Mike, you started playing Metal 20 years ago, back in 1982, so how did that passion for Heavy Metal has begun to start with?
"Well in fact it probably started… I know I started playing drums back in high school, that’s when I met Trey (Azagthoth), started listening to alot of BLACK SABBATH, IRON MAIDEN, ANGEL WITCH, stuff like that and I just knew that’s pretty much what I wanted to do."
Why did you choose to play drums as instrument? Was it your first choice or did you start with another instrument exactly? Did you take lessons or are you self taught?
"Well I started playing drums in junior high school which I guess I was about 14 or 15 when I bought my first drum set, I used to like watching people doing drums solos so I thought that would be a good thing and I started out with the drums, started learning ’em in school but in fact after the tenth grade which I was about 15, I didn’t play in a school band anymore because I had to work and you had to practice after school with the band and I couldn’t do that cos I was working instead so I did keep playing the drums and… I would say as for as the drum set itself, I was self taught, as for starting out with drums, I did it for a couple of years in school."
Also what were your main influences and fave artists?
"Back then there wasn’t that much to choose and like I said, I listened to alot of BLACK SABBATH, I listened alot of LED ZEPPELIN – I still like LED ZEPPELIN and BLACK SABBATH – and maybe DEEP PURPLE, stuff like that, there’s alot of the older seventies bands that I like, I didn’t care for too much of the eighties stuff except for, you know, for MAIDEN and PRIEST and things like that, I listen to alot of that still… from back then, my main influences are really like OZZY, Tommy Aldridge was a huge influence on me playing drums, probably one of the biggest, of course like I said BLACK SABBATH, and then I started to listen to stuff like ANGEL WITCH and it just went on from there."
MORBID ANGEL started in 1983, but did you play in some other local bands before being involved with that specific act?
"In fact MORBID ANGEL was the first band – other than it wasn’t called MORBID ANGEL back then… that was my first band."
Who came up with that simple yet killer bandname exactly?
"Trey came up with the name MORBID ANGEL"
So let’s talk now about that first band, MORBID ANGEL. The story has been well documented over the years but there’s still obscure points that need to be discussed, the band started with George "Trey Azagthoth" Emmanuel, Dallas Ward and you, so do you remember how you got together in the first place?
"Like I said I met Trey in high school, we were probably 16, 17 years old and I met Dallas a little bit later after Trey had met him later on after he moved… after he graduated in high school. We played in… the first band was in fact called ICE and then we changed it to HERETIC when we found Dallas and became a three piece… after HERETIC we found out that there was another HERETIC so Trey came up with the name MORBID ANGEL. So that was pretty much how all that happened."
Was it Trey and Dallas first band or…?
"Well in fact it was for all of us our first band, the first thing we ever did with other people, we played instruments and you know just kind of messed around at parties and stuff with other people but this was the first serious band we ever tried to put together yes."
How long did it take the band to come up with their own original material and what were some of the covers you were playing at the time? I remember that there was some SLAYER / MERCYFUL FATE covers included in the early rehearsals…
"Yeah, like I said, the first stuff we started listening to was, you know, ANGEL WITCH, we did a couple of ANGEL WITCH covers and some MERCYFUL FATE covers and a couple SLAYER stuff off the first SLAYER and off the first MERCYFUL FATE. Pretty much by the time those bands had put out second albums, we pretty much had most of our own music going on by then and that what we were interested in only at the time."
Did you play live as a trio or only when Richard Brunelle joined the band exactly?
"I think we did one very big show with just the three piece… we played alot of parties back then since we were all pretty young, we weren’t really like any of the bar bands that were out playing so you know it was more like we did lots of parties and and then we got Richard Brunelle."
Before talking about Richard inclusion in the band, you had Kenny Bamber as the singer for a few months, so when and how did he join the band exactly?
"He was a local singer and he had alot of P.A. and… he was a little… quite a bit older than us and he had that King Diamond kind of falsetto so we figured that we’d try to get somebody as a frontman for the band, see how that work and… we just recorded a demo with him and… he only worked for a couple months, we never really played out with him or anything like that but we did a demo and when we sat back and listened to it, it just wasn’t right for the band and Dallas was doing the back up vocals so… he sounded good so he just kept on singing. For a long time we were an instrumental band, Dallas didn’t sing for a while, we just didn’t have the equipment, didn’t have any P.A. or anything like that so for a while we were instrumental and then like I said Dallas ended up singing for a little while."
A two song demo was recorded with Kenny on vocals during 1985 featuring ‘Demon Seed’ and ‘Welcome To Hell’ and the same session with Dallas on vocals, what do you remember from those early sessions?
"Like I said that was pretty much the whole situation, we went in, recorded two songs with him, just to see how it worked out and when we listened to it, it really wasn’t what we wanted for the band so we just kept Dallas on the vocals."
He (Kenny) soon was fired, Dallas did all the vocals for some local shows, tell us more about how all that stuff happened…
"Well, like I said, that was pretty much the situation, and once we did get Richard, he did a little bit of vocals too…"
So here Richard enters the picture… how did you recruit him at the time? If I’m correct he’s a relative to Trey, cousin or something also, right? Who came up with the idea to have a twin guitar attack?
"In fact Richard was no relation to any in the band at all, he was just a guy that used to come to alot of our parties and he played guitar, you know, he was into the same things we were into and… you know, to have more backing rhythms behind the leads… Trey used to really like to do alot of leads and it was really cool stuff at the time, we just kind of jammed more than anything but we decided that it would be a good idea to try out another guitar player and have twin leads like most bands had back then you know, JUDAS PRIEST, FATE… most bands like that had two lead players, SLAYER, so we decided to do that."
During the early shows of the band, you had – along with some covers – lots of original material, including early slower versions of ‘Maze Of Torment’, ‘Welcome To Hell’, ‘Abominations’… but also tons of material which was never used later, can you give us some songtitles from that early stuff?
"Most of it like ‘Welcome…’ had been changed to ‘Evil Spells’, ‘Maze…’ was redone… if you listen to the… alot of the old stuff, well some of it Dallas wrote (‘Coven Of The Dancer’) and when Dallas left the band, all the stuff that he wrote went with him and all the stuff that Trey wrote we kept and later on the band speeded all the stuff up, but if you listen to the ‘Abominations’ CD that’s now available, you can hear pretty much every rhythm on that was used later on and alot of the old stuff was used later on here and there and parts of the songs you just have to kind of go through and pick them out."
Who was the main songwriter at that stage? Did Trey already was the mainman and already had the vision of how MORBID ANGEL would sound like because those early recordings prove that the band – despite some flaws in the vocal department mainly – was sounding different from the other Thrash / Death acts around mainly because of the crazy soloing all the way?
"Yes Trey was definitively always the main songwriter in the band you know, I would never say anything other than that because that’s exactly the way it was. He has always written just about everything that MORBID ANGEL does so… I toyed around with some lyrics here and there back then but even he wrote most of the lyrics back then."
Talking about that unique soloing, it’s obvious the band was largely influenced by MERCYFUL FATE, not only for the soloing trade but also for the bunch of different parts the songs contained, correct? Who else would you name as an influence?
"I think MERCYFUL FATE would have been the biggest influence back then, we used to listen to alot of HELLHAMMER, CELTIC FROST, VENOM, FATE, SLAYER… POSSESSED, we liked that stuff alot back then, we used to listen to alot of that, pretty much anything we could find that was really evil in sound, we liked ANGEL WITCH especially, stuff like that."
At that point, how strong were the audiences and the Tampa / Florida Metal scene? Were you familiar with other acts such as MANTAS / DEATH, AVATAR / SAVATAGE, NASTY SAVAGE etc…?
"Yeah a long time ago when the scene really started to grow and get big, everybody was friends, it wasn’t ’til a little bit later on when everybody sort of started competing with each other, when you lost some of the original bands, and bands started to change members just to technically get better and things like that then you started having more competition and the scene blew up for a long time, then it was really big and then it sort of died out. Now it’s getting a little better but it’s kind of in and out but it’s still nowhere near what it used to be."
Then Dallas got arrested mid ’85 because of drugs and ended up in jail, he was replaced by John Ortega and Richard took over on vocals for some shows, any memories of those times? What was John musical background also?
