So Mike, let us start this chat with your musical past. How did you get in touch with Metal? How old were you at that time?
"When I was a young kid about 14 there was a record store that opened by my house called "Asylum" and the guy there was always getting in cool Metal stuff from Europe, like IRON MAIDEN and ANGEL WITCH, once I heard ANGELWITCH I was hooked!"
What kind of Metal styles did you prefer? I mean were you into the melodic, commercial bands or rather into the more brutal, aggressive ones?
"Well, even before that I liked BLACK SABBATH, LED ZEPPELIN and PINK FLOYD, but once I heard the European style Metal like ANGEL WITCH and MERCYFUL FATE that was when I really started getting interested in playing Metal. Back then there really wasn’t anything like Death Metal, so you were pretty limited in what you had to listen to. There wasn’t any internet either, I am an ancient one!"
What were your influences to become a Metal musician?
"Mainly BLACK SABBATH, SLAYER, ANGEL WITCH, MERCYFUL FATE, CELTIC FROST and stuff like that."
How did your choice fall on the drums? Do you play any other instruments as well? Were you self-taught or did you take some lessons?
"I took drums in school when I was in 7th grade (about 13) and continued to play in school almost until I graduated, but once I bought a drumset I was more interested in playing in a band more than a school band, so I concentrated more on that! I really like to mess around with keyboards a lot, but I am not classically trained at all. I am more into making strange sounds with them and I use a Theremin too. But I never really was able to learn guitar, if I had more time though I would like to learn a bit of that too!"
Did your parents always support your career?
"Yes. My mom even sang in a small local Rockband when I was about 10 years old! So I have always been around music with my mom, she was always playing albums! I can still remember being very young, probably about 5 or 6 and seeing that first BLACK SABBATH album cover with the green witch on the front, it was very scary looking back then, but for some reason I was very attracted to it as well, so I would say maybe even that cover itself had something to do with warping my mind into what I have become today!!!!!!"
Did you play in many bands before you joined MORBID ANGEL?
"Not at all, I had jammed with people here and there, but Trey and I both really started trying to have a real band back in 1982."
MORBID ANGEL was formed in 1983, by yourself, Trey Azagthoth and Dallas Ward. How did you get to know each other? Did you have the same interests, the same musical taste etc.?
"I knew Trey from High School and he knew Dallas, I think from his old neighbourhood, but I am not sure when they actually met. But yeah Trey and I were like the only two kids in that school that were into the occult and it just happened that he played guitar and I drums."
The name of the band was ICE, then you renamed it HERETIC until you ended up with MORBID ANGEL… Who came up with MORBID ANGEL? Were you dissatisfied with the previous names?
"ICE didn’t last long and Dallas wasn’t in it at first, but Trey really wasn’t happy with the name anymore so he changed it to HERETIC (he came up with ICE as well) and almost right away we found out that there was another HERETIC, so Trey came up with MORBID ANGEL, because someone told him our stuff sounded really morbid!"
In your early days you played covers of ANGEL WITCH, SLAYER and MERCYFUL FATE, which songs of these bands did you play?
"A lot of them actually! By ANGEL WITCH we played ‘Baphomet’ (still one of my most favorite songs ever), ‘Angel Of Death’ and a few others off the first album. We did a few songs off the first two SLAYER albums as well and we did instrumental versions of a lot of old MERCYFUL FATE, too! Too many too list, we played almost everything off "Melissa" and the first EP!"
Didn’t you play any VAN HALEN covers at that time? As far as I know, Trey is / was a great fan of VAN HALEN, right?
"No VAN HALEN! We never played any of that at all."
Do you recall the early MORBID ANGEL rehearsals? How often did you rehearse, how was your rehearsal place etc.?
"We played everywhere and anywhere! We would always try our houses first and we used to go to this park that had a small hill and a neat covered gazeebo that was pretty big and had electricity, so we would carry all our stuff up that hill and just start jamming until someone would finally complain and stop us. We even rented a generator and played on the beach a few times, that drew huge crowds and of course lots of parties!"
Did you take MORBID ANGEL seriously right from the start?
"Once we got Dallas, we really started taking the band seriously!!! Before that the few other people we played with were really not into the occult, but Dallas was too, so once Trey and I found that 3rd person that had the same interests we got really serious."
How was the scene of Tampa at that time? AVATAR (later SAVATAGE), NASTY SAVAGE, MORBID ANGEL, MANTAS were the first bands, is that correct? Was there a healthy club scene? Could you tell us more about this legendary period?
"It was amazing!!! All those bands and more! There was another band called ARGUS that was a Metal band much like SAVATAGE, but they did more cover songs than originals, but it was killer stuff like old MAIDEN and ANGEL WITCH, I used to watch them all the time back then, but their singer quit and they never found anyone that was as near as good of a singer and frontman as he was, so they eventually just fell apart and broke up. But two years ago I saw one of the guitar players and he said that they were going to reform again with the original singer and both guitar players and they needed a drummer, so I joined and we started doing a lot of shows last year, but one of the guitar players and his brother who was playing bass, ended up not having enough time to play in a band, so they both quit and Demain from AFTER DEATH joined on guitar a few months ago and we got another bass player and actually began writing all new stuff, so we are working on that right now, soon we will have some new stuff recorded!!!"
Would you say, that with the foundation of MANTAS and MORBID ANGEL a very new, unknown style started, which was labeled Death Metal? Was your approach different compared to for example SLAYER, RAZOR, DARK ANGEL, METALLICA or EXODUS?
"I definitely think so, I mean MORBID ANGEL didn’t sound like anybody at all, especially back then and MANTAS was really heavy, heavier than most of the bands back then!"
The fact was to play uncommercial, fast and aggressiv music, right?
"For me it was always to be as origainal as possible and as Evil! Speed wasn’t really something we were into back then, it was more about the mystique of the band itself and calling forth The Ancient Ones!"
Although POSSESSED were the first who used the notation "Death Metal" on their classic "Seven Churches" record, would you say that the Florida based bands had an effect on POSSESSED? Were you familiar with them?
"POSSESSED was way heavier than most of the bands out back then, but to tell you the truth, I’m not sure when they actually formed, they were all really young back then, younger than me and I know a lot of heavy stuff had already been realeased by other bands for a while."
Would you say that the great Death Metal boom was around 1985 / 86?
"A lot of bands came into being, such as XECUTIONER (OBITUARY), HELLWITCH, ATHEIST etc. For sure!!! It started around ’85 and pretty much stayed pretty strong until about 1992."
There was two scenes in Florida, in Tampa and in Fort Lauderdale. Why did Florida become the center of Death Metal? Were there differences between the scenes of Tampa and Fort Lauderdale?
"I guess that the Tampa bands were maybe just a bit more extreme and original and there was always a bigger crowd in Tampa, so the support of the people probably helped a lot too."
When did you start writing your own material? Was it a conscious, logical step from your part to write more aggressive and brutal stuff compared to the covers?
"Well, it’s cool to play covers you like, but we always kind of did them our own way anyway, but the idea was to create not to copy!!!"
In 1985 Kenny Bamber joined the band, what about his musical past? Was he a good friend of the band?
"He had been in a few Rock bands and said he could sing like King Diamond and he owned a huge PA and light system, he was older than us at the time and he seemed to know a lot about the music business in general, so there were a lot of reasons why we tried him, but in reality it only lasted a few months, he just didn’t fit in with us."
You recorded a two track demo featuring ‘Demon Seed’ and ‘Welcome To Hell’… Were they the very first MORBID ANGEL songs? As far as I know, it was an instrumental recording, wasn’t it?
"The first professionally recorded stuff was with Kenny on vocals and Dallas did some vocals as well on it, if it was instrumental that you heard than it was probably just some kind of a rehearsal tape. We had tons of jambox recordings back then, I wish I still had a lot of those old recordings, Dallas had most of them, but we always recorded our rehearsals!"
In August 1985 you recorded "The Beginning" demo and the vocal duties were taken over by Dallas Ward and Kenny Bamber… Why did both of them sing?
"Basically the demo contains two songs ‘The Gate / Demon Seed’ and ‘Evil Spells’ plus two instrumental ones. We didn’t really like the stuff Kenny did, so while we were still in the studio Dallas also did versions with him singing, so we could have them in case we didn’t keep Kenny, which of course we didn’t!"
Who wrote the lyrics and the music in the early days? Was a concept behind them? Did you have a kind of image, as far as your music, lyrics, clothes etc.?
