titles are on there, so let me just check… The track listing is ‘Legion Of Doom’, ‘Mantas’, ‘Evil Dead’, ‘Death By Metal’ and it looks like there’s a bonus track I guess with some stars on it, I think that’s the one that Chuck sang on as it’s the only one that he sang on here, which is ‘Power Of Darkness’. So, there’s five on that. Yeah, cause Kam sang ‘Evil Dead’ back in the day, and he sang ‘Death By Metal’, and he sang ‘Legion Of Doom’, and he sang ‘Mantas’…yeah. So there’s five on that."
How long did it take you until you found out that this recording was getting praised by hardcore Metallers around the world? What was your reaction to this as I guess it was certainly not completely expected?
"I was clueless, I didn’t even know for the longest time. And I was let go from the band, you know what I mean, because of whatever reasons, before I even had a clue of what was going on. All I knew was, we were making tapes, sending them out and we were in some fanzines and… I was fired (laughs)."
So, to be exact, if you recall, how many gigs did MANTAS play exactly in the Orlando / Brandon area? There’s the September 1st 1984 show that got recorded, but did you guys play more than this?
"As MANTAS, I don’t think so. I think we had already finished that name… we had already split up for like those two weeks and then we got back together again underneath the DEATH name, I think that was the only show and that was at a rented hall that another band, a local band called TEMPTER, had rented, and they were more like a Power Metal kind of band and they did some covers also but… that was pretty much the first time we were playing any kind of like… I don’t even remember if there was a stage or not. At that time when we were playing there was probably about 60 people there but… everybody was way way way in the back. Yeah, it was like I said, it wasn’t our gig and nobody knew who we were, just like when we played with NASTY SAVAGE, nobody knew who we were… nobody. Clueless. That’s when MORBID ANGEL still hadn’t a demo out, and Mike Browing was still singing and playing drums and we were coming out to the same shows, we saw each other all the time."
Was it after that gig that the band broke up briefly, as it seems you guys broke up for like two or three weeks or so? What happened exactly?
"I don’t know! We played that show and then went to another show that we didn’t play and then John and Mark came up and they fired me. John fired me, so… I was like "Okay" … and that was it. So, I really don’t know! That’s when I heard about these two guys that were moving down, a guitar player and a bass player, Chuck had a bass player but he had a guitar player buddy. That was Scott Carlson and the other guy (Matt Olivo – Laurent)."
Yeah, that split happened around the Spring of ’85 when you got replaced by those two guys, I’m talking about the first time back in September 1984
"Oh, the first split was just like… it was a really really short split, like you said two or three weeks. I have no idea what that cause was, no idea. And then we were back together again. And Chuck had changed the name… you’re right, we stayed together for another year or so and then the Scott thing happened."
But the story says that Chuck wanted to start a new band after the split, but being unable to find the right musicians to play this extreme form of music, he ended up rejoining forces with you and Kam to form DEATH by October ’84, so is that correct?
"Correct. I think so, as far as I remember. I mean I really don’t remember, I never knew of him trying to find other people, but I knew he knew a lot of musicians. But everybody was… were different type of players you know?! People that would play like VAN HALEN and they… were great musicians, you know, but it’s… you have to know what you’re doing to play anything, you know, you can’t just jump into something just because you’re a really good guitar player and expect to play something because he tried out a lot of guys you know, that were really really good guitar players, shredders and all kind of stuff and they just couldn’t play that style in rhythm in general, you know, cause you have to start with the rhythm before you put in a solo."
I understand the "Death By Metal" tape got re-released when the band re-started as DEATH with ‘Zombie’ replacing ‘Mantas’ on that new recording, is that correct?
"Vaguely… but I don’t remember re-releasing "Death By Metal" again. If somebody did maybe, I don’t remember. Maybe it was done when I wasn’t around but as far as the "Death…" tape being re-released under the DEATH name… does that really exist? I don’t think so… I think it was the "Death…" demo which was the MANTAS demo and then the "Reign Of Terror" demo which was the second demo… yeah, I don’t remember ‘Mantas’ being replaced by that." (It has been confirmed since that interview took place by MANTAS / DEATH’s one and only master, Borivoj Krgin that two versions of that recording exist, a four track version whose ‘master’ had been lost early on, so they recorded a new version quickly after with five tracks – Laurent)
So, with the new bandname, DEATH, you’ve released the six song tape known as "Reign Of Terror" during October 1984 which still remains to this day as one of the rawest / extreme demo tapes ever done from that era in terms of speed, intensity but also riffing-wise, because the material was again extremely memorable… So, what do you recall from that recording, which was done in a studio apparently?