"Yeah Dallas got in some trouble with drugs and ended up in jail, that’s definitively the truth and we found John Ortega, he was just living a couple towns over and he was one of the only people that was really into some weird stuff and wanted to do stuff like that you know so… in fact Richard wasn’t doing the vocals at that time, I was already singing. We didn’t replace Dallas with John until pretty close to when we recorded the "Abominations" record and by then I was already singing. Richard sung a little bit after Dallas left but he had a real hard time playing and singing at the same time so he would be like stopping playing guitar and then sing so we just decided to try me doing it and it just kinda… it worked out alright! (laughs)"
Talking about Richard doing some singing, there’s a two song live / demo floating around in the tape trading network called "Welcome To Hell" with that cut and ‘Morbid Angel’ taken from a 1985 show (which appeared on a bootleg LP titled "3rd Gig" along with a two song rehearsal from 1985 a few years ago), so was that live / demo really spread around by the band or was it spread around by some stupid fucker?
"I don’t know… to tell you the truth, most of the older tapes – I know the one you have, that you’re talking about, with Richard singing, also had Dallas singing, they were both singing on that particular show that we did. I don’t think there was ever a show that we did with just Richard singing, it went right from Dallas to Richard to me singing, so I’m not sure… I know alot of people around Tampa have tapes of us and they just get spread around and people release ’em, things like that, I don’t think it really hurts anything, I think it’s kind of good to get some of that old stuff out for people to hear how the band changed and what it was all about from the beginning but in fact the band never really released anything out to the public, I know Trey used to send alot of tapes to people, just rehearsal tapes to that could be that too so you know there was alot of tape trading going on back then and we all were trading tapes with people so there’s alot of stuff floating around outthere that I don’t even have."
So you became MORBID ANGEL’s full time drummer / singer, how did that happen exactly? Did you think Richard was too much limited as a singer? Was it hard for you to adapt the singing role to your drumming position?
"It wasn’t as hard as I figured it would be, we just decided to try it and see what would happen because I could kind of do it when we weren’t playing – I’d just sing to some practice tapes and Trey liked the way it sounded so it just kind of worked that way, I used a headphone mike and it would have been very hard I think if I was trying to do it with stationary microphone on a stand even overhead or whatever, but like I said, I used a headphone mike and that pretty much gives me alot of control to play and sing, and that’s pretty much how it came about."
While we’re talking about singers, there’s an old rumor saying that you had a girl singing for the band for a very short time, is that true and if so give us details about that…
"I think what might have happened with this particular situation is when we didn’t have a singer, Trey had a girlfriend who used to hang out and in fact I think she may have… just like screamed around you know for a couple of rehearsals with this and it probably got on a tape. I think the particular girl you’re talking about, her name was Lynn and everybody was calling her Evilynn but… I think she had some tapes that Trey used to gave her that had rehearsals and stuff so I’m sure she gave quite a few of those out to people when they asked for it… there’s maybe one floating around with her doing some vocals, just messing around but it was never a real thing like she sang for the band or anything like that, it might have just been, you know, playing around at practices, rehearsals."(Well if somebody out in Florida can locate that girl and those tapes, they’re more than welcome since those tapes never made it on the tape trading network so far – Laurent)
According to what you told me, those early days saw alot of occult practicing by you guys and a huge interest into the famous Necronomicon book, can you tell us more about all that stuff and how much each of you was into that?
"In fact there was a good amount of time with the Necronomicon, I did… Trey showed me the book the first time and Dallas and I both became very interested in it, we read it, started in fact practicing loots of the stuff that was in there and then, you know, of course it worked its way into our music and you know… that’s still the biggest influence on MORBID ANGEL, especially now that David Vincent isn’t in the band anymore. When we saw David leave the band, in fact the Necronomicon type lyrics came back in full force! So I believe that’s what Trey has always wanted and to do with the band and it is a very famous book and we did just about all the rituals in there, especially the ones from The Urilia Text, the evil side of the book. I do have a very good friend of mine that used to own a cult store and he knew the three authors that put the book together and of course now you know that the book is not… the book is a fiction book and I hope everybody realizes that now, it is based on some real Sumerian texts but the book itself is not real. Once I realized that and really found out the situation on that, I wasn’t so much into just Necronomicon stuff and nothing else, so I started kind of branching out my occultism to study other things… I’m very much into the occult but not just one avenue of the occult, I think it’s all innerconnected and need all for use, that’s the way I look at it. Now there is another book by – I believe it’s George Hay – called the Necronomicon as well and that book is very factual and has some really really good detailed stuff about that era of Sumerian magic so if you want to check that out, look for that book."
Next step was the recording of the 1986 four song demo featuring ‘Hellspawn’, ‘Chapel Of Ghouls’, ‘Angel Of Disease’ and ‘Abominations’, what can you tell us about the recording of that tape?
"Okay this I’m not quite sure, what I believe this may be is just a practice tape when we were approached by Goreque Records… they needed something to hear as they’d heard that the band had a really big buzz and there was alot of people interested, so they wanted to hear something so what we did was we send ’em up just a rehearsal tape of four songs and I believe that’s probably what that was. We had some pretty really good sounding rehearsal tapes back then, some of those big portable radios, we just used to put them in the room and record our practices and… I remember especially with Dallas, he had like piles of tapes of us because that what we used to do is just jam, you know just play and all that stuff was recorded. I believe maybe one day if Dallas still has quite a few of those rehearsal tapes around, maybe when he’ll get out of jail, which should be in a year or so, maybe alot of that stuff will start to surface."
That demo was traded like crazy by tape traders around and from that point the bandname started to become extremely wellknown in the underground Thrash scene, so whas it spread around mainly by the band or did you originally just give it to a few friends who made sure to spread it worldwide? Was it sold to the public at that point?
"I don’t ever remember anything being sold to the public at all as far as it’s called a demo, I know Trey used to make some rehearsal demos like I was just explaining, and he used to trade ’em to alot of people so I think most of this stuff that has been out for a long time, it was from that era of just tape trading you know, we didn’t have a professional demo so we would send stuff to people and you know they would trade it with other people and that’s how it got out."
If I’m correct the "demo" still featured John Ortega but was soon replaced by ex-INCUBUS bassplayer Sterling von Scarborough, what happened with John exactly and how did you recruit Sterling who came from Georgia?
"The demo, John Ortega would have been on, but as far as the "Abominations" record, John Ortega played on that too, Sterling didn’t come in the picture until after "Abominations" was recorded… David “Vincent” Stuppnig, who owned Goreque Records, his old guitar player which was Skelletor (Steve Shoemaker) from HALLOW’S EVE knew Sterling because Skelletor was from Georgia and Sterling was from Georgia so in fact it was David Vincent who said "Oh, I know a bass player that can replace this bass player"- he hated our bass player John so he said after we had recorded "You need a new bass player and here’s the guy for you" so he pretty much sent him, Sterling, or called him in fact I should say and told him to come down to Tampa and try out for us and he did, that’s what happened but that was definitively after the recording of "Abominations"."
Have you retained in touch with John after that split and checked his MATRICIDE project (with whom he issued two demos)?
"In fact I see him every once in a great while, I know he’s still around the Lake (???) where he’s from, he moved back to where he had moved from in the first place and he does radiation x-rays stuff now, so he makes some real good money and I think he has pretty much left the music I think behind. I know right at first he did two personal projects called MATRICIDE, in fact I heard the first demo but I don’t know if I ever heard the second one ("Elysium" for the trivia fans – Laurent) but I heard there was one… so like I said I’m not quite sure what happened after the MATRICIDE thing, he just sort of I guess fed up with the music scene and just left it."
I remember from pictures taken at the MASSACRE / MORBID ANGEL show at Side Streets on 4/20/86 that you were all wearing make up and Richard was wearing not so Metal clothes, I mean this whole look thing sounded quite surprising for a Thrash / Death act…
"I know we did one show at Side Streets and there’s a video for that and the make up thing was sort of like the way King Diamond sort of wore his stuff, we were kinda going along of that I guess… if you really look back, King Diamond was the first person to do the Black Metal type make up you know, of course KISS did it first but he kind of brought it back and we thought it would be kind of cool wearing all these spikes and stuff like VENOM and bands like POSSESSED used to do, and SLAYER of course, if you look on the back of the first SLAYER, on their main picture they had alot of the same kind of gear on I guess you could say but yeah first when Richard joined the band he wasn’t… he just liked to wear black clothes and he was never much into wearing all those crazy spikes and stuff like that like the rest of us were but at least he liked to wear black (laughs)."