"Mostly everything was written by Trey, although Dallas wrote a lot of stuff too and it wasn’t until Dallas left and I started singing that I started writing lyrics too. We all were really into the occult and the Necronomicon as well, so that was our biggest influences!"
How and when did Richard Brunelle get into the picture as frontman and guitarist / vocalist? In which bands did he play earlier? Why did both Dallas and Kenny leave the band?
"We thought it would be a good idea to get two guitar players since Trey liked to play a lot of leads and we saw Richard at a party, he never really played in any bands before, but he was also interested in the occult, so we thought he would be a great choice. Dallas went to jail and Kenny just didn’t fit in with us and what we wanted to do with the band."
Then John Ortega joined the band, so Richard could concentrate on the vocals exclusively… What about John’s musical past?
"John joined because Dallas went to jail! Before that Dallas did most of the vocals and Richard did a few, but he couldn’t play and sing at the same time, so in reality if Dallas hadn’t of went to jail then he would have been MORBID ANGEL’s vocalist and I would have never even tried singing!"
This line-up recorded a live demo in Tampa 1986 featuring ‘Bleed For The Devil’, ‘Chapel Of Ghouls’, ‘Abominations’, ‘Morbid Angel’ and ‘Hellspawn’… Could you tell us more about this tape?
"That wasn’t a demo, it was just a soundboard tape of a show we did that got circulated in the underground. It was here in Tampa at a place called "The Power Company" and we played on the PA that was owned by ARGUS back then, that was in 1984!"
Was Richard the perfect man for the position of the vocalist? Didn’t you think about adding a real singer / growler?
"No he couldn’t sing and play at the same time, that’s why I believe that Dallas would have ended up as the frontman."
Talking about the live gigs of MORBID ANGEL, could you tell us more about them? Any memories about those shows, when you played in the band?
"It was always a very magical event when we played, we always had incense and the proper things to set the mood before we played. I don’t want to go into too much details but we did a lot of ritual type stuff before shows!"
I have a DVD in my collection which titles "Live In Tampa" 1986…
"Could be either "Rocky Point" which was outside or "Sidestreets" which was inside. If it is neither than let me know so I can get a copy!!!"
For a little period you rehearsed with a female singer Evilynn as well, what about this period? Did you also play shows while she was in the band?
"Lynn was Trey’s girlfriend and we never did any shows with her and she only jammed with us a couple of times when we rehearsed, so she was never actually in the band at all. I think it was only two or three practices at the most."
Why did she leave the band?
"She was never really in the band, but her and Trey broke up anyway, they weren’t together for too long."
After Evilynn’s departure you took over the vocals… Were you forced to do the vocals or couldn’t you find real singer? Could you concentrate on both, the vocals and on the drumming at the same time?
"We were tired of trying to find a singer, especially someone that really fit in with what we were into as far as the occult and music. So I said I will try and bought a headset microphone and tried and it worked pretty naturally for me and today I am still singing and playing drums together. In NOCTURNUS I did the same thing and toured all over Europe and the United States and thousands of people have seen that I have no problem playing and singing at the same time."
Dan Beehler of EXCITER was also drummer / vocalist…
"Yeah, I still remeber ‘Black Witch’, what a classic song!"
In 1986 you recorded the four song demo "Scream Fourth Blasphemy" including ‘Hellspawn’, ‘Chapel Of Ghouls’, ‘Angel Of Disease’ and ‘Abominations’… Did you develop compared to your previous recordings?
"Nope we never did a demo, that may have been another rehearsal tape that got out and circulated around, but we never recorded anything after what we did with Kenny until we recorded that full length "Abominataions Of Desolation" LP. Which was in truth MORBID ANGEL’s real first album, not "Altars Of Madness"."
The demo spread the name of the band worldwide, it found its way onto the underground trading market, did you think at that time that the demo would be successful? Did more fans become interested in the band?
"I am not sure what this demo is that you are talking about, maybe you can send me a copy, because it’s probably just a really good sounding rehearsal and I don’t even have a copy of it!"
Did you get letters from fans worldwide who wanted to buy the demo? Do you still remember how many copies were sold from the demo?
"Trey did most of the mail for MORBID ANGEL back then, so you would have to ask him that question."
At that time (1986) labels started to get interested in the band, which labels did show an interest in the band? Did they offer you a serious deal?
"We really hadn’t talked to any labels at all yet, but an old friend of mine from Tampa that had moved to North Carolina had called me and he said he was in a band called BARREN CEMETARY and that the bass player had a record label and he wanted to hear our stuff, so we sent him a rehearsal tape and he sent us a contract, that person who owned the label happened to be David Vincent (Evil D), the contract was really good and he wanted Bill Metoyer (of old SLAYER fame and countless other bands) to engineer the album, so we signed it right away."
Goreque Records, which was owned by David Vincent, was also interested in the band, is that correct?
"Yep, just like I mentioned, but he was really the first to be serious about signing us, so instead of waiting we just went ahead and signed a deal with him."
Do you still remember what kind of releases David did have at that time? Which bands did he sign at that time?
"We were the first to be on Goreque, but he was also very interested in MASSACRE at the time."
He wanted to release the debut album of MASSACRE, but the plan fell through, do you know something about it?
"I am not sure what actually happened with the MASSACRE thing, but I remeber the deal fell through pretty much when David got in MORBID ANGEL."
Was the tape a real demo or would you name it as a pre-production of the "Abominations Of Desolation" record?
"Like I said we never recorded a demo in the studio after Kenny so it had to be a rehearsal tape."
In May 1986 you went to North Carolina to record the debut album "Abominations Of Desolation"… Why didn’t you record it in Florida? Had Morrisound not opened their doors at that time?
"David wanted us to use some expensive fancy studio where he lived, so we drove up there in a rented truck with our stuff and he flew in Bill Metoyer from California and we recorded in some studio that did a lot of country music, the guys that owned the studio didn’t know what to think about our music!"
The material consists of old tracks, but ‘Azagthoth’ and ‘Lord Of All Fevers And Plague’ were brandnew tunes, right? When did you write them?
"Trey and I were always writing a bunch of stuff, one thing that never got recorded was the song ‘Morbid Angel’, I believe it was over 10 minutes long!"
What about the recording sessions? Any memories of it?
"We did all the recording in a few days and then David sent me and Richard and Johnny back to Tampa and kept Trey there by himself for the mixing, little did we know that the whole thing was a plan by David to try to get Trey to quit MORBID ANGEL and join his band! And in the end it worked."
Who played the bassparts on the record? Were they played by John Ortega or was Sterling Von Scarborough already a member of the band?
"They were played by John Ortega, David convinced Trey to fire Johnny and it was David who hooked us up with Sterling. We never knew Sterling before he tried out for MORBID ANGEL. But David didn’t want me or Johnny or David, he wanted Trey for himself, and it wasn’t until Trey and I got in an actual fight when I caught him with my girlfriend and beat his ass really bad and that was the real reason why Trey and Richard left Florida to play with David Vincent."
The album was shelved due to the band disintigrating in a physichal argument over your girlfriend, what happened? Didn’t the bandmembers get along well with your girlfriend?
"As I just said I guess Trey got along too good with my girlfriend, I caught them together at Trey’s moms house where he lived at the time and I beat his ass so bad that was the end of me being in MORBID ANGEL and jamming with Trey! The next day he came and got his equipment from the house that Richard, Sterling and I lived in and that was the last time we ever played together."
The album wasn’t released, because you weren’t satisfied with the sound of it… What was the reason for it? Was the equipment not good enough, didn’t you have enough time to finish the recordings, was the staff non-professional or something?
"That was the real reason because I beat Trey up!!! There were a lot of excuses that Trey made after that, because he didn’t want the people to know what really happened!!! But the only thing we really weren’t happy about was the bass playing, we were pretty happy with the rest of the recording, so it was still supposed to come out, it’s just that Trey and I got in that fight and everything changed from that point on."
When "Abominations…" would have been released in 1986, would it have been the very first Death Metal record?
"I doubt that! There was lots of other stuff out by that time I think!"
"Abominations…" was released by Earache in 1991… What happened? Did you re-record the material? Were you satisfied with the end result?
"David sold the album to Earache just as it was recorded back in 1986. I didn’t even know anything about it until after it was already out and in the stores, so I had no say in anything, they weren’t even going to give me any royalties or any credit for it at all, David and Trey were going to make all of the money off of it, but they ended up paying me some little royalties but they never gave anything to Richard or Johnny at all even though they both played on it and no credit or information as to who even played on it was given either. Even to this day on the official MORBID ANGEL website it says that "Abominations…" was a demo, but it is clear to see it is a full length record and no, Sterling did not play on it either! So even to this day Trey is not telling the real truth about "Abominations…" and who played on it."