"Yeah, it wasn’t a real studio, but it was kind of like a big room at a music store and actually things were miked up but it’s… like I’ve said before, the recording’s very odd, but it was not really a studio either, it was like I said, just a big room at the back of a music store, the name of the place was Music City, and we recorded it with a guy named Craig Huber, a good friend of mine that I’d known since I was like 14, and… I just remember the three of us recorded everything live, it was like a stage in the back, and we set everything up and miked everything up and played everything live and he just… you know, recorded what we played, and it was just weird how the drums came out on that, but… it was just a friend doing us a favour. I think that’s the demo with the drums really really low and the only time you can hear the drums is when he rolls the toms."
I understand you guys didn’t have enough money to complete the studio sessions, so the tape was left as a rough mix, is that correct?
"Hmm… no, because we weren’t charged any money so… and there was never really no mixing done because it was only… like I said, it really wasn’t like a bunch… it wasn’t multi-track, you know?! It was kind of like just a couple of mikes up there and it was going to just like one track or two tracks, it wasn’t like a multi track thing so there was really no way to mix it so basically what we got is what we got because it was done for free, there was no money involved so I don’t believe that… us running out of money… no. From what I remember, that was a freebie and there was no way to do any mixing. What we recorded is what came out and we just took it at that, and we thanked Craig and that was it."
But how come the drums are so blurry on that recording?
"I don’t understand why they came out that way, I have no clue so I think that the guy was just improving you know?! I don’t know if he had, if this was new stuff, new technology for 1984 or… I really don’t know! I just remember that we just jammed, it’s like the three of us just got up there and played the songs and we had a couple of things like the amps miked… I think he had the drums miked but it was just really weird how there was no kick drum, no snare and no cymbals, everything is really really… and all of a sudden the toms are coming out of nowhere you know?! I just remember on that demo, haven’t listened to it in a while but… it was fun! Once again it was just like recording the "Death By Metal" demo except that we weren’t in a garage, you know, we were just in a bigger room and a friend of ours at the time just helped us out with a cheap quick recording."
Again, how was the songwriting split for that bunch of new songs on that demo? Was it like equal? It seems singing-wise it was split
"Yeah, once again it was pretty equal. Me and Chuck always had riffs that would work together, he would have two and then I would have one or I would have two and he’d have one or I’d have a whole song or he had a whole song, you know we really never had a problem or issues with that… where I got to write a song or he wrote too much or blah blah, it was always a pretty shared thing you know?!"
Were you aware of POSSESSED’s existence (who had a demo recorded as well) at this point (fall ’84) and did that somehow influence the band to a certain extent?
"Hmm… I have to say that I’ve heard it after, we had already been doing what we were doing as far as the demo goes. I used to talk to Mike Torrao, the original guitar player from POSSESSED all the time! But as far as influenced by POSSESSED for any kind of songwriting, I would say no. It’s just that I hadn’t heard it yet you know, and when "Seven Churches" came out, I had just heard the demo maybe two or three months before that. I knew they had a demo out, but I really didn’t… still to this day, I don’t ever listen to like the style of music… whatever style of music I’m writing, I don’t listen to that style of music, cause I don’t wanna impose on anybody else’s stuff, if something happens by accident then it’s by accident you know?! But if you listen to too much sometimes you tend to have something caught in your head, or when you’re writing so… anyway. I would say no on the influence as far as like early on, no, not at all."
During all that time, from the MANTAS "Death…" days till the "Infernal Death" demo days a couple months later, had you been after a bassist or were you simply thinking that two guitars were covering the lack of a bass playing well enough (which certainly did in my opinion)?