Once the line up was settled with Sterling by the Spring of ’86, what made you go for the recording of an album? I mean I know that at that point enters David Vincent and his Goreque label, but was it a step the band had decided to do with or without a record deal considering that you were received an hella killer response from the underground?
"In fact, like I said, Sterling joined after we had recorded "Abominations" so he wasn’t on that, that was John Ortega that played on that and like I said, the guy who was singing for David Vincent’s band – I believe the band he had at the time was called BURIED IN CEMETARY, David Vincent started this record label and the guy who was singing for him was named Michael Manson and he was from my area, and he was a pretty good friend of mine, so he knew we were doing good when he left the area and when David started up his label, he was looking for some good bands, so this singer, he called me up and we sent him that rehearsal tape I was telling you about and that’s pretty much how we got signed!"
To clear up things completely, was the album recorded by your own funds or was it entirely financed by Goreque with whom you had signed a deal?
"No the album was entirely financed by Goreque, David Vincent had a partner at the time that had invested a bunch of money in his label for him, so they paid for the full recording, as a matter of fact when it got re-released on Earache, I didn’t even know about it, a friend of mine showed it to me and I was like "Where is this come from?!" and I was on Earache at the time (1991) with NOCTURNUS and I had to call up Gunther (Ford) and David Vincent and say "What’s going here?" and I’ve called up Dig (Pearson – Earache boss) and say "What’s going? Why is this released? I wasn’t even told about it!" and what happened was that David had sold the recordings to Earache for a certain amount of money and then Dig gave Trey a certain amount of money and that was pretty much all done without asking anybody else that was in the band at the time so that’s what happened with that particular situation. It was all financed by Goreque and like I said David owned the tapes and he ended up selling them to Dig."
Had you heard about the aborted deal Vincent had given to MASSACRE for an EP at the time also?
"I know he was very excited about MASSACRE, he liked that band alot, he really wanted to do something with them… I’m not really sure why it didn’t work out."
The album was recorded in May 1986 in North Carolina and was supposedly enginereed by Bill Metoyer known for his work with Metal Blade, so how those sessions went exactly?
"Yeah that’s true, it was recorded in May in Charlotte, NC… I don’t remember the studio in fact. Bill Metoyer was a great guy, David, you know, was very familiar with the stuff he did for SLAYER so he figured, you know, if we could get that sound… I know he wasn’t completely throw with the studio itself but he did a pretty good job, for the first real kind of like big studio that we ever recorded in so… it could have been alot better, it could have been alot worse but my drums weren’t the greatest back then, I’ve got a much better drum set now, but… everything went pretty good, I think that we recorded for one week and then Richard, myself and Johnny all went back to Tampa and Trey stayed up there with David and they mixed the next week… my drum tracks were recorded on the first day, mostly everything was recorded within four-five days."
Do you have good memories to have worked with Bill? Do you think it was a good choice basically?
"Like I said, yeah Bill was a great person to work with and I think it was a real good choice, I think it would have been better if we could have went to his studio, you know, a studio that he was more familiar with like in California, I think we would have done much better because the people who owned the studio had never recorded anything Metal at all! It was a Country music type studio, so they really weren’t sure what our music was (laughs). So I think it could have been much better if we had went out to California recording with Bill Metoyer but that was a hard choice moneywise and things like that, I think for the time it was okay."
Why was it decided to go to North Carolina to record that album instead of doing it in Florida where Morrisound for example had already worked with some local bands? Guess it was a choice done by David Vincent?
"Yeah it definitively was! Like I said it was a choice by David Vincent and everything was getting paid for that time, we were like "Okay let’s do it!"."
Despite being a cult album this album in my opinion had two major flaws, one was the poor production which was done by Vincent (if I’m correct) since some parts sound really weak in terms of power and the other one was your drumming during the fast parts of ‘Chapel…’, ‘Demon Seed’ or for ‘Unholy Blasphemies’, no offence to you of course, but I always found the fast parts to not be effective at all…
"We used to play that stuff kind of… even slower really than it was recorded and when we went to record, David said "Play everything as fast as you can!", it was just like it didn’t work out good for us to do that because we have been playing for a long time everything a certain way and… I don’t know, like I said it was a strange studio, my drums weren’t really great at the time so I don’t think some of that stuff should have been recorded as fast as it was, I thought that the band sounded much better and more evil in fact doing slower, weird stuff you know?! But you know, that’s when the band started changing becoming faster and faster and turned into what it is today. Like I said I’m still not totally into all fast music all the time, I like to do alot of weird stuff too, you know?!"
Once you got back (hoping the chronological order is right) you headlined for two days that Tampa Metal festival which took place at the "Rock City" on some Tampa beach with the likes of MASSACRE, HELLWITCH, EXECUTIONER, HAVOC, SCIMITAR etc… supporting the band, the first day being recorded on video and tape, any memories for that event which didn’t seemed for some unknown reasons to have attracted hundreds of Metalheads (as we can see on the videos of different acts) despite the killer bills for both days…
"Well that show was in fact a very good show back then, I think there was 200 or 300 people there, it was at the hotel that was on the beach and outside like… and like the inner part of the hotel, kind of like around the beach so there was like a little area in the middle and that’s where we played, it wasn’t a huge area but there was quite a few people there, and the hotel was sold out for the whole week end so I think the thing went pretty well overall, it was a pretty good show, it got recorded, I think alot of people liked it, there was a really cool storm that just sat overhead while we played, big black clouds but it never rained and… I remember that quite well, it was a very cool show I thought."
Then the band continued to rehearse / write new material (which included a visit to one of your rehearsals by the Swiss guys from Megawimp ‘zine) with inclusion of Sterlings stuff like ‘Reanimator’s Mutilation’ which was even played live in July 1986 and according to what was said during years, Trey and Richard decided to not release the "Abominations…" album because they thought it wasn’t good and fast enough, so before going further and talking about the huge line up change that happened shortly after, what’s your comments about that decision and is it what really happened?
"I remember those Swiss guys, they were pretty cool… well when Sterling got into the band, we did one or two of his songs, but Trey really didn’t wanna play Sterling songs, he wanted to play his own songs so there was problems right out of that with Sterling and Trey… and I had caught Trey with my girlfriend and we got into a physical fight and that pretty much was the main thing that broke the band up. When the band broke up Trey and Richard went their way with David and Sterling and I of course went on to form INCUBUS. As far as the album release, no – when Sterling was in the band the whole thing was getting released all the way up until Trey and I got into a physical fight and… you know when that happened then David decided not to release the "Abominations" album but it wasn’t… back then everybody seemed to like it after it was recorded, the decision came about, like I said, when Trey and I got into a fight then when the band split in two, it was decided to not be released."
Even if that album wasn’t going to be released, it found its way (and also a soundboard live tape from the first day of the Rock City festival) in the tape trading network and soon became acclaimed in fanzines around, who decided to spread that around?
"I know that the original way that the "Abominations" got out was by John Ortega, he had a copy of it, he started trading it to people and… as far as the soundboard tape from the Rock City, I don’t think it’s a soundboard tape, it’s probably just an audio tape of the video because I’ve never heard of a soundboard tape from Rock City and I would probably be willing to bet that it’s just a tape from that video tape itself but as far as the "Abominations", the reason it got out was John Ortega started to give it to people and everybody was trading it before… it wasn’t even coming out anyway so so that’s what happened." (Well the Rock City 5/25/86 show exist as a soundboard tape as it was given to yours truly by Trey itself – Laurent)
So by late July / August ’86, the band split in two parts, Richard and Trey remaining together and on the other hand Sterling and you being fired…
"Well, like I mentioned before the reason for the split up of the band was in fact personal more than musical, like I said, I caught Trey kissing my girlfriend and… you know me being young at the time, instead of trying to handle it in a better way, I just basically got into a fight with him and beat his ass and that was pretty much the end of MORBID ANGEL… and like I said, him and Sterling really didn’t get along from the beginning so we went ahead and just stuck together, Sterling and I and re-did the INCUBUS band that he had in Georgia."
From what I remember, Sterling made clear everytime he could that they (Richard / Trey) couldn’t play his material at all etc… how much is true?