The titles of the MORBID ANGEL records follow the alphabetical order, is this a concept? Who came with this idea?
"I came up with "Abominations Of Desolation", it’s from Aleister Crowleys Book Of The Law. About the rest of the albums I don’t know if it was done on purpose at first, I think it was just something that happened and after a few albums they noticed it and then kept it going."
In your opinion, how much did the music and the lyrics of MORBID ANGEL develop on the other records? Were David Vincent and Steven Tucker good singers, did they fit to the band?
"MORBID ANGEL has changed a lot, David Vincent brought in a lot of lyrics that were not occult oriented, it’s pretty clear to see that MORBID ANGEL is now a corporate type of band that is all about making money more than true soul inspired musick!"
How do you see the career of MORBID ANGEL as a whole?
"I think they hit their high back around "Domination" and they will make a really good come back if they record with David again, but like I said it’s all about the money now!"
When and why did you leave the band? Did Sterling von Scarborough join the band after your departure?
"As I mentioned earlier after Trey and I got into that fight, he and Richard actually left Florida altogether and Sterling and I reformed his old band INCUBUS with a new guitar player Gino Marino. So Sterling was in the band before I left, he had just joined and we did just one show with him on bass, but unfortunately that show never got recorded in video or audio!"
At that time John Ortega has left he band as well… Why did he decide to quit the band? Was the reason of his departure that he founded a new band called MATRICIDE?
"Johnny was fired by Trey right after we recorded that album and Sterling was brought in as his replacement. It was after that that he formed MATRICIDE."
After your departure from MORBID ANGEL you joined INCUBUS, which was founded in Georgia, by vocalist / bassist Sterling Van Scarborough, guitarist Steve "Skellator" Shoemaker and drummer Rich Fuscia. How did you hook up with them? Did you move perhaps to Georgia?
"No I never went to Georgia, Sterling actually joined MORBID ANGEL here in Tampa, David Vincent knew him because Skellator had been playing in David’s band BARREN CEMETARY, but Sterling had this band before he joined MORBID ANGEL. So when Sterling and I split with MORBID ANGEL, we just got a new guitar player and reformed INCUBUS in Tampa."
How was the Metal scene in Georgia at that time, compared to Tampa? Were there any cool Metal bands in Georgia as well?
"I have no idea, I never went to Georgia."
Sterling had a band before INCUBUS, BURIED IN CEMETERY, what about this band? Did you know them? Did they record demos at that time?
"I didn’t know about any of his bands before INCUBUS, he never mentioned any. I don’t know if Sterling ever recorded anything before that INCUBUS demo."
Skellator was a member of HALLOW’S EVE as well, was he a session musician or a full time member in INCUBUS?
"Probably a full time member, but I never talked to him about INCUBUS, we only met once."
Did you like HALLOW’S EVE? They had a big (cult) name in the scene at that time, right?
"Yes, from what I remember they had a pretty good following, but it wasn’t a band I really ever listened to that much."
Steve later played in LESTREGUS NOSFERATUS, was it a project or a band? Have you ever heard of this act?
"I heard an old demo, but I didn’t realize it was Steve who was in it, I remember it being pretty cool stuff though."
What about the musical background of Rich? Did he leave the band after you joined them?
"All I know about Rich was that he played drums in INCUBUS at first when they were in Georgia and that he also did that INCUBUS logo and artwork, but I never heard him play."
Skellator was replaced by Gino Marino… How did he get into the picture? What about his group TERROR?
"I knew Gino from the Tampa scene, so after the split from MORBID ANGEL Sterling and I reformed INCUBUS with Gino on guitar. Gino had a band TERROR, I saw them rehearse a few times, but they never played out that I know of."
Did he join the band because Skellator didn’t want to move to Florida and he didn’t want to give up the career of HALLOW’S EVE? Was HALLOW’S EVE more important for him than INCUBUS?
"No, Steve was never asked to join INCUBUS when it reformed."
At that time there was another band called INCUBUS, but they came from Louisiana. Didn’t the fans mix up the two groups with each other? Were there musical and lyrical differences between the two INCUBUS?
"The two bands were completely different and actually those guys from Louisiana did move to Tampa for a little while, so that confused things even more, but by then I had already formed NOCTURNUS."
You recorded a three track demo "God Died On His Knees"… What about the recording sessions of this tape? How would you describe the songs both musically and lyricwise?
"Brutal insanity! We went in the studio and recorded it in one night and we had never heard Sterling sing before either, he never sang at practice. We didn’t have a PA back then."
Was it a studio recording or did you record it at your rehearsal place?
"It was a studio recording."
The demo was also known as "Engulfed In Unspeakable Horrors", was it a bootleg version? Were there two different versions in the tapetrading scene at that time? Were there differences between the tapes?
"I only knew of the one demo and version, if there were others it is news to me!"
Did you shop the demo to attract label interest?
"No, the band never lasted that long!"
Was INCUBUS meant as a real group right from the start or was it more of a project?
"It was supposed to be a very serious band."
Have you ever gigged with INCUBUS? Are there perhaps INCUBUS bootlegs circulating in the underground?
"No, we never got the chance to play live and we never even recorded any rehearsals, Sterling didn’t allow it."
At that time some t-shirts were made as well… What about your merchandise? How many items did you sell at that time both from the demo and from the t-shirt? In my opinion the t-shirt is a rarity nowadays, a real underground collectors item, right?
"The only two things we ever had was the demo and the T-Shirts and yes they are very hard to find an expensive when you do find one!"
The demo was released two years later on vinyl as well. There are two different versions, the first one by Gore Records (a label run by Slatko Dolic R.I.P.) with high quality cover printing and red vinyl, the second one was done by Nuclear Blast, the label that distributed Gore and it’s simpler and it has a poorer production than the original. What can you say about it?
"Actually both were put out by Gore, the first was a limited edition and the second was just the regular release. I think altogether with both releases there were only a couple thousand ever printed."
Did Gore Records offer you a deal at that time? Did they have more bands? What kind of releases did they have at that time?
"No there was no deal at all, Slatko asked, if he could put it out and I said I didn’t own the name or the rights to it, so if he wanted to release it, it would be as a bootleg and I had no involvement legally. I just gave him some artwork and pictures in turn for about 100 copies. That was my only involvement."
Were you in touch with Slatko? Did you know him personally?
"Just through the mail, I had never met him personally."
Why and when did he die?
"I don’t remember the year exactly, but I do remember he died from some type of brain tumor."
Why and when did INCUBUS split up? Why was it a short-lived act?
"It only lasted about 6 months, I went to work one day and I came back home and Sterling told me that him and Gino had went to the beach and got drunk and got in a real fight and Gino beat up Sterling and took off and quit, at that point I decided to quit and form my own band!"
Would you say, that INCUBUS has / had a reputation in the scene, did you reach a cult status? Do old fans still remember the band?
"Oh yes, people still to this day ask about INCUBUS!!! I think because of its short lifespan it definitely became a cult band."
What do Sterling and Rich do nowadays? Are you still in touch with them? Are they still in the music business?
"I haven’t heard from Sterling in over 10 years and I never actually met Rich."
What do you think about the reunion of HALLOW’S EVE and their comeback release "Evil Never Dies"?
"I saw them play live here in Tampa, but it wasn’t the same without the original singer."
After INCUBUS broke up, you founded NOCTURNUS with guitarists Vincent Crowley, Gino Marino and bassist Richard Bateman, how did you hook up with them? Were they also "veteran" Florida Metallers? What about their musical past?
"Well I was in INCUBUS with Gino and Bateman had just quit AGENT STEEL and Vince had just broke up his first band ENTITY! But I knew Bateman and Bateman knew Vince, so we all sort of just got together and started jamming."
Very soon you recorded a four track demo featuring ‘BC/AD’, ‘Nocturnus’, ‘Unholy Fury’ and ‘The Entity’… What can you say about the recording of the demo?
"It was recorded on an old 8 track reel to reel in a friend of mines house with some really cheap microphones, so the demo wasn’t really a very good one, especially with the sound quality."
After the release of the demo some line-up changes happened: Vince left the band to form ACHERON and Richard Bateman got an offer from NASTY SAVAGE, so he also decided to leave the band. Would you say that the reasons of their departure were, that they wanted to go on their own way or didn’t you get along well with each other?