"You know what? I never really even thought about that too much, I never was in a real hurry to find a bass player or anything like that… because you have to find the right person that’s gonna be into that style of stuff… it just wasn’t happening, I mean even when Chuck moved and did the "Scream…" record you know, he didn’t find the bass player, he played it himself and then he came back down here you know, and coincidentally I happened to have Bill and Terry, MASSACRE had just split up you know, we wanted to go to play with OVERKILL and MEGADETH and got screwed over on playing the gig and that same night I found out that Chuck was gonna be back in town so… that’s really odd how things worked out so… but hey, everything happens for a reason man (laughs)."
By the way, do you recall how the early Florida scene was in general? I mean there was SAVATAGE, NASTY SAVAGE, SIREN and a couple of other bands around, but not much… HELLWITCH was starting in Pat Ranieri’s bedroom in the south…
"The biggest scene was in Tampa, but Orlando was clueless. There was nothing going on here. That’s the only place we can go and play, we couldn’t get a gig here you know, like I said back then all they were booking was cover bands like… there was a booking agency called Omni Talent that just strictly booked cover bands in every bar all over Florida, all over Florida, cover bands only, and that’s when the whole Glam thing was… you know the Glam Rock scene was going, so everybody was playing covers and that was the hot thing, no matter if you were the real band or not, I guess they wanted to see it so it was… real real hard to get a gig other than Tampa you know?! So when NASTY SAVAGE hooked us up that was like the only gig that we really played, we never played with them again… then the project split up, Chuck went to Frisco and that’s went it all pretty much came out together again when he came back and we learnt the "Scream…" record and went on tour with that. Sorry I got off of the subject but… NASTY SAVAGE… Very cool, that’s a great band, spent a lot of time with the guys one on one at their houses when I was younger and moved to Tampa myself for a year and a half because MASSACRE was out there… yeah, I got to spend a lot of time with those guys you know?! The SAVATAGE guys too, got to meet a lot of those oldschoolers, you know what I mean, the first SAVATAGE record is great, I mean, I love it. The "Wage Of Mayhem" demo, you know the NASTY SAVAGE demo, their first release and they’ve gone to play the World War III out in Canada with DESTRUCTION, VOIVOD, and all that like, and I got to see them go through all that stuff, it was cool you know?! I wish I could have seen that festival… I was spending time with those guys so I was like living there, so they’re going out and I was like ‘Yeah!’, that was cool to see them going out and do that, it would have been cool to play that ourselves but we weren’t ready you know? And we didn’t have a bass player yet… so what can you do? But I’m a huge NASTY SAVAGE fan, I play their music every Saturday night so…"
How did the bloody concept, that you guys had opted for, enter the picture? That you appeared with during photo sessions (and live as well too it seems) with fake blood on you – at least you and maybe Kam…
"You know what? I don’t know! We just went ahead and did that… Chuck’s sister took all the pictures and it was just corn syrup and red dye, you know? (laughs) SLAYER influence maybe? You know, without the girl! Remember that picture?! Live… no, never. We’ll leave that to Gene Simmons… no more, the pictures were good enough. I got some really old pictures somewhere man, I’ve got some Polaroids when Chuck had braces, man, and Mark (Conrad) and John (Gross) from Guillotine magazine are in some of those pictures, I need to find those things, they exist somewhere. Chuck’s sister took em, we were spitting ketchup then (laughs). That was before the corn syrup and the red dye, we were doing ketchup. Cheez-whiz let me tell you."