"Well at the time Sterling really wanted to sing with his project, he wanted to sing his songs and play his songs and he wanted ’em to play a certain way and… Trey pretty much plays the way Trey plays, Trey’s got a particular style that he plays and it really doesn’t sound like anybody else and you know it just… for Sterling he didn’t really like the way Trey was playing his songs so yeah there was problems like I said between Trey and Sterling anyway and then when the other thing happened it just you know… made the band totally split half."
As everybody knows one of the key point in MORBID ANGEL’s career happened after that as the remaining duo moved to North Carolina and teamed up with David Vincent on bass, Wayne Hartsell (who had played with Vincent previously) on drums and Michael Manson on vocals (for a short stint), recorded another legendary demo and finally got a deal with Earache to cut it short, so to end up that MORBID ANGEL chapter, have you followed what MORBID ANGEL did after that ’86 split, if so – what’s your opinion about the material issued after your departure which saw the band going out for a faster direction?
"I think exactly that… like I said I wasn’t into just doing totally fast stuff all the time and I still… you know my roots still were into the older songs, stuff like that and of course I’ve followed MORBID ANGEL as far as what they’ve done ever since then and you know it’s definitively a great band, I would never say anything bad about the musicianship or anything and to me I think MORBID ANGEL became what Trey really wanted it to be but it wasn’t what I wanted in the band either so…"
At which point did you get back again on much more friendly terms with Richard and Trey especially? Did the fact that you open for MORBID ANGEL with NOCTURNUS later on help?
"Yeah after there was a second altercation with me and Trey and the same fight did happen and… in fact Trey and I still don’t really talk very much, I’ve seen him around and he just doesn’t want to even talk to me, he definitively thinks he’s much better than I am and you know he’s got what I would call a rock star attitude (Too true! – Laurent) and he’s just too good to talk to me so I’ve tried to be friends with him and he just doesn’t really want that situation so… and as far as Richard, Richard and I get along great, he’s had a couple other projects that he’s worked on since he left MORBID ANGEL… since he ended up back in Tampa, we started talking right away and we’ve been friends all along but he’s doing his own thing, he’s got a couple good bands that he’s working with."
Let’s talk a bit more about the fact that MORBID ANGEL decided to release the "Abominations…" officially supposedly to stop the bootlegging for that particular release…
"Like I said, a friend of mine that I saw at a gas station, he said "Man that "Abominations" CD sounds great!", I said "Oh, you got a copy of that?!", "Oh, I got the original Earache release that they released.", I said "I didn’t have no idea" you know, I had no idea that this thing was gonna get released and like I said, I was even on Earache at the time! Like I explained before, I called Earache, I called, you know, David Vincent and Gunther their manager and we worked out a deal and in fact they had to go back and pay me some royalties because they weren’t gonna pay anything so… like I said, that was released totally behind my back without me knowing and on purpose, if you look there is no pictures on there, there was no informations as far as who played in the band at the time, it was just sort of like they were tired of other people making money out of it and them not making any money out of it so they sold it to Earache."
Talking about bootlegs, are you aware of the numerous bootlegs on vinyl and CDs featuring recordings from the ’83 / ’86 era like the famous "Abominations…" LP (also released as a bootleg version of the bootleg (!!!) as picture disc titled "Subconcious Release"), "Demos 86 / 87" CD, "Live 86 / 88"CD, "3rd gig" LP, "Unholy Blasphemies" LP and "The Beginning" CD (which was released by somebody certainly very close to the band early on considering the knowledge displayed on the liner notes and the ultra rare recording featured on it)?
"Well I think as far as all these bootlegs, I probably don’t have even half of this stuff that’s on here, I’m sure there was much more releases over in Europe and I think all of that was released basically because of tape trading, you don’t really have much of that going on today so that’s how all this stuff got out, basically that was the good old tape trading days."
Second chapter, do you remember how long it took to you and Sterling to reform INCUBUS after you left MORBID ANGEL and get Gino Marino into the line up?
"In fact it didn’t take any time at all, Sterling and I moved right out of the MORBID ANGEL house into our own house and we hooked up with Gino almost immediately, we knew him from the scene and he was one of the only people I knew that I think could have played in this band at that point."
Talking about Gino, what was his musical background (including TERROR) before he joined INCUBUS? Did you know him before?
"Yeah, like I said, I used to hang out with him when they were in TERROR and I was in MORBID ANGEL and they… I don’t think they ever played a show in fact as TERROR, it was in fact just him and a couple of other people jammin’ and they wrote a couple songs but it was pretty cool stuff… you know he really wasn’t doing anything at that point, Sterling and I needed a guitar player so it was just a good timing on that aspect."
Were you familiar with the first INCUBUS incarnation when Sterling was based in Georgia who featured of course Sterling but also Steve "Skellator" Shoemaker (who was also seen in HALLOWS EVE) and Rich Fuscia who was supposedly admitted to the Atlanta Mental Institute?
"I didn’t really hear about INCUBUS in fact until Sterling came to Tampa and then told me about his old band and Steve Shoemaker – who was Skellator, that I mentioned earlier, who was playing in David Vincent’s band when I was in MORBID ANGEL and recorded that "Abominations" album – had just quit David Vincent’s band and moved back to Georgia and as far as… Sterling definitively said that their drummer went to a mental institute but I don’t even know if it’s true or not and in fact I do know that the drummer Rich was also the one that came up with the killer INCUBUS logo that is very well known."
According to the official biography, when INCUBUS was reformed you spent some time in Georgia and there was talks about relocating to San Francisco before you finally relocated in Florida early ’87 I believe, anything to say about those moves or at least considerations of moving?
"Well in fact, I never left Tampa and INCUBUS was reformed – or formed after MORBID ANGEL broke up, it was formed here in Tampa with Gino. After the band split up and I started NOCTURNUS, Sterling moved back to Atlanta and a couple months after that Gino moved up to Atlanta with Sterling , then they reformed INCUBUS up there in Georgia but it never really went very far and they got into another fight like they did here and that was pretty much I think the end of that INCUBUS. I know later on, Gino moved back here of course and Sterling did move up to San Francisco and he did call me probably about four years ago one night really late and he was saying "We should put the band back together", that was right after I just had a bad dealing with Gino and I was just like "It’s not gonna happen with the three of us you know" so he was trying to get me moving to San Francisco and I had just bought a house here and I just really didn’t wanna do something unstable at that point. So in fact INCUBUS was formed here in Tampa with Sterling, me and Gino."
So the three song debut demo was recorded in April ’87 and it took the Thrash / Death Metal underground by storm despite the numerous bands around at the time because the material was extremely strong, each song having its own identity and except a few not so hot reviews including Borivoj Krgin’s Violent Noize one, people raved on it, any memories about that recording and the feedback it got?
"Well INCUBUS really only lasted about six months as a band in general and we went to the studio and recorded those three songs and we had never even heard Sterling you know sing cos we didn’t have a P.A. at practice, we just practiced the songs themselves and that’s probably why they came across the way they did because we never really practiced with vocals so we really didn’t even know how Sterling was gonna sound like in the studio singing you know until he went in there and just went insane and sang like he did you know… it was just a really unique kind of thing the way the whole thing came about you know?! Had three completely different kind of musicians in what they were doing and it just sort of clicked… I think we ended up with about six songs total that we had practiced and… we never played out, we never recorded any practices so that’s pretty much it as far as INCUBUS."
For the first time with INCUBUS, you could concentrate on your drum work since Sterling was handling the vocal duties, how do you feel about that?
"Well like I said, I did definitively go back and concentrated a little bit more on just playing you know, everybody was starting to play faster at that time, it was like the big thing, so I kinda got into that thing too for a little while, did the INCUBUS cos Sterling really liked to play fast but he did it differently than most people, he threw alot more notes in at the time than other people did at the time so I think it was different you know and I think it was definitively worth doing, it was some pretty intense stuff but it definitively took more concentration on the drums to play fast like that all the time."
Talking about drumming, the material was extremely fast most of the time, much more straight ahead stuff than the MORBID ANGEL numbers, so did you have – not necessarily a problem – but like you had to adapt to that very fast style (at least for the time)?