"Vince really hated Florida and him and Gino didn’t get along so he quit first and moved. Then Richard got the offer to join NASTY SAVAGE and it was pretty much a full time thing, so he left too and Gino and I got new people and kept going."
Then Vincent moved to Columbus, did he move there because he founded ACHERON?
"He moved to Pittsburgh first I believe, that is where he formed ACHERON."
Did you part ways with them in a friendly term at the end?
"Yes I did, they both quit mainly because they hated Gino!"
As far as NASTY SAVAGE, they were an excellent band, but with the bassplayers they always had bad luck, what do you think about it?
"They had Fred Dregischan, Dezsö István Barta, Chris Moorhouse and then Richard. It did seem to be a cursed thing with their bass players!"
Have you heard of Chris’ death at that time? What happened to him?
"No I didn’t know him, wasn’t it a car accident I think?"
Were you always a NASTY SAVAGE fan? What’s your opinion about their albums and crazy gigs?
"I really liked the old NASTY SAVAGE stuff best, their shows were always totally crazy!"
The new NOCTURNUS members were Mike Davis on guitars (from LIZZY BORDEN) and Jeff Estes on bass… In which groups did Jeff play before? How did they get into the picture? Mike was Gino’s cousin, right?
"Davis never played in LIZZY BORDEN!!! But since he and Gino were related Gino told me about Mike and Jeff was a friend of Mike Davis’"
Keyboardist Louis Panzer joined the band in 1988. Did you ad him, because he was the friend of Mike Davis, like Jeff? Did Louis have "Metal roots"? Were there perhaps other musicians auditioned?
"No, Lou never listened to Metal, he liked stuff like THE POLICE and STING and crap like that!!! But yes he was friends with Jeff and Davis."
Louis added another dimension and completed the NOCTURNUS sound. Whose idea was it to use keyboards in this brutal music? Did you have the goal to use the keyboard as a musical background or did you want it to become an important element of your music?
"I really wanted it for intros and background stuff but once he started rehearsing with us we added more and more until the keyboards became a full time instrument."
I have to say, it was a brilliant, unique and original idea, because nobody used keys before, is that correct?
"I wouldn’t say that. ANGEL WITCH used keys along with quite a few other bands back then, we just were probably heavier than most of the bands that did have keyboards back then."
NOCTURNUS was the first band who used keyboards in extreme (Death Metal) music. I think you dared to make experiences with by using keys, do you agree with me?
"I never really care about what people think or want me to do with my musick. I just do what I do and if people like it than that’s cool and if they don’t then there are thousands of other bands that they can listen to instead!"
Did you surprise the fans by using keys?
"Yes I think so, people weren’t sure what to think at first."
Would you say that the use of keys became a fashion in the Death / Black Metal scene?
"A lot of bands started later mixing their music with keys. Yes definitely, now keyboards are a very common thing."
I would say, you have had a very great impact on the extreme music scene.
"It would seem so!!!!"
Would you say that both NOCTRUNUS and ATHEIST renewed the Death Metal scene? While you used keyboards they mixed their music with Jazz and progressive elements, which was also unusual at that time, right?
"Yeah, you could say that and we used to do a lot of shows with ATHEIST back then, and in fact I was just talking to Kelly the other day about possibly do a show with them and AFTER DEATH."
Your next demo was "The Science Of Horror"… What about this legendary demo? How much did you develop compared to the first demo?
"It was a huge difference!!! We got Jon Oliva of SAVATAGE to produce it and he even sang backups on it too! Jon is a very cool guy, we still talk to this day! But there is a huge difference between the two demos in just one year!"
Did your music radically change because of the new members? I mean, did they take part in the songwriting, did they pump fresh blood into the band? Were Mike and Jeff more talented musicians than Vincent and Richard?
"Yes, it definitely changed because of the new members, it was a really different sound overall, especially with the keyboards added."
The demo was produced by SAVATAGE singer Jon Oliva, was he the perfect person for this job?
"He was definitely the perfect person, he plays keyboards too, so he really understood what we wanted and how to get the sound we were looking for!"
This demo caught the attention of Digby Pearson at Earache Records in Nottingham, England and subsequently they offered you a record deal… Didn’t you get any offers from other labels? Do you still remember, to which labels you sent the demo?
"Well we really wanted to be on Earache and Trey was pushing Digby to sign us so we were waiting for that first and it happened so we never really shopped it to any other labels."
Then you went in the Morrisound studio to record "The Key", but Gino Marino left the band, he made it to Atlanta, Georgia, where he started a new band called EUPHORIA and they recorded one demo, started working on some new material… Then Gino disappeared, what happened to him?
"Gino had went to jail so we had to replace him with Sean, so by the time he got out of jail we were already signed and ready to record, so Gino went to Georgia to join INCUBUS with Sterling, but it didn’t work out and so he formed EUPHORIA, the music was really good, but I didn’t like the vocals."
The new material that they were working on was supposely even better than that demo, but unfortunately none of it was recorded, Gino sent you copies of that demo, possibly with the idea of you working together again, but why wasn’t the cooperation among you and Gino realized?
"Gino is a very hard person to deal with and that’s all I will say!!!!"
Gino was replaced by Sean Mc Nennery… What do we have to know about the musical background of him? Did he play in any local acts before?
"No, Sean never played in a band before NOCTURNUS, but he lived just a few houses down from Mike Davis on the same street, so they used to play together all the time, so Davis was the one who got Sean in the band after Gino went to jail."
Were the songs for "The Key" ready when Sean joined the band or did he also write some tunes?
"Everything was pretty much written, Sean only wrote a few rhythms in NOCTURNUS, but nothing on "The Key"."
What about the recording sessions of the album? How much time did you spend in the studio? How was it to work with Tom Morris?
"We did the album in about a week with a 10.000 dollar budget, which isn’t a lot for Morrissound! I really wanted to work with Scott or Jim Morris, but Earache insisted that we use Tom because he did MORBID ANGEL."
Why didn’t you work with Scott Burns? Was he perhaps busy with other acts? Was Jim the perfect person for the position of the producer?
"Actually I think Jim would have been my pick, but Earache was spending the money so we had to use Tom."
Would you say that "The Key" was the first melodic Death Metal album? Did the melodies play an important role in your music?
"I don’t think "The Key" was too melodic at all!!! But it was pretty technical for its time."
Listening to the album I would say, you can’t deny the influence of MORBID ANGEL, thanks to your MORBID ANGEL past. Do you agree with me? In other words, "The Key" can be compared to "Altars Of Madness"…
"Maybe a bit, but I think it’s a lot different from MORBID ANGEL, too. But you can’t help but to be influenced on your past works!"
Kam Lee appeared as a guest vocalist on the record. Whose idea was it to invite him to the studio? Is / was he a fan of NOCTURNUS, was / is he your friend?
"It wasn’t really planned, he just happened to drop by the studio because Digby was there and they were talking about signing MASSACRE, too and we just happened to be doing the back up vocals, so Kam just jumped in there and did it with no planning at all!!!"
At that time it was a habit among Death Metal bands that the bands invited musicians from other Death Metal acts… Did it symbolize the friendship between the bands?
"I think both, people always make guest appearances on other peoples recordings, but we were all friends too."
Why was ‘Undead Journey’ a bonus track? Was it released on the original version of the record at that time or did the song only appear on the re-release version?
"That was because of time constraints, remember CDs were brand new and an album is much shorter than a CD, so we left out ‘Undead Journey’ on the actual album and so it became a bonus track for the CD."
The songs on the record are very atmospheric and technical… All of you were technical, talented musicians, but how could you sing and play the drums so technical at the same time? I think, it was a hard task for you, wasn’t it?
"Well it’s not easy by any means, but I have gotten really used to it and now it is pretty natural for me to do both! But we toured Europe almost all of the US and Mexico and lots of people saw me do both with not too much of a problem!!!"
As far as your lyrics, was a concept behind them? I mean, you didn’t write about cliches, like bowel, blood, gore, but about space, horror etc. which was new in Death Metal, right?
"It was just what was in my mind at the time, but also Davis had some of the ideas too when it came to the sci-fi stuff."
After the release of the "The Key" you went on tour, but instead of Jeff Estes Jim O’ Sullivan played on the tour. Why did Jeff decide to leave the band? What about Jim’s musical past?