So, do you recall how many gigs as DEATH you played from that point? I always counted two, November 9th, 1984 and December 30th, 1984 both at Ruby’s Pub in Brandon? Is that correct? But, recently I got my hands on a show from February ’85, apparently DEATH was opening for some bands
"BATTALION OF SAINTS? Yeah that show’s the only one I can think of and yes they did do a show but I was already out of the band and I think they did it as a two piece. Yeah BATTALION OF SAINTS, the Punk Rock band, I was already out… that’s when Mark Conrad fired me (laughs). But yeah, that show does exist and I believe Chuck and Kam did that themselves, just guitar and drums. I believe so. There you go, I was fired, I have no idea. Other than like a couple… we did a show at a place called Showbiz Pizza which was like a teen night, that was in ’84 and then we did another show at this other place on top of a salad bar, so we probably did like four or five because there’s another one where we did one at this other place and Chuck was singing and playing guitar thru his guitar cabinet so there was like shows that really weren’t like ‘show’ shows if you know what I mean, so… we were just doing them ourselves, there was no other bands playing so there was like a couple of those little shows here and there that really weren’t shows that we played you know, people didn’t know who we were and there was maybe ten people there but they weren’t in a club or bar, they were in like a restaurant you know (laughs)?! It was hard! It was hard to get a show, any kind of gig, anything… we definitely weren’t getting paid so… and in California at that time you had to pay to play so… There’s a lot of spoiled people now, I mean now you can play the Hard Rock Live and The House Of Blues and be a local band you know so that’s how easy it is in Florida, you can play The House Of Blues every month and Hard Rock Live every month no matter what kind of music you play. This is kind of.. people are kind of spoiled. It’s a lot easier now but you have to be decent you know?! Anyway…"
Let’s talk more specifically about the December 30, 1984 Ruby’s show as you were supporting the local kings of underground Metal, the Power Metal act, NASTY SAVAGE… How did that show go as it was captured on tape and sold by the Guillotine guys as an official live tape?
"Oh it was a good show, it’s just nobody… people didn’t understand (laughs), so there was nobody except for like Mark and John and a couple of friends from Orlando you know, doing any kind of pit or skanking, you know, but those people there, they were just aaalll the waaayyy in the back. And we just did our 30 minutes or whatever, 45 minutes, whatever we played, we got done and SAVAGE came on and then it was like ‘Arrgghhh’ (laughs). But it was cool you know?! First time we had played on a stage ever, it was fun, I had a good time. I can remember it like it’s yesterday. Yeah it’s weird, man (laughs)…any time I drop by that street, I remember stuff, it’s cool… it’s all new to me again, 17 years now I’m being reminded of stuff… because I really had no plan on doing any kind Speed or Death Metal again, this is completely a coincidence so just rolling with it because I’ve definitely been embraced."
How had John and Mark become somewhat DEATH’s managers at the time?
"Hmm… they might have through Chuck, I really don’t know anything about that, I don’t know if it was after I was let go or… I really don’t recall… I really don’t know that. They might have, for all I know, they might have been doing some kind of promotional kind of stuff but it wasn’t anything huge but I guess so, they might have… because they hung out with Chuck a lot more you know than I hung out with them so…"
How supportive were your respective parents at the time, as I believe you guys rehearsed in Chuck’s garage?
"Oh, the support was great! You know, like I said, we never like talked about creating any kind of anything or getting a record deal, anything like that and… well, we were in Chuck’s house, so his mother was very supportive and his sister was very supportive of it, his sister is very supportive too in perspective of that time back in the early days and… I don’t think his father cared for it too much because it was kind of disrupting their home all week so… I’m just being honest from what I’ve experienced back then because I was there every day so… but my parents had always supported me and as far as Chuck’s parents, I mean obviously his dad let it happen you know, he might not have been happy with it but he allowed it to happen you know…and I knew he was proud of him…but they’re good people man, I was there all the time, I used to eat dinner around the table with their family so…I dunno, they were friends, just cool stuff. But as far as like family support, it was good. I don’t know anything about Kam’s side of that, I mean I know his mom and I really don’t know so much about that so…"
Were they aware of the fact that despite you had no record deal, there was more and more people over the world who liked your material?
"No, they had no idea. That’s like when we went on our first tour and they saw pretty much where I was going and… I was just learning myself and I knew the scene was a lot more accepted in Europe in general than it was in the States but… and I think it still is nowadays, the States might have grasped it a little bit more nowadays but I am really clueless, you know?! I’ve been out of the scene for 17 years so I don’t have a clue, I don’t know what’s accepted, what’s not accepted and I’m just writing what I think sounds cool, sounds cool you know so we have a good writing relationship, I might get out of the subject but it’s kind of like… I guess it’s kind of a crapshoot but the stuff is sounding cool, because nobody’s…. I don’t know man… we gotta see. (laughs) I’m looking forward to it, I think we lots of fun with some really cool people you know…"
Were you taking guitar lessons while continuing with DEATH? I ask this because the lead sections were certainly the low point although it was largely covered by the extra intensity delivered by the rhythm parts?