"Yeah, like I was just explaining, everybody was starting to really try to play faster at that time, it was like everybody was on a race with the drums you know, it didn’t matter what kind of weird beat you’re playing, it just had to be fast and there’s still a big you know call for that today, I mean you know there’s alot of people that’s all they’re listening to you know and if that’s what they want that’s cool cos there’s alot of that out there so… that’s the way I feel about it."
How did you feel about the fact that Sterling was doing all the songwriting including the lyrics? Would you have liked to put some input into the songs?
"Well from the first time I’ve met Sterling I knew that the stuff that he wrote, that the stuff that he did, he wanted to have every bit of control in it and, you know, for me I’ve joined a few bands just because I liked what the people are doing and I wanted to play drums on it, now that I do my own thing, it’s my own thing and it’s a completely different situation you know, but I don’t mind playing for other people if I like what they’re doing, you know. I’ll do that, but when it comes to my stuff, I wanna do certain things and I wanna sing too when I write my lyrics, I really don’t think somebody else singing my lyrics would be a good idea so that’s the way I look at things."
It was stated on the biography that INCUBUS was a Satanic outfit who practiced the occult, I know you were, but what about the other guys?
"Sterling definitively was into the occult, in fact he even own an occult book store up in S.F., I know that he had married to a girl here in Tampa so they have an occult book store, so Sterling was definitively into it. Gino was never much into the occult and the situation was more or less like he was a very good guitar player and, you know, he was very crazy but he wasn’t Satanic. In fact most of the time he’s been against that kind of stuff and I know… not just in INCUBUS but in NOCTURNUS too as well and AFTER DEATH, it was always something that he didn’t like that much, that type of lyrics you know, he was like, he always said he believed in God so you know, that’s his choice but as far as that you know he wasn’t a Satanic guy, it was pretty much Sterling believing in what he did, I believed in what I did and then Gino believed in what he did, and none of us was the same."
I remember that Sterling claimed in interviews that he had an album worth of material, 13 songs written so first is it exact and if so, do you remember some of the song titles and how the material sounded like?
"Well he probably had more songs than we heard, I know he had a lot of lyrics and alot of song titles but as far as… the time that I’ve worked with him on his material, it was about six months and probably I saw… I know we had six for sure and we had a couple others that we were working on, I don’t remember the titles of ’em because like I said, he never sung the songs, it would be just like, here’s another song, we kind of learnt it and then we found out more about it later, so that’s kind of like how it was, but we never recorded anything when we practiced so there’s nothing outthere to even go back in reference."
We’ve already discussed that but can you tell people why so there’s surprisingly nothing else than the demo tape to be heard in the tape trading network considering that back then underground bands were doing their best to have rehearsal tapes floating in the tape trading movement?
"Well that’s the thing, I was very used to that and I always been into making alot of rehearsal tapes, I consider them to be great things to listen to you know, listening to your own stuff it’s a little bit different when you’re back behind and playing drums and then when you record it and get to sit there and listen to it as a whole so I’m worrying about you know doing another thing, playing, sometimes playing and singing and it’s cool to be able to sit back and listen to that after you’ve done it and hear what you just did! But with INCUBUS we were never "allowed" I should say to tape rehearsals, so there’s no tapes at all."
Also INCUBUS never played live, how did that happen since all the other small outfits from Florida were playing at least at the Sunset club in Tampa?
"We went up to the Sunset club alot but like I said for some reasons Sterling was really wanting us to wait ’til we had like a good hour worth of music going and you know he wasn’t ready to play out yet so we could have but he really wasn’t ready to, I guess, do it you know, as far as going out and play with all those other bands, he didn’t really worry about that too much, we were more worried about, you know, writing songs and, you know, get the songs together cos we figured that we’d get some kind of record deal you know so that’s basically why the band never played out, the band pretty much just didn’t last long enough for that to happen."
Do you have a clue if you were offered a record deal at some point during INCUBUS short period of life?
"Yeah definitively! I mean we were talking to people, I won’t mention any names for sure but we were in contact with alot of labels at that point and there was alot of people, there was alot of interest. Yeah, I think it could have been you know something pretty cool at the time yeah."
So what happened around the summer / Autumn 1987 when the band split up? Is this a case where Sterling’s ego was maybe too big or…?
"Well I’ll tell you, I went to work that day and Sterling and Gino went to the beach and I came back and Sterling was very drunk and telling me that the band broke up and Gino and him got into a physical fight out there on the beach and ran down the beach and took off and that was the last of INCUBUS as far as I know. I remember put in a phone call into Richard Bateman and just say "Hey man, I’d just like to play with somebody that doesn’t have a bunch of weird stuff going on" like it was at that point so I just kinda like got into the car and drove off and that was the last I saw Sterling for a long time so that what’s what happened."
A few years later, in the early ’90s, that legendary demo was issued on Gore Records from Germany, first with a killer layout (lyrics, photo…) as a limited edition and was picked up a few months later by Nuclear Blast who re-issued it in a cheap packaging, so were you the one who dealt that or was it Sterling who got that "deal" with Slatko (R.I.P.)?
"Well in fact I didn’t have the original tape for that or anything, I mean the demo was everywhere, everybody had it and Slatko – who yeah did die about a year or two after he released that 7", he had a brain tumour and ended up dying, he was a great guy too – he had contacted me and asked about putting out the demo, I said "Well I don’t know, you’ve got to get hold of Sterling you know" and I said "I don’t care, I don’t care what you do with it, you know you have it, if you feel like putting it out, put it out" but I wouldn’t sign a contract to it or anything cos it’s not my music so I sent him some pictures, you know I said "If you do it I’ll send you some pictures, at least do it right" but… the only thing in fact he even sent as far as that, he sent me a little box with about 15 copies and I think there was like ten of the good ones and about four of the other one and as far as that I was the only thing I ever got out of the whole situation but I just thought that you know, "Hey if you got the demo and you feel like putting it out, I can’t stop you for it, I’m not gonna try it’s not my music you know so you do what you want with it", and like I said there was never a contract or anything so that’s pretty much what happened there but I’m glad it got done because I talked to Sterling about it anyway and at first he was a little mad about the fact that it got released but I said "Hey" you know, it was going being put on the shelf you know and he thought that was a good thing so… and I think it was a very good thing that it got out like it did, you know… it was good and it was a very limited thing and it wasn’t anything to make any money out of those, just… I think that there’s so many people that wanted it, it was already out there, it was just a matter of time as to who is gonna print it first so that’s the way I look at it."
While we’re talking about that demo, are you aware that this demo appeared along with the likes of MORBID ANGEL ("Thy Kingdom Come") and the NECROVORE demo on a bootleg CD called "Harmony Dies Vol. I" which was issued a couple years ago?
"No I wasn’t aware of that! I’d like to get a copy of that, that sounds pretty cool. I’ve never heard it on anybody’s CD before so as far as that… that would be pretty cool to listen to. Like I just said, it was only a matter of time until somebody did it you know?! Look at the music today, I mean you can get albums before they come out on the internet now so… that’s the way things were back then. I’m surprised nobody has done it with the NOCTURNUS stuff (laughs)."
I know it can sound dumb but did you think back then that this INCUBUS demo would reach the cult status so fast just like the "Abominations.." album?
"No I didn’t think it would… I really didn’t think people would like it as much as they did either, cos I know it was kind of thrown together even pretty quick, we were all together for a couple months when we went in the studio and did that. Like I said we never even heard it with lyrics so you know, as far as that I didn’t think a demo would have ever do anything as good as an album but it definitively… I think it reached that status."
At that point were you checking what was going on in the Death Metal scene mainly as bands were popping up from everywhere (PENTAGRAM, NECROVORE, TERRORIZER, UNSEEN TERROR, EXECUTIONER…) and DEATH plus POSSESSED were getting finally some recognition?
"Yeah I’ve always kept up with the scene and that’s what I like to listen to you know… I still listen to alot of the older stuff more than alot of the newer stuff to tell you the truth so you know some of those bands are still what I listen to most of the time."
It seems Sterling tried to make a come back in the early ’90s with an outfit called USURPER (not the Illinois act of course)…
"Yeah, like I said, they tried to do a version of it (INCUBUS) in Georgia after our version broke up and that didn’t work out either and then I heard Sterling had a band called USURPER, but I’ve never got to hear that demo so I don’t know really what it sounds like and I’ve even heard that now he has something new out so… I’d like to get a copy of it, if anybody has it you can send it my way (laughs)." (by the time you’ll read that, I will have taken care of that of course even if USURPER wasn’t as strong at all as INCUBUS – Laurent)
Next chapter for you was NOCTURNUS which was formed shortly after INCUBUS broke up and featured you doing again the vocals with the drumming, and Richard Bateman (ex- SCIMITAR / PURGATORY / AGENT STEEL) on bass, from what I heard you already knew Richard right?