"Jeff had become and still is a major drunk, he showed up to record "The Key" drunk and couldn’t play at all and just left the studio, so actually Mike Davis had to play most of the bass on "The Key" and he had to learn it and play it while we were in the studio, so the bass is not very loud on it. But we fired Jeff after that!!! And we got Jim from Fort Lauderdale, he was in a band called ELYSIUM before NOCTURNUS."
Was he a good replacement for Jeff?
"As far as bass playing yes, but he was a really strange person and did really weird stuff, so we got rid of him before we recorded the next album!"
Then you toured Europe with BOLT THROWER, any memories of that tour?
"That was the best tour I ever did, BOLT THROWER are awesome people and a great band too, we had lots of killer times with them."
What about the US Grindcrusher tour with GODFELSH and NAPALM DEATH? Was this tour organized and sponsored by Earache? How did the whole tour go?
"That was a really awesome tour too, but I really liked the European audiences better! But yes, Earache did organize that tour along with Combat Records back then."
Was it hard for you to perform the songs live? You had to concentrate both on drumming and on singing!
"By then I was doing really well with both I thought, just ask anyone who saw us live back then!"
After the tours you entered the studio to record "Thresholds", but a new member, former TORTURED SOUL vocalist Dan Izzo was in the ranks of the band, which was a great relief for you, because you could concentrate on drumming and it also brought a better stage presence to the band, right?
"Well it wasn’t a relief at all. I still wanted to sing, the problem was that the band had no stage presence and I was behind a really big drumset, so you could never see me singing, so Earache thought it would be a better idea to get an actual frontman and as you can see "The Key" sold over 70.000 and "Thresholds" sold less than 30.000 so you do the math! Every night on tour people were asking me why I wasn’t singing anymore!"
What about TORTURED SOUL? Was it a local band? Did they record demos?
"They were a local band that did have a demo out back then."
As far as the studio sessions, you worked with Tom Morris again… What do you remember about it? Did you pause a little bit between the Grindcrusher tour and the recording sessions of "Thresholds"?
"We rented a drumset for "Thresholds", because mine wasn’t really a studio set it didn’t have bottom heads on the toms, it was mainly for playing live and Tom didn’t want to use it because he didn’t like the sound of it on "The Key", but I did the drums on the first day and didn’t have much involvement after that. After the Grindcrusher tour we really went straight to writing the "Thresholds" stuff, some of it was already written and we even played one song on tour with BOLT THROWER, so yes I was singing and playing the new material just fine, too."
Did you write new tracks during the tour or did you write them at your rehearsal place? Did you have the opportunity to write or to practice new tracks?
"We had a few songs already written and like I mentioned even played one of them live on tour."
Instead of Jeff Estes the bassparts were played by Chris Anderson, was he only a session musician? Why didn’t Jeff come back for the recordings of "Thresholds"?
"Chris only did the session recording he didn’t want to tour or play live, but Jeff was long gone from NOCTURNUS after what happened in the studio with his drinking problem!"
What about the instrumental track ‘Nocturne In Bm’? Whose idea was it to put it on the record?
"That was Lou’s idea mainly."
In my opinion, ‘Arctic Crypt’ is one of the best NOCTURNUS songs, which contains classic Heavy Metal riffs and parts as well, do you agree with me?
"I don’t really like much off of "Thresholds" to tell you the truth."
This song was covered by a Polish band SCEPTIC on their "Pathetic Being" album (2001). Have you ever heard their version? Did you like it? Do you consider SCEPTIC a talented band?
"I have heard that version and yes it is pretty killer! They were a very talented band I think!"
In your opinion, did Dan’s voice fit to the band? I ask this, because in my opinion, while you growled deep, he had a rather Hardcore influenced voice…
"Well it was the best and closest thing we could find at the time!!! Lot’s of people did try out but he was the first to come in and actually sing the songs right on time."
Were Louis’ keyboards parts of the same kind determinant, like on the "The Key" album? I mean, did you again lay a serious stress on Louis’ keyboard parts?
"Yes and probably even more so on "Thresholds"."
The covers of both records were done by Dan Seagrave, was he at that time a known artist? Were the covers of "The Key" and "Thresholds" his early works along with the cover of MORBID ANGEL’s classic "Altars Of Madness"?
"Yes, he was already very well known, but we actually had a version of the cover done by a local artist first but it came out too much like a comic book, so Dan Seagrave actually redid it and we really liked it a lot and kept it and also used him for the second one too, but "The Key" was one of his best covers in my opinion!!! The actual idea of the cover was mine though."
Were you satisfied with Dan’s work? In my opinion, both of them are great.
"As I explained we already had the idea and a cover but the artwork wasn’t very convincing, so we got Dan to redo it and it was amazing!!!"
You toured in 1992 with CONFESSOR as well, but on this tour instead of Jim O’ Sullivan FALLEN IDOLS member Emo Mowery played… What had happened to Jim? Did Emo help you out only for the tour or did he join the band as a full time member?
"We fired Jim right after the Grindcrusher tour, he was just really to weird even for us!!! Emo did join as a full time member back then."
How did Emo get into the picture?
"I don’t actually remember, I think he had just moved to Tampa from Seattle and we tried him out."
How was this tour compared to the BOLT THROWER one or to the Grindcrusher tour? Did you get along well with the CONFESSOR guys?
"The tours for "The Key" were way better than the "Thresholds" shows, although we did have some good shows on that tour, but there was a lot of small crowds compared to what we had on "The Key" tours. We got along great with the CONFESSOR guys, they were really cool!"
I consider their first full length record "Condemned" a classic Metal one, did you like it?
"I thought it was awesome, Steve’s drumming was fantastic on it! They were a totally original band!"
"Thresholds" was your last record for Earache, how much support did you get from them? Did they care a lot for the band, I mean, merchandising, promotion, support etc.
"Hardly any, when the CD came out it wasn’t selling very well and Earache didn’t give us any tour support or merchandising at all, the tour and merchandise was all put up by the tour promoter Johan of Metalysee and he lost money on that tour too, because of lack of people at the shows."
For how many records did you sign with them at that time?
"It was supposed to be a 5 album deal from what I remeber."
Did they drop the band after the release of "Thresholds" or did you leave them? Did your contract perhaps expire and you didn’t want it to, because you got a better deal from another label?
"Most people know about this, but I had never trademarked the name NOCTURNUS and knowing that we were a signed band with albums out I didn’t think anybody else would ever try to use that name, but what I didn’t think was that my own band would go behind my back a steal the name from me and that’s exactly what happened. In 1992 Lou and Sean went behind my back and trademarked the name and once they owned the name legally they fired me! Then they told everyone what they did including Earache, well Earache said they better record some new songs with the new drummer as a demo and so they did record those two songs that ended up on that 7" and sent them to Earache and Earache dropped them!!! That’s when I joined ACHERON."
Would you say that Earache was at that time the home of the Death Metal bands?
"Yes for sure!"
Shortly after you left the band you were replaced by ASTAROTH member James Marcinek, what lead to your departure?
"I explained it above in the other question, Lou wanted control of the band so he devised a plan to get me out and tried to take over the band which failed miserably!!!"
Would you say, that your departure was the end of the evil NOCTURNUS?
"Of course, none of those guys were into the occult at all, in fact they hated that type of stuff, that’s why I hardly wrote anything as far as lyrics after "The Key"."
What do you think about the "Possess The Priest" 7"? Does it mean, that you didn’t take part in the songwriting for the 7"?
""Possess The Priest" was actually an old NOCTURNUS song that Gino, Bateman and I wrote and played live back in 1987, so not only did they steal my name but they stole that song and tried to use it to keep their record contract with Earache, but as you can see it failed!!!"
After the release of "Possess The Priest" NOCTURNUS broke up, was the demise of the band in the air?
"No they were done!!! I thought it was pretty funny myself that less than 6 months after they fired me they were dropped from Earache and broke up. Maybe it was my curse against them!"
After 7 years of silence NOCTURNUS came back and released "Ethereal Tomb", what do you think about this record? Can it be compared to "The Key"?
"It was a joke in my opinion! They never mentioned anyone’s names of who played on the album and the drummers face was covered, I think they wanted people to think I was in the band so they could sell more albums, but that CD really bombed!!!"
Why didn’t you respectively Jeff Estes take part in the songwriting? Was it worth to reunite without you?
"I was never asked! And I wouldn’t have done it anyway, I don’t care about money, only principles!"