"Hmm, I never really thought about taking guitar lessons because I really… I mean I could play solos in different styles of music. In Death and Speed Metal, that’s not what I feel… because I’m not a shredder, I’m more of a Blues kind of player but… no I never got into that because I really wasn’t trying to be any kind of shredder kind of guy, never really wanted to do that, maybe I’m lazy – I guess, but I feel like the rhythm is number one you know? Because that’s gonna be a hook, I don’t feel that a solo sell the song you know?! Putting out a record full of solos maybe, I don’t know. But no, I never… maybe that was my downfall but that was my destiny too I guess you know, so no I never really thought about guitar lessons, I had people like write stuff down for me and show me some exercises but pretty much I just go with the flow man! So, I guess it’s my own downfall, being a little lazy as a guitar player, I mean I don’t play everyday but no, I never thought about taking guitar lessons…"
How about your guitars?
"I had a Gibson Explorer first… an Ibanez Iceman, then I went to B.C. Rich and got a Mockingbird and played that most of the time. Then I moved on when I got into DEATH, again when Chuck had a record deal and got the B.C. Rich endorsement, then I was playing Iron Bird so…"
So, you guys went on to write new stuff by early 1985, most of it could be heard on the monstrous February 1985 90 minutes rehearsal tape which not only showcased the all time classics ‘Curse Of The Priest’ and ‘Archangel’, but also ‘Seizure’, a new one, which was never finished and that features an incredible harmony part in the middle of the song… How come this tune never got correctly captured?
"’Seizure’? Well I was already fired. When ‘Seizure’ was written I was already gone. Kam and Chuck wrote that together and then I believe that’s when Scott came down I think… But when judging from what you say about this rehearsal tape, I might been there for that. Why it was never properly recorded? I don’t know! After they let me go he must have scrapped it when he did the "Mutilation" demo."
So, on March 9th, 1985 you guys recorded that three song demo known as "Infernal Death", probably the most deathly demo of the whole DEATH era and one of the strongest demos ever, featuring ‘Baptized In Blood’, ‘Archangel’ and the title track… So, usual question, was it captured in a studio or was it done in your rehearsal space?
"Yes, that was recorded on the radio also, on the jam box."
How did the recording go?
"Hmm… most of our recordings back then were like I said, were pretty much done just… record on the jam box and play the song and keeping the best version. Everytime the same thing, we never really changed the routine on that you know, we were moving the box around the room, then right outside the garage because the power and the sound coming to the door was just enough for it to pick it up, where you hear everything, where it wasn’t like overdriving the little microphone condensers because the radio, if you did that up close of course it would be too garbled up so other than moving around the room the whole bunch and playing the songs good enough you know, as far as that’s pretty much how we did it, keep the best performance."
What was the exact purpose of those demos, cause I doubt you guys wanted to shop them around to labels, considering the crude sound… Was it mainly done to extend your underground fanbase?
"I would say yes on expanding the fan base and for the tape trading thing but never to send to a record label. No, I mean… I don’t even think we have even… I don’t remember us ever talking about that kind of stuff because it was so hard to play live and let alone we didn’t have a full band… and we never really talked about record labels, no we just went to our rehearsals and… I guess maybe it was a little stagnant you know? Maybe we were just not moving forward enough… I really don’t know what happened so…We would never do that with a demo like that plus like I said we were pretty young and really weren’t thinking about that at that time – at least I wasn’t. Chuck never brought it up."
I understand most of the writing of that tape was done by Chuck, does that mean that he somehow wanted to get more in control of the band or was it something that happened naturally?
"That was just naturally. He probably just played, played a lot more than me and writing more music than me you know, so that’s how it worked out. I’ve never complained about that, like I said it was never like a competition on who’s gonna write what, I’m gonna write this and I’m gonna write that… I pretty much went along with whatever happened you know, he never had a problem with me bringing songs to the table saying that they weren’t any good or anything like that so there was never no issues so… it was a team effort you know, somebody had five songs and the other person only had two songs that’s the way it worked out. Whatever, some of the songs didn’t work out you know?! Chuck would have songs we wouldn’t use and I have songs that we wouldn’t use, we would take pieces and parts and collaborate ideas together and make one song out of some songs, pieces that we had you know?! So, it was really really a smooth relationship at that time you know, and even further on."