"Yes I knew Richard, not really well but I did know him and I thought he was a great bass player… he was in AGENT STEEL and he was going to Europe and stuff, he quit AGENT STEEL and almost immediately started to play with me and we got Gino and we’re playing out… pretty quickly in fact, he had a bunch of new songs and stuff, the AGENT STEEL guys really hated it, but he had already quit their band before he’s joined with me and we formed NOCTURNUS." (to find out more about all that read a complete interview with Bateman in the new Snakepit issue #11 – http://www.truemetal.org/Snakepit)
You started right away writing material including the now classic ‘BC / AD’ and you brought Vincent Crowley (ex- ENTITY) in the band, it seems this guy shared alot of things with you at least when it comes to the evil and occult side of things…
"Well at first it was just me and Richard, we wrote a few songs together and then we got Gino, I’ve kept talking to Gino after the break up of INCUBUS so he ended up joining with me and Richard and then we ended up getting Vince who was… I’d seen him played in ENTITY a couple times and I thought he would be a great person to bring in the band, you know, like you said we had alot of similar interests at the time so it worked out real well. We were definitively on the right track with the way we were doing things at that point so…"
I always thought that you had added Gino Marino by late ’87 only as it seems Vince’s leads were quite limited just before the band was about to enter the studio…
"No Gino was in the band first and then we added Vince and Vince had a bunch of songs from his band ENTITY so we almost doubled our list of songs when we got Vince, it was like "Let’s take all these songs and just redo ’em" and that’s pretty much what we did so we put two of his songs and two of mine and Richards on the first demo."
A four song demo was released late ’87 featuring the killer song ‘Nocturnus’, ‘Unholy Fury’, ‘BC / AD’ and ‘The Entity’, the recording wasn’t the greatest but it showed clearly that the band had something to offer. Looking back, what do you think of that first effort and also last effort with that early line up?
"Yeah in fact we went to this guy’s house and he had a little eight track machine in his house, so we recorded right there in his backroom so for that, you know, it didn’t have, you know, studio production but you could hear everything that was going on and it definitively had a raw, kind of evil sound to it, so that’s pretty much the way I feel about that demo. I mean it’s pretty good and like I said we still play the song ‘Nocturnus’ today, it’s been kind of revamped and rewritten but we still do a version of it now."
What’s surprising is the fact that only ‘BC / AD’ and ‘Standing In Blood’ from that period were used by NOCTURNUS mark II, what were the reasons behind that?
"Well… like I said when Vince joined the band he brought in like as many songs as we already had so we immediately had like 14-15 songs and so the songs that he had brought into the band, when he left the band he took with him, so that were his songs to begin with and he played them in ENTITY, and we played ’em in there and in fact we even re-recorded ’em again on one of the ACHERON CDs, so that’s what happened there, that’s why ‘BC / AD’ and ‘Standing…’ were the only two that really made it past that era."
Did you play alot of shows with that first line up? I know you had the opportunity to open for Wendy O Williams (R.I.P.) back then…
"Yeah we played quite a bit, everybody was playing out you know?! XECUTIONER which was OBITUARY, MASSACRE you know all these bands, alot of bands were playing out and… yeah one time Wendy O’ Williams came through on her "Maggots" tour I guess it was – I guess it was ’87 – and yeah, we got the chance to open at that Sunset Club for her."
Early ’88 you parted ways with Vincent who formed ACHERON right away and Richard soon left also because it seems he wasn’t happy with Vincent’s departure (and joined NASTY SAVAGE), which finally ended by seeing NOCTURNUS splitting, is that correct? Was it the right thing to do since the name NOCTURNUS was starting to be much talked about in the underground?
"In fact Vince and Gino weren’t getting along very well and Vince was just tired of Gino so he just said "I wanna leave the band and do this ACHERON thing" and then Richard got… so it was just me, Richard and Gino, and Richard and Gino at the time weren’t getting along too well either, so Richard got that offer for NASTY SAVAGE and they were doing lots of touring, they were a very popular band at that point, so he didn’t really want to turn that down but in fact at that point after Vince left, we had Gino playing guitar and we had Mike Davis playing guitar in that version of NOCTURNUS, so that was his entering point, it was ’88 with Mike. Like I said, he was Gino’s cousin, so he ended up being in the band after Vince left and Richard just wasn’t happy with the whole thing and he got a real good offer so he went ahead with NASTY SAVAGE and then I just got a couple of new members that were friends of Mike and NOCTURNUS got started!"
So it didn’t take long before NOCTURNUS was reformed as you were back in June 1988 with Gino, Jeff Estes on bass and the young genius Mike Davis on guitars. How did you and Gino team up with those other guys? And why did you decide to give NOCTURNUS a new try after all?
"Well like I said, it never really split up… when Richard left, we had Gino and Mike at that point so it was just getting Jeff in there, he was a friend of Mike, and eventually getting Lou (Panzer) in there who was a friend of Jeff and Mike so that’s how that came out in fact."
Any idea if it was Mike Davis’ first band experience? Do you know something about his musical background?
"Yes, NOCTURNUS was definitively the first real band he had ever joined and even at the time he was just starting to take guitar lessons and stuff, he was only rhythms… so yeah, he took alot of guitar lessons from a guy named Dallas Perkins and I think he took some more from another guy named Ralph Santolla (later seen in EYEWITNESS and also in DEATH for a couple of shows – Laurent) but most of his stuff was definitively from a guy named Dallas Perkins, he was taking alot of lessons at that time and it really paid off for him."
Next addition was Louis Panzer on keyboards, an addition which took the Thrash / Death Metal underground scene by surprise because until that point there was no keyboards in extreme Metal, so what was the original purpose in doing that addition in the band when little did know that it would start a worldwide trend in fact?
"Yeah in fact it was just… Lou was friends with Mike and Jeff and he had a keyboard that he would make some real weird sounds out of it and we had some cool intros written, he said "Man let’s just throw that stuff in!" you know, in between the songs and then it got to where he played a part here and there and then, you know, it got where he was playing the whole songs, so that just kind of… started as like a little bit of noise in between songs really…"
Were you sure right away that people would accept that different sound that was unheard of before? I mean it was certainly risky even if history shows that it worked extremely well because that instrument was extremely well mixed at time and not as upfront as it appeared in pale copy bands later on…
"Uh… I didn’t really care what anybody would think or if they liked what the keyboards were doing or not because I liked it, like I said if I’m gonna do a band, that’s mine and write the lyrics and sing you know, I don’t care what people think about what it is, I just do it because I want to do it and that’s the main point. It was… I guess it was risky if you look at it in a point of view of making money and it did work out at first for us really well and it was unexpected but it was really not even considered whether it was gonna be done or not because we wanted to do it."
With that new line up you entered the studio late ’88 to cut a four song demo titled "The Science Of Horror" with SAVATAGE singer Jon Oliva as engineer / producer, how did you get him involved doing that considering that NOCTURNUS material was far removed from SAVATAGE material and were you happy with the result?
"In fact I knew the guys in SAVATAGE for a while anyway and I still talk to them, all of ’em when I see ’em so I thought… well I ran into Jon one time and he said "Hey I’m working at the studio doing some pre-production and I’ve got a little bit of extra time there", he goes "If you want I’ll record the demo for you for 500 bucks and I’ll produce it" and I said, well you know we couldn’t pass that deal, he’s a great producer so we said "Sure, let’s do it!" so we weren’t even really prepared to do it as quick at that, it just kind of came about when it was like as "Let’s do it" you know, it was the deal that… we could do it that way you know and since there was five people in the band you know, 100 bucks piece, hey that’s not too bad you know?! So we went ahead and went in there and did it and Jon in fact ended up really liking the stuff and singing back ups on there… we had a good time recording it, it was all done over one week end so… it was pretty good! So the original tape with that on it, we didn’t end up buying the tape cos there was other bands on it also and it ended up getting taped over so the only stuff that is out there is the… demos themselves so there’s really no actual tracks, reel to reel outthere for it."