How do you view the release of the NOCTURNUS demos and the "Farewell To Planet Earth" DVD? Did all of the NOCTURNUS members know about the release of the demos?
"Mike Davis knew about the demos, but it was basically a bootleg, there was no contract involved with Hammerheart / Karmageddon, but Sean didn’t even play on either demo and Lou didn’t play on the first one either, but they both owned the name!!! So they couldn’t do much about it, I own the copyrights to both demos! As far as the DVD that was all Lou, Sean and Emo, they never asked permission from me or Davis or Izzo or Jim, they totally ripped us off on that one!!!"
Didn’t you think about putting some unreleased songs, live tracks or covers on the demo collection? Did you play covers at that time at all or did you start writing own material right from the start?
"No, the demos were just the demos, they weren’t altered or changed or added to in any way, it was mainly for the fans so that they could see the real history of the band, when NOCTURNUS reformed in 2000 they did not even have one original member! We never played any covers in NOCTURNUS."
What about these days with the former NOCTURNUS members? Are you still in touch with them?
"Only Mike Davis and Chris Anderson and I am actually working on a side project with them now. I hate all the other members, because of them stealing my band name NOCTURNUS and ruining it!!!"
I have heard that Mike Davis does or will do a project with Trey Azagthoth, any information about it?
"That’s not true at all, Mike and Trey don’t talk at all anymore, but like I said Davis and I and the bass player that was on "Thresholds" have a small side project that we are working on."
ACHERON was formed by Vincent Crowley, after he quit NOCTURNUS and you joined the band, after you quit NOCTURNUS as well, how did you get into the picture? Did you join ACHERON because Vincent is / was your good friend or did he ask you to join the band?
"Yes, since Vince and I were still pretty good friends and it just happened that when we were in the studio recording "Thresholds", he was in there too, finishing a remix of the first ACHERON "Rites Of The Black Mass", so I ended up singing backups on that CD and that’s when Vince asked, if I wanted to do the drums on the next ACHERON album, so I agreed. And so when they fired me from NOCTURNUS I started playing in ACHERON the very next day and ended up recording 2 CDs and a 7" with ACHERON."
At which point did the guitarists Vincent Breeding and Tony Blakk join the band? What about their musical backrounds?
"Vincent was in a vampire Rock band called CAST OF NASTIES, that had just broken up, but he was into what we were doing, so he joined and I don’t think Tony was ever in a band before ACHERON."
Why was Vincent Breeding just a studio musician? Didn’t he want to be a full time member? Hadn’t he have enough time to concentrate on the band?
"Vincent was a full time member, in fact he was in the band even after I left, but he ended up leaving shortly after me, because another label had again ripped Vince off!"
He replaced Peter Slate and you were recruited for James Strauss, why did he leave the band?
"I don’t really know James Strauss, but I quit because I couldn’t tour at the time for no money at all!"
Did you move from Florida to Ohio, Columbus at that time? Did you stay in touch with the Florida scene?
"No I never moved, I have always lived here in Florida."
At that time there was another band called ACHERON, but they came from Chicago, didn’t you think about renaming the band?
"I didn’t know about any other ACHERON’s, that’s news to me!"
The name ACHERON means "river of woe", and is one of the five rivers that flow through the realm of Hades in Greek mythology… Was Vincent always interested in the Greek mythology? Was he influenced by that?
"He was more into Satanism than Greek mythology, but I am not sure about how he came by using the name."
The first release of the new line-up was the two track 7" EP "Alla Xul" (1992), which was limited to 1000 copies. Was it at that time totally sold out? Is it these days a rare collectors item?
"I am pretty sure it is sold out, and it is probably pretty rare now!"
Were ‘Alla Xul’ and ‘One With Darkness’ the first songs what you wrote and recorded together or were they older ones?
"They were some of the newer songs that we had."
Why was the EP released with two different cover artworks?
"Vince wanted the CD to be called "Hail Victory", but the record company being in Europe was afraid that people would associate it with the Nazi term, which it wasn’t at all, so they released it as "Satanic Victory", so Vince had it released in the US under the original "Hail Victory" title that he wanted to call it."
While the "Rites Of The Black Mass" record was released by Turbo / JL the EP came out through Gutted Records / Metal Merchant, how did you get in touch with them? Did you sign with them only for this release?
"That was before I was in the band, so I am not sure how Vince got in contact with them in the beginning. He always did all the business stuff for ACHERON, I just played drums!"
Were you dissatisfied with the promotion of Turbo Records?
"I know they ripped Vince off pretty badly."
One of the legendary releases of Turbo Records is the classic debut record of Finnish BEHERIT "Oath Of The Black Blood", what do you think about it? Is it a milestone in the Black Metal scene?
"That is an awesome classic!!!"
It was followed by the six track EP "Satanic Victory"… Were all of the songs written by Vincent or did you also had the opportunity to write some of them?
"The ACHERON stuff were always Vince’s ideas, I only came up with my drum parts."
What about the recording sessions?
"The whole thing was done over a weekend really quickly in a 500 dollar budget!!!"
How much did you develop musically compared to "Rites Of The Black Mass"? Do you consider "Satanic Victory" a more technical record than "Rites…"?
"Yes, it’s a way better thought out bunch of songs, the first CD was more raw compared to "Satanic Victory"."
An advantage could have been, that instead of a guitar you could use two guitars, so the sound became more brutal and the atmosphere became more evil, what do you think about it?
"Yes, just the different musicians and the adding of two guitars helped a lot to shape the sound we had."
Your technical drumming played also an important role!
"The stuff on "Rites…" was pretty straightforward and simple, so I did try to put a bit more of a technical edge to the songs to make it sound more interesting."
The album was released by Lethal Records (Austria), which at that time was a known underground label, with bands such as BELIAL or UNHOLY. Why and how did your choice fall on them? Weren’t any bigger labels interested in the band?
"Like I had mentioned, Vince was always the one negotiating with the labels, I wasn’t involved in any of that stuff."
As far as I know, you weren’t satisfied with the production, what happened?
"I thought it was a pretty good production, especially for how much we spent on the recording and how fast it was done, so actually I was pretty happy with the sound."
It was released again, along with "Alla Xul" under the originally planned title "Hail Victory", was this version better than the original one?
"It was better because it had the extra songs on it, in my opinion."
"Lex Talionis" was your next effort in 1994 and in my opinion it’s not only the best ACHERON album, but a classic Death / Black record as well.
"The funny thing about "Lex Talionis" was that the majority of the songs were old NOCTURNUS and ENTITY songs that we redid! We played most of those songs in the first version of NOCTURNUS back in 1987!"
What do you remember about the studio sessions? Did you work on it in Columbus or had you to fly to Vienna to record the material?
"We recorded it at the same place, Audiolab here in Tampa, that we did the "Hail Victory" recordings. And again we had a 500 budget and recorded and mixed the entire CD in one weekend!"
There’s intros before all of the songs… Whose idea was it to begin the tracks with these intros? What kind of purposes did they serve?
"That was Vince’s idea, the guy who did them was a very high up member of the Church of Satan, Peter Gilmore. I think he actually pretty much runs the Church nowadays. They were the "9 Satanic statements" in The Satanic Bible, put to music."
Did ‘The Entity’ end up on the record because it was written by Vincent during his period in NOCTURNUS?
"Actually most of the songs were old NOCTURNUS songs and some were even written before NOCTURNUS when Vince had a band called THE ENTITY. When Vince quit NOCTURNUS he took all the stuff he wrote with him and we never played any of his songs in NOCTURNUS after he quit, so that’s why we decided to redo them!"
As far as myself, "Lex Talionis" and "Those Who Have Risen" are my favourite ACHERON records…
"I like all the ACHERON stuff myself, but I do like "Hail Victory" a lot. And "Anti-God, Anti-Christ"."
The record was released by Lethal Records and Vincent told me in an interview I did with him about 2-3 years ago, that they were a rip-off, fucked up label. What were the problems? Didn’t they promote and support the band?
"I think Vince has been ripped-off by every label he has signed with!!! We never got any support from them at all and I never got any royalties at all from ACHERON ever."
In 1995 a video called "Lust, Sin, Chaos And Blasphemy" surfaced. Was it a concert video or did it contain some videoclips? Was it an official release?
"It was a compilation video of all kinds of clips, from what Vince told me it was done by a fan."
What about the compilations, such as "Triumph Of Death” (Turbo Music, 1992), "Brutal Aggression" (JL America, 1992) and "Death Is Only The Beginning 3"? Which ACHERON songs were on these compilations?