How do you view this last demo, featuring you on board?
"It was part of my history of… getting into something that I didn’t even know that I would be getting involved in, that people were going to look at it the way they looked at it, that wasn’t you know? I still… I wouldn’t say finding amusing, it’s kind of hard to understand and comprehend in a prospect of I take myself out of whatever I’m playing and I’m trying to view it as a fan you know, or something I would enjoy listening to it you know, and that kind of helps with like my writing. But as far as that demo goes… I think it’s great that people feel the way they feel about because like I said I wasn’t expecting people to really feel that much the way the demo was recorded on a jam box in a garage you know?! It’s flattering but I really… it’s kind of hard to comprehend. But it’s very much respected."
Is it correct that you left the band shortly after recording "Infernal Death", which means you weren’t part of the one song demo, "Rigor Mortis" apparently captured in May 1985?
"No, I wasn’t involved in that."
How was the split? I mean was it like you ended up splitting in bad terms or did you remain somehow friends and stayed in touch afterwards?
"Hmm, I’ve stayed in touch with Kam because he was… the band didn’t stay together much longer, after I was let go, then they had Scott or whatever come down and that didn’t work out and then Kam left, then I believe Chuck moved to Frisco and did the "Mutilation" demo out there so I kept the contact, me and Kam spoke , I lost contact with Chuck and that wasn’t matter the guy you know? He had a plan so he moved to Frisco and… did his demo and got the deal with Combat Records and of course Chris Reifert did the "Scream Bloody Gore" record."
So, what were your best times and worst times during that MANTAS / DEATH mark I era?
"Hmm… there wasn’t any bad times, you know? I mean being fired, that’s not really… there was nothing really going on, we were playing in a garage! With my first girlfriend you know, so going with it. But I wouldn’t say there was any bad times because we were all friends and we were spending a lot of time together, just playing, not only, going to shows, on a week day we’re going out to see NASTY SAVAGE play, we’re going out to see SAVATAGE playing, we come home and we go to school the next day you know, so… that’s real good times man, I really have no bad memories, there was no fighting, there was no… never you know?! Not even like any real bad arguments let alone like physical so it was… we were all friends doing something, that was it… Chuck just had a different view and went with it, came back and somehow our paths crossed again and MASSACRE is breaking up… you know the story, and back together, learnt the "Scream Bloody Gore" record and Bill and Terry were frigging ecstatic, they were happy as pigs in shit. Terry was only playing bass for a month, he got to join a band who go on tour so… it was cool! It was just right place, right time and was meant to happen. That’s it, bottom line."
Don’t you regret that the material had never been properly recorded, considering the fact that it never aged – at least to people who heard it originally?
"No, not really. What can you do about it, it wasn’t meant to come out, you know and I don’t wanna rehash it because I don’t even remember how to play it, I’m sure I can learn it but I just… it’s kind of like going backwards. But no, there’s no regrets at all, it just wasn’t meant to happen. That’s all I can say you know? The way it’s recorded is the way it’s recorded, anything better (laughs)."
When that feature with Rick was done, I thought it would be real cool to have the Guillotine guys involved, so I put my detective shoes on and managed to find John Gross… So, here’s what he had to say about those early MANTAS / DEATH days…
"The bass player that was in MANTAS for a short while was named Dave Tett. He is the one with glasses in the picture. I actually took that picture near where I was living at that time. Now as it has been many years with many drinks, drugs, blows to the head, etc I could be remembering it wrong, but I could swear that he was recorded. I’m pretty sure he was older than them and was found through a flyer in a record store. I can’t remember if he quit or got kicked out. Actually before he joined I was the first MANTAS bass player and Mark (Conrad) was supposed to sing. I rehearsed once or twice, but had and still have zero ability to play anything. I remember Chuck and Rick telling me to strum an open E string as fast as possible. It was awful. Mark never sang a word in practice. We both decided to quit and devote ourselves to the zine instead. That was probably for the best but sometimes I think what would have happened if I had stayed and at least learned how to play. Oh well c’est la vie.