How much imput did each member have in the newer material at that point? Did you see that with Mike’s addition that you could come up with some real technical material?
"Yeah definitively as the band kept evolving and getting new members, it just kept getting more technical and technical until you know it reached the end, I think it’s pre-eminent that it was the main influence for the band, just to get more technical. That wasn’t necessarily my idea of what I wanted NOCTURNUS to be. I did get my own science fiction thrown in here and there especially from an evil point of view, a futuristic point of view but I think it got way out of hand you know personally, for my taste. Some people really liked it butI think it went to a point that I would never have taken it if I still had control over the band."
One thing I’ve always found strange reading your bio or interviews with NOCTURNUS is the fact that you were never mentioning the older NOCTURNUS line up, always stating that NOCTURNUS had started in 1988, any particular reasons behind that?
"In fact… what I was talking about was the current line up because the band had changed so much from the beginning with the addition of keyboards and everything, we pretty much called it a new beginning you know?! Gino and I were doing alot of the stuff at that point and everybody else was just starting to write… so I think it was… I don’t know, we just kind of thought about it as a new situation, a new start and that’s pretty much why we didn’t say too much about the old line up. Like I said, half of it was Vince’s material and he took that with him so we kind of looked at it as a new beginning."
1989 was spent – as far as I know – playing locally quite alot with other local outfits, and it didn’t take long to have a bunch of new songs written, each one being extremely distinguishable from each other and being more and more technical, but that’s also when you parted ways with Gino who was replaced by Sean McNennery, tell us more about that change…
"Well Gino ended up getting in some more trouble with the law, going in jail again so that was pretty much it you know… all we could do was getting another guitar player and Sean McNennery lived about five houses down from Mike on the same street so they’d known each other for years, you know, grew up kind of playing together guitar, so it was just the easiest thing to do at the time."
Would you say Sean’s playing was closer to what you were heading to than Gino’s one which was maybe more "limited"?
"In fact I would kind of look at it as the other way around, Sean’s writing was just like Mikes, so therefore it vastly limited what the band could do as far as… yeah it was more technical but Gino was a very more branched out type of songwriter and we could have chopped the band in a bunch of different directions all at once instead of just going for straight, everything being technical. I would have probably rather had it the other way but you know that’s the way the axe swings (laughs)."
At that point (1989) the Death Metal scene was becoming huge and it was partly due to what happened in Florida with a bunch of cult albums issued by MORBID ANGEL, OBITUARY and DEATH mainly and promising demo acts such as NOCTURNUS, ATHEIST etc… not forgetting the aura surrounding Scott Burns and Morrisound Studios. How did you feel about what was going on in your area and Death Metal as a whole?
"It was great! I mean, we personally living in Tampa thought that it was just kind of spreading up everywhere like that, I had no idea that when you look back at it that people are gonna say that Tampa was a big spot because I thought, at that time it just seemed like everybody was into it and there were big spots like that everywhere especially all over Europe you know, I mean when we went over to Europe it was like, you know, fantastic crowds so as far as the way I thought about it, it was like everything was huge at that point but I guess for the U.S., it ended up being that Tampa was the, I guess, the hot spot because just so many bands originated here."
By 1989 Earache were starting to show interest after having heard the ’88 demo from what I remember, but they wanted to hear more which they did with rehearsal tapes, including one from late 89 which featured all the songs from the upcoming album. Why do you think it took them so long to take a chance with you instead of signing NOCTURNUS after hearing the demo? Was it the only label interested at the time or…?
"There were other labels interested, Peaceville liked us alot, so we were just kinda like seeing who looked the most stable at the time and you know, people that we knew were on the label and we could talk to them, I think that had alot to do with it, I think Trey (Azagthoth) and Mike getting along very well had alot to do with it, I know he (Dig) wasn’t really interested at first and in fact Trey kept telling Dig that he should sign us, it’d be worth it, so he finally did and I guess it was pretty good at least for the first CD."
How much do you think your connection with MORBID ANGEL had something to do by getting this deal or would you say that Earache signed the band just because of the music?
"Well I think it was just… not one thing in particular that did it you know, I mean I’m sure Earache knew that they were gonna make something out of it anyway you looked at it… but, like I said, they weren’t too sure about themselves at first, you know, but they did go ahead and did it and I think alot of it was… probably Trey telling Dig, you know, to sign us. At least that’s the way I would see it."
At that point, did you toy with the idea of adding a full time singer because it would have give you more room to concentrate on your drumming especially when you consider how technical the band was going or was it totally out of question?
"Hmmm for me it was never out of the question to even try to sing and play, for me the more of the point was that I didn’t really want to go far more technical than we already were… then comes the point when songs just didn’t sound like songs anymore and there are just a bunch of a really fast scales put together that you’d learn you know, you go take a lesson, you learn the scale and you turn it into a riff, you learn ten scales and you turn it into a song with ten scales in it. And that’s basically what I think NOCTURNUS ended up being, just a bunch of scales, you know. And things like that just thrown together to make songs, that’s why I liked the direction with Gino a lot more because the songs sounded like songs so that’s the way I thought about it."
You entered the studio in the first part of 1990 to record "The Key" with the help of Tom Morris, would you say that the band was completely prepared to enter the studio at that point or do you think you needed more rehearsals?
"There’s always a point where, you know, you pretty much always say "Oh it could have been better the next day!" or even ten days later would have been much better, three months later would have been even much better, so you know when you look at it, yeah recording it today would have sounded much better than recording it back then, so… that’s what was going on at the time in fact, by the time we got signed Death Metal was hardly really hitting and we were getting close to be at the end of the wave anyway you know?! We were one of those bands that was right out of the front like MORBID ANGEL was, we’re a year behind them with the release and a year is a long time when you’re talking about a certain type of music, when things can change within a month almost completely you know?! So I think we weren’t totally prepared either but the time was "Let’s do it" you know, while we had the opportunity and things are good for everybody and like on the… I still had the same drum set that I had even back with MORBID ANGEL, it was a concert kit which did not have bottom heads on any of the toms so for me everytime I played in the studio, it was a cool kit because it was huge but it just wasn’t a recording kit and in fact for "Thresholds" when we went in, a Yamaha kit was rented and put in the studio that morning cos Tom Morris wouldn’t even record with my drum set anymore, he hated the sound so bad of the toms and stuff so I just didn’t really have the money to buy a new kit at that point, it was like, you know, it wasn’t just to replace a cymbal or a head here and there, I just needed a new drum set so we didn’t have the support at that point so I pretty much rented a kit for the second CD and I think that’s why the drums came out alot clearer on "Thresholds" than "The Key", it was pretty much the way that "The Key" was, there was no triggers, it was pretty much just a straight recording."
The production was good but it seems the mastering was a flop because after listening to the unmastered tape, the album sounds way more powerful than on the final product, do you agree and if so, what happened, because I always thought that this album really suffered of a not so good sound…
"Yeah I think the raw unmastered version does sound real heavy and everything. As far as mastering, at that time, I don’t think there were too many bands that had a say so in mastering, you heard it from the studio and then you heard the first copy pressed and in between point, alot of bands just didn’t get to hear the mastered version until it was already printed and packaged so that’s what happened there, we never did hear it again you know, it was just like, you know, ‘It got mastered, sounds good, you’d get the copies in a month or so’ so that’s the way it went."
The album featured backing vocals of the one and only Barney "Kam" Lee who was making his comeback with MASSACRE mark II… Who came up with the idea to have him appearing on "The Key"?
"In fact he just happened to come into the studio one of the days when we were recording it, it was an unplanned thing, he just happened to show up there cos he knew we were there and he just stopped in to say hello and hang out with us and… it just happened to be doing back ups that day and it was like "Hey do you wanna come in here and do some back ups with everybody" and he was like "Sure!" you know?! So that’s pretty much the way that went!"
Did you stay in touch with him since the ’86 era when both bands (MORBID ANGEL / MASSACRE) were playing together sometimes?
"There was a point when we used to see everybody in MASSACRE quite a bit when they were doing real well but I think they lived over to Orlando which is a couple hours away from Tampa but… after the bands kind of split up, not too many people really stayed talking to each other, you know, from town to town."
What happened with the credits on the album because Bateman wasn’t credited and apparently he helped writing early stuff like ‘BC / AD’ or ‘Standing…’?