"I don’t even know to tell you the truth, I don’t even have any of these comps myself!!!"
In your opinion, did these compilations help introduce ACHERON to many new fans?
"Like I said I wasn’t even aware of them at all!"
Around that time, in 1994 / 95 Death Metal wasn’t that popular anymore, like 4-5 years before, a lot of bands either broke up or vanished for several years, such as INCUBUS, NOCTURNUS, MASSACRE, GORGUTS, DISINCARNATE, IMMOLATION, MONSTROSITY, HELLWITCH to name a few… What was the reason for it in your opinion?
"Over saturation of the bands, there were just too many bands all trying to sound and do the same thing, this happens a lot in all styles of music I think, it happened with Black Metal, too. Bands should try to be more original rather than sounding like their favorite band or competing to be fast."
Would you say that Grunge and Pop/Punk almost killed Metal?
"I don’t know, I mean when that stuff came out, I sure didn’t listen to it and if anyone was really into Metal in the first place they wouldn’t have listened to it either! So it shouldn’t have had any effect on Metal."
As far as the Death Metal movement, why could only CANNIBAL CORPSE, MORBID ANGEL and MALEVOLENT CREATION work continuously? They are still alive these days as well…
"Not too many bands last the test of time! Even these bands you mentioned have had LOTS of line-up changes!!! I think it’s really hard for 4 or 5 people to try and get along for years and years!"
For example SUFFOCATION and OBITUARY have thrown in the towel for a few years, but nowadays they are active again.
"Well, I think if you are a real musician than you will never really stop playing altogether, I mean I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t create musick anymore!!!"
How and when did your ACHERON story end? Did you relocate to Tampa? Did you stay in touch with Vincent?
"I guess it was in 1994 or 1995 I think, after I did the two CDs with ACHERON. A month long tour was planned, but there was no money involved at all, so I wasn’t able to tour for free at the time. So Vince thought it would be best to get another drummer that could tour with no guarantees. The worst part is they found another drummer and never even ended up touring! The whole time I was in ACHERON the band was located in Tampa, it was Vince who was always moving. But yes I am still in contact with him, he just wrote me a couple days ago on MySpace."
Michael Estes joined ACHERON after your departure as their guitarist. Is he perhaps the brother of Jeff Estes or has he nothing to do with him?
"No, they are not related at all. Michael lived in Orlando, which is about an hour or two drive from Tampa and Jeff lived here in Tampa."
After you quit ACHERON you played in several bands, such as DEACON SCREECH, ASH, WOLF AND THE HAWK, DEVINE ESSENCE, could you tell us more about these outfits?
"Yes, I actually stayed quite busy! I know a lot of musicians around the area and so I get asked to do a lot of projects and usually they end up even playing shows and recording CDs. DEACON SCREECH was a really weird industrial project sort of similar to SKINNY PUPPY, we did a split CD with a band called VAMPIRE CIRCUS which was the old keyboard player from ACHERON’s band. And we did some really cool shows with a lot of strange lighting and effects, I used a lot of electronic pads and weird sounds along with the drums, it was very experimental stuff, too bad we only recorded four songs. ASH was a project with Bob White who also did PAINEATER, it was just basically him doing keyboards and me spoken vocals and we had a girl doing ghostly opera vocals in the background, the object was to take old stories like we did with Dante’s Inferno and transform them into spoken word with music but not exactly word for word but more my interpertation of it! So that was really just a project. We recorded about 1/3 of Dantes Inferno in two pieces but never ended up finishing the whole book. DEVINE ESSENCE and LISA THE WOLF was pretty much the same band we just changed the name and it was slow Doom Black Metal with Lisa The Wolf on guitars and vocals, Tom Swain on bass and backing vocals, and me on drums and backing vocals. And WOLF AND HAWK was an acoustic project that Lisa and I also did where I got the chance to use all hand drums instead of a drum set."
AFTER DEATH originally was formed as NOCTURNUS A. D. by yourself, guitarists Gino Marino and Mike Walkowski and bassist Richard Bateman, how did they get into the picture again? What about the musical background of Mike Wilkowski?
"I guess just timing, we all weren’t doing much at the same time, so we thought we would give it a try again with all the original NOCTURNUS members only minus Vincent Crowley. And Walkowski was a friend of Bateman’s, so we got him on rhythm guitar. I don’t think he had ever even played in a band before ADTER DEATH."
Did Gino suddenly appear or were you in touch with him during the years?
"It’s always an on and off thing with Gino, he is in and out of jail a lot!!! And very hard to work with on top of that!"
‘BC/AD’ is / was a classic NORTURNUS tune, was it unambiguous for you to choose a NOCTURNUS track as a bandname? Did you want to refer to your past?
"Well I did write the lyrics to ‘BC/AD’, it was my idea anyway and since I wasn’t even able to use my own band name I figured I could at least use a part of one of my song titles! And even though the song ‘BC/AD’ itself isn’t about Egyptian themes, AFTER DEATH does have an Egyptian sound and meaning, but AFTER DEATH has several meanings, I would say it is the ultimate unanswered question, what is AFTER DEATH??? It just also happens to tie in with the my old band too!"
The purpose of AFTER DEATH is to convey occult teachings to the public via music, when did your interest in Occultism start? Did perhaps Vincent Crowley lead you into the empire of the Occult teachings?
"No, way before that. In fact when I met Trey I was only 17 and had already been into the Occult and so had Trey, so that’s how we met. I bought my first Aleister Crowley book at the age of 14 in 1978."
Are you also into Black Magic?
"I am Magick!"
Do you consider yourself a Satanist or Occultist? Are there differences between these notions?
"Both. Actually I have always had an interest in the occult and dark subjects. I would say yes definitely there is a difference between Satanism and Occultism, Satanism is just a small branch of the Occult world, really the Occult just means "hidden"."
In your opinion, what do people think of Satanism and Occultism in general? Do they think, that Satanism means to kill children, animals in the name of Satan?
"Unfortunately I would have to say yes you are right, but most self proclaimed Satanists don’t go around sacrificing people, they leave that up to the Christians!"
As it can be read on the website, only opened minded people will be able to fathom a concept such this, the blinders and narrowmindedness must be removed to appreciate such a concept…
"Yes, and that statement has proved itself over and over again, a lot of people just want me to do NOCTURNUS or the MORBID ANGEL stuff that I did all over again, but that’s not what I want, because I write for me first, it’s just what comes out of me at the time, sure I can force myself to sing like I used to, but I like to just open myself up as a channel and see what comes through me, no forced sounds just an open channel!!! I record all kinds of stuff, it’s been amazing all the different weird stuff that has come out of my head."
What do you think about the teachings of Anton Szandor LaVey and Aleister Crowley?
"I could go on for long amounts of time about both of these people, but I respect both greatly, especially all the Magickal works Crowley has done for the Occult world in general, he was no hoax."
Are you familiar with Satanist bands, such as NECROMANTIA or DEICIDE?
"Of course, I played shows with DEICIDE since they were AMON, the last show Sterling and I did with MORBID ANGEL had AMON opening for us!!!"
Why did you change the name of the band from NOCTURNUS A. D. to AFTER DEATH in 2000?
"Becuase Lou and Sean threatened to sue me for using the name NOCTURNUS."
In 2000 you recorded the "Vibrations" EP, what about the tracks of this release? Why wasn’t this material released?
"Because it happened during the changeover from Hammerheart to Karmageddon and we got kicked out of the first studio because of my lyrics, the owner of the studio and his wife freaked out on my lyrics and told us to get out and finish the recording somewhere else, so the recording ended up being almost three grand and Karmageddon didn’t want to spend 3000 on an EP, so we never officially released it."
As far as the song ‘Nocturnus’, is it a cover of the legendary NOCTURNUS tune or did you simply rerecord it?
"Sure is. And it’s oddly enough a song we never recorded on an album when I was in NOCTURNUS, it only appeared on the first demo."
The guitars are played by Scott Wallin, why did Gino leave the band?
"Gino and Bateman actually got into a fistfight in my house where we rehearsed, I don’t even know what happened exactly, but they started arguing and it turned into a fight, so Gino quit and we got Scott to play leads because Walkwoski was just a rhythm player, so we had no lead guitar."
As far as the position of the bassist, were the bassparts played by Richard Bateman or by Todd Williams?
"The bass parts were played by Bateman, Todd never recorded anything with us, he only played live."