The reason why MANTAS broke up in the first place to be reborn as DEATH with the same guys… Um, I believe Chuck split with those guys just due to the usual mix of personality conflict and musical differences. As you no doubt know Chuck was a very difficult person to work with and he and Kam never got along all that well. Chuck probably just got into a minor argument with them over one thing or another and split up the band. I think that lasted only a couple of weeks.
As far as why we did the firing of Rick versus the two band members, I think it was just that it was seen as something managers should do. I do remember that Rick was hurt, but was good natured about it. I don’t recall why they wanted him out of the band, although I’m sure it was more Chuck then Kam’s idea. Obviously Kam and Rick had been friends first, I believe they went to a different school than Chuck did…. I could be wrong but I think Chuck felt that Rick wasn’t as committed to the band as he was and I think that stylistically at the time Rick was seen by Chuck and us as less of a Death Metal musician. He was a better player than Chuck but also less committed to the underground. Chuck was the one who wrote to all the other bands and answered the mail and stuff. Rick and Kam were less involved in the marketing aspect of the band. Which of course is often the way as can be seen with Rat Skates and OVERKILL and Nasty Ronnie and NASTY SAVAGE.
As far as Scott (Carlson) joining DEATH, the story goes like this. Some guy from Flint, Michigan, who’s name I can’t remember, got in touch with us (Mark and I were ‘managing’ DEATH at the time) because we had been writing to Matt (Olivo) and Scott while they were doing GENOCIDE. He sent a tape and letter / photo, the whole auditioning for a band thing. Chuck and Kam decide to have him join (honestly I don’t remember Kam being too involved with the decision making at that point) and he was all set to come down. Now for some reason, suddenly they were going to have Matt Olivo come and replace Rick who Mark and I had fired maybe a few months before (one of the only managery things we ever did). So, suddenly everyone was like, well if Matt’s moving to Florida, Scott should just come too and play bass. So, the other poor guy lost out on his opportunity. The worst part was we didn’t tell him and this happened right as he was about to leave. We left it to Scott to break the news. God we were such cowards! The guy was super pissed off and had every right to be. The rest of the story is well known. Scott and Matt drove straight down like seriously the next day or so. They stayed at various times at Chuck, Mark and my house for a few months and then headed home. I do seriously believe that those few months were the most fun I’ve ever had. So much crazy shit happened, like Scott getting his chin bashed open while were thrashing at the beach. He had to get stitches but he didn’t have any money so he had to call his parents in Flint to pay or maybe get some insurance information. In any event it dampened the festivities. Scott also crashed his car into mine as we were leaving a party and we got it on tape. We had been driving around all day taping conversations and other ambient noises and so the tape was rolling as he rear ended me at a stop sign. The cops who had just come to break up the party were on us instantly. It was hilarious. God I wish I still had that tape! Actually I come to think of it… it was a tape that some kids doing a zine had sent to interview DEATH.
I also remember them trying out a female Punk Rock drummer. It was at this studio my boss had helped build, so we got to hang at in there one night. I don’t remember her being very good. It was way at the end of the Flint boys tenure. I think it was already decided that the whole thing wasn’t working out.
Fuck, other than that the most I can really think of are partying stories or kind of mean gossipy shit about Chuck, Kam and Rick. Oh and I know you have an encyclopedic knowledge of Metal, but in case you didn’t know here are some things that the record gets wrong about the Florida Metal scene:
– Ruby’s Pub is not in Brandon, Florida, it is in Tampa.
– Kam did indeed design the DEATH logo, even though Chuck gets credit for it.
– Chuck came up with the name DEATH while MANTAS was broken up. I’ve read where Kam said that they got it standing in line to see ‘Evil Dead’. That’s bullshit. Chuck came up with that beauty all by himself. Honestly I hated that name but it carried the boy far.
– Contrary to popular legend Chuck was not into Hardcore. He had been into Punk Rock before he got into Metal but once immersed in the Metal scene he didn’t want to listen to any other kind of music. Mark and I dragged him to a few shows but he wasn’t too excited by the stuff."