"In fact the way… when Bateman left the band, he left to join NASTY SAVAGE and I said "What about all these songs?" and he said "I don’t care. You can have ’em" you know he was very happy with his decision in going into a band that was touring and doing all kinds of stuff, so he’s like "I don’t care, you can have the stuff!" but in fact if you look on the credits, it says ‘music by NOCTURNUS’ and ‘lyrics by me’, I always took credit for the lyrics that I write but as far as the music it depends on who I’m working with and the situation that they wanna write the song with, I always put in my own drum parts and a lot of times we sit there and write these songs together as a band so a decision was made back then to just put ‘songs written by NOCTURNUS’ because everybody worked on ’em together so really nobody was giving any particular writing credit like they do today. Today people only worry about that, I think alot of people that I see are worried about it because that’s how you make money these days of writing songs and alot of people, that’s why they want to do it you know, so they can get every penny and just pay the other people to pretty much play live and… I don’t know I still like to try to make it as a band and make everybody happy at the same time, you know, and sometimes it’s very hard to do that when you consider your band and you know that you have to oversee things, and somebody has to do that in any particular band, at least one people or two people, you know, but when the whole band does that, it just doesn’t work, you know… you got too many conflicting problems so I think the best thing is to have one person to work for the band especially if you have a particular goal, you know, I think that’s very important that one person makes sure that this goal you’re looking for is the thing that comes out of the whole band."
There was an unusual mix between religion and science fiction for the lyrical side of this album, another aspect which gave even more originality to NOCTURNUS but still you had some problems especially in U.K. I believe with some lyrics particularly with ‘Destroying The Manger’… Tell us more about that writing aspect and controversy.
"Well as far as the religion part, all those was definitively my idea and like I said, if you listen to the first NOCTURNUS demo there’s no science fiction in it at all, the science fiction was added with people like Mike Davis and Lou pretty much and I kind of thought, well if we’re gonna mix this stuff together, let’s do it from a futuristic point, the actual story that "The Key" is was totally written by me that part and some of the science fiction stuff was thrown in by Davis. But I think in the early part of "The Key", you know writing and everything, I was hoping to, you know, trying to keep everybody happy in the band and therefore putting some science fiction and stuff like that in there because there was really nobody else in the band at that time that was into the occult at all. So I was kind of like alone in that aspect and the only reason it probably came through at all on "The Key" was because I was still singing and writing songs, you know, writing lyrics or else there wouldn’t have been probably any occult material on there at all, it would have been a whole different thing so… I don’t think it was too much of a problem with what we were writing at, I don’t remember too many people getting onto us about stuff like ‘Destroying…’, I think people thought it was very extreme but I thought it was a great story, you know, just like the bible! It’s a story."
After the recording you parted ways with Jeff because his playing was limited and he was replaced by Jim O’Sullivan. Was it hard to get a replacement for Jeff and would you say Jim was a good replacement especially after showing how ridiculously he was acting on stage later on during the first European tour?
"That’s funny, in fact Jim was somebody that we had to get in there as soon as possible, Jeff in fact didn’t record alot of the stuff on "The Key", Mike Davis ended up playing alot of the bass parts, Jeff was drinking alot at the time and… he was a great bass player at first and it just got worse and worse with his drinking problems and the morning we recorded "The Key", he showed up at the studio with half of a twelve pack of beer already drank and he just could hardly play so that’s what we had to do. We didn’t even see him again for a while after that day, so he didn’t even know if the album had even got recorded or not at that time. So anyway, we got rid of him and we tried out a bunch of people, Jim was like the only one that could play the songs so we didn’t know him as a person – he came from Ft Lauderdale which is a couple hours from Tampa – and this was just sort of like "Hey we gotta do something, we got a tour and we gotta go" so we had to get him in there and it just ended up not working out too well in the long run."
It seems you didn’t play out that much during 1990 except a couple shows like a show in St Petersburg (opening along with ATHEIST for NAPALM DEATH who were recording their "Harmony…" album) or two shows late ’90 in Mexico. Was it a case where you didn’t want to burn out too much the local Florida crowds by playing out too much?
"I think at that time we were more interested in just working on writing songs, tours were coming up and stuff like that so we just pretty much gearing up to start you know going out and stuff like that."
Early January ’91 saw NOCTURNUS starting their first European tour opening for BOLT THROWER for about one month, how did tour go as a whole? Was it a good bill for NOCTURNUS considering the different nature of material each band was offering?
"I think at that time any band that was considered Death Metal, no matter what type of Death Metal they were doing, was good for everybody at that point, I think the tour with BOLT THROWER was great, we had a real good time, all those people were really cool to tour with you know, I think it was a pretty good tour and… it was about a month and a half actually, there was alot of fun. BOLT THROWER was drawing some very good crowds at that time and they were very cool to us, helped us out alot for our first time in Europe, it was just a very good experience for us."
Was it hard for you to keep it up doing singing / drumming everyday as it was your first touring experience ever?
"Actually no, I’m very comfortable playing drums and singing together, I mean I don’t like playing music that I don’t like to play and having to sing and play stuff that’s so technical, you don’t have any feeling left and it’s all just rhythm after rhythm… but as far as singing and playing what I like to do… I almost can’t… it’s weird to just play drums anymore without a microphone stripped to myself you know so I’m just kind of used to it."
Also was it hard live to reproduce every single piece of your material in a live environment considering the technical nature of the material?
"Other than you know certain effects that were on certain instruments like vocals and stuff, I think we did a pretty good job of doing what… just like it was on the CD, I think it came across real well, I’ve heard alot of bootleg shows now and they actually came across really well so… it’s hard to tell when you’re up there but I think going back and seen a couple videos and hearing alot of these bootleg tapes then I think it was actually better than I thought it was at the time (laughs)."
Were you getting sometimes critics concerning the fact that the live aspect was lacking a frontman moving around especially since Mike and Sean were static presence wise (which can be understood) just like EXCITER for example had gotten years ago having also a singer / drummer?
"Hmm well, as far as that goes, I think it’s always gonna be on people’s minds, you know it lacks in something not having somebody up front even if they are playing a bass or a guitar, they’re still up front, I mean… and that’s only if you want to look it, something from a visual point of view and you’re not listening to the music cos I think any other way if you’re listening to what’s being played I think it shouldn’t a problem with having a singer / drummer you know?! As far as visual, yeah it might be a little different but nowadays if a band has some money behind them, you know, they can have a very nice light show and other things that make up for that and if the guitar players, the bass player actually move around a little bit and… all the music that I like to write, almost every song has back ups and quit a bit of ’em here and there so I think you know there’s definitively alot of back ups going on so you do have people upfront with microphones you know so… it has alot to do with the band itself and how much they move on stage I think."
Not so long after that tour was finished, you embarked mid March 1991 on the Grindcrusher U.S. tour which featured GODFLESH, NOCTURNUS and NAPALM DEATH, a two month tour, so was it becoming hard for you guys at the end considering that none of you had toured so extensively before?
"No I think the U.S. tour went just as good as the European tour especially because of the bands we were with, we had some real great crowds out there and NAPALM DEATH was drawing real big crowds, it was their first tour of the U.S. so you can imagine how it was like, it was probably the first multi band Death Metal tour anyway back then and we got great crowd response, every night we heard you know alot of people really liked our stuff and I think it helped us quite a bit so actually it was a very good experience and you know you just get used to it after two months you know?!"
How did your show and music overall did go into the U.S. crowds comparing the European ones?
"Oh like I said, it was really good mainly because you know we were touring with some good bands which helped alot, I think alot of people didn’t know who we were in the U.S. as compared to Europe… In Europe people knew alot more about us than they did in the States, they’re much more into the songs you know, like they would know the lyrics and what the story is behind "The Key" itself and things like that when U.S. people were just like "Hey that was pretty cool!" or "Can I get your stuff?!" you know so it was a different situation you know, I think we were kind of relatively unknown at that point in the U.S.."
Did your sales expand after those two tours overall?
"Hmm yeah… I definitively heard more than a few times that "The Key" sold over 70.000 copies worldwide, so… you know back then that was really a little bit better than average, nowadays I know for a band that says they sold 10.000 that’s considered very well so when you look at it… sales, it’s alot different than it used to be and I know "Thresholds" didn’