As far as Richard, NASTY SAVAGE played on the Bang Your Head festival in Germany in 1999, which was a reunion gig and Richard played with them, is that correct?
"I think he did, but I am not sure about the status of NASTY SAVAGE now, it’s always been an on and off thing for years."
Other line up changes happened: guitarists Scott Wallin and Mike Walkowski and bassist Richard Bateman have left the band and
instead of them Lisa Lombardo joined on keys, Bryan Hipp on guitars and Tom Swain on bass. Why did the former members quit the band respectively how did you find the new musicians? What about their musical past?
"When I met Lisa and we started playing together, we knew we needed a different bunch of musicians that were more into the atmospheric type stuff we wanted to do and Bryan had played in CRADLE OF FILTH so we thought he would be perfect for the part and Tom was a really steady heavy bass player. It was Tom’s first real band, but Bryan has been in several bands like CRADLE OF FILTH, BRUTALITY, DISINCARNATE, ASTAROTH, DIABOLIC and several others!"
Have you heard that Brian passed away on the 21th of October?
"Yes, I heard the next day about it, he just got out of jail on Friday and died on Saturday, the real cause of death still hasn’t been announced, but most people would say it was probably a drug overdose."
Jared Anderson also died not too long ago…
"I didn’t really know Jared and I still haven’t heard what he died from yet either."
Your second demo was "Consumed By Fire / Sulphur, Mercury And Salt", which contained only a track plus its remixed version…
"That was just a home demo that was actually two songs connected together and we did two different mixes of the two songs, I believe it was probably the last thing that Bryan Hipp ever recorded and it was probably his last live show he ever did was with AFTER DEATH as well."
After this release both Bryan and Tom quit the band and Ed Miller joined on guitars, what happened to them?
"Bryan was really bad into drugs so we asked him to leave and we could only practice on the weekend with Ed, because he lived in Gainesville which is almost a three hour drive each way, so Ed would come Friday night and stay at my house and rehearse all weekend and unfortunately Tom was not able to do that, so we were going to find another bass player, but never did."
Your third demo was "Reviving The Gods", what about this recording?
"Ed did all the guitars and bass, Lisa did the keys and backing vocals and I did the drums and vocals. It was recorded at Erik Rutans studio and then mixed by Jon Oliva and Greg Merchak (who also did the 2 ACHERON and DEACON SCREECH CDs)."
Its producer was Jon Oliva, is he one of your longtime friends? Did he do such a good job like on the "Science Of Horror" demo back in 1988?
"Yeah, Jon is really great I have known him for years, when I went to Audio Lab to remix the demo. Jon just hppened to be there and said he would be glad to do it, so it wasn’t planned it was just being at the right place at the right time!"
Were all of your demos shopped to attract label interests? Which ones showed interest in releasing the demos?
"No, usually something ends up happening, so I only really shopped that first homemade demo first it’s really weird but usually right after we record something always seems to happen with one of the main members and it’s usually not even my fault. Even just now we recorded and played one show and our keyboard player moved back to Texas because of financial problems, so it didn’t even have anything to do with the band at all. But we may have already found someone new."
How did you get in touch with MCB Entertainment LCC label? Didn’t you get any offers?
"MCB did some of the BLOODSTORM stuff, so far they haven’t done anything for us, just tons of empty promises! That release was just supposed to be all the old demos, it didn’t have anything to do with the new material or band."
What about this reelase? Are there only the demos on the CD or did you put some unreleased tracks on it?
"Well, so far nothing has been released, I still haven’t even seen one promo copy yet, I just keep getting more excuses."
In 2005 you did guest vocals on DISORDER’s demo, what can you tell us about this guest appearance?
"Their guitar player Adam and I have been emailing for a few years and he sent me a lot of his stuff which some was never finished, so I said maybe we could work on a project together, so one day he emailed me and sent me their new demo and asked if I would want to do a remixed version with me doing all the vocals. So I agreed and they sent me the music tracks and I added the vocals and Demian and I mixed one version and DISORDER mixed another version and we released it on CD with both remix versions. So it was a really cool thing to actually accomplish and it’s great stuff too, very oldschool SLAYERish, but with a really dark sound."
The present line-up of the band consists of you, Demian Heftel and Josh on the guitars, Jesse on bass and Napalm on keyboards… Did they play in local acts before or are they – so to speak – "unknown", "nameless" musicians?
"Demian has played in BRUTALITY and ASTAROTH and still plays in CONTORTED, too. Josh has never played in a band before. Jesse plays in several bands: DIABOLIC, CRIMSON MASSACRE, LULL ME TO LARVAE and Napalm just moved back to Texas!"
Was it your goal to continue the career of AFTER DEATH with unknown musicians?
"Not all were unknown, I really only pick people, because of what I see in their playing or just them in general, I am not looking for Metal Rockstars, I want people that really like what the band is into and all about, but that’s hard to find when you are really into what you sing about!"
Why did Lisa and Ed leave the band?
"Ed quit because he moved from Gainesville to Orlando to play in his own band that he already had called NEGATIVE PLANE, it’s some really killer stuff actually. I can never blame people for wanting to have their own band with their own concepts and ideas, that’s what I have here and that’s why I don’t mind working with different people, for me it’s all about recording some really strange musick! Lisa left because we were in a relationship and it didn’t work out, I really just didn’t want to get married and do the family thing, it’s just not for me."
In September you recorded a four track demo called "Secret Lords Of The Star Chamber Below", what about this material compared to the previous ones? How much did you develop both musically and lyricwise?
"Well, each time I record, it seems to grow and change musickally and lyrically. Like I mention on the website, if you look at my lyrics all the way from the MORBID ANGEL days to now and actually read what lyrics I was writing, you can see where my occult studies were at at any particular time. MORBID ANGEL had the Necronomicon and Satanism, early NOCTURNUS had Satanism and blasphemy, the later NOCTURNUS had the same, but a bit more involved and some cool sci-fi and fiction thrown in. The ACHERON period was very Satanic philosophy and AFTER DEATH started out with a lot of Crowley influence and just general Occult topics and Egyptian magick, it’s all sort of blending together now even more. And the musicians I am working with all just keep getting better too, this is probably the most talented band I have had since I started AFTER DEATH."
Did you write all of the songs or did the new guys contribute to the songwriting as well?
"As far as the music, everybody contributes as much as they want and I reallty think it should be this way, everybody is responsible for their own parts, we usually work on the songs together at practice, so everybody has a big part in the creation of the music. I write all the lyrics because I want AFTER DEATH to be my personal journal of Magick that has been put to Musick!"
Would you say, that musically there are a lot of similarities to NOCTURNUS? Is it important for you to keep the spirit alive, the legacy of your early / previous groups?
"Just mainly by me I think, the other musicians don’t really sound or write like the NOCTURNUS members, Demain and Josh are heavier but not as technical as Davis and Gino and Naplams keyboards are way different from what Lou did. So in a way it’s a lot different, but it still contains that same feeling more than sound."
Have you ever played gigs with AFTER DEATH?
"Yes, with just about all the different line-ups, except for Ed, we never did any live shows when we had Ed on guitar."
Do you plan to record a full length album? When do you plan to enter the studio to record the material? Are you currently working on new songs?
"As I mentioned it happened again, we just recorded and our keyboard player moved, we are trying someone out right now, so only time will tell. But we may have to record again something new with the new keyboard player before we shop anything around." (a very cool compilation CD of all AFTER DEATH recordings so far is out now through Iron Pegasus Records. Check out the review section for all further info – Frank)
What kind of response have you gotten from people who have followed your work over the years?
"Mostly really good response, some people seem to just like what I do, because of the fact that it is real and they can tell that my soul is into it as well! And then some people just want me to be exactly what I was back in MORBID ANGEL or NOCTURNUS and then some people would just wish I would go away!!! HEEHEEHEE"
How would you compare the actual / present scene to the golden 80s when everything related to Metal was so much more exciting and original and what about the present scene of Tampa?
"All I can say is for the most part it really sucks now and you can’t even try to compare it to the old days. Sure the young kids these days are incredible musicians, but there doesn’t seem to be much real behind their playing, it’s all about competition and trying to sound or do what has already been done. All this Emo Metal is the best example I can give you of that! I mean bands like DEATH, SLAYER, CELTIC FROST and MERCYFUL FATE never even used a blastbeat or tried to sound like another band, these bands are what I call real Metal bands!"
Mike, thanks a lot for your patience and waste of your time answering my questions, anything to add to this extreme long feature?
"Just expect the unexpected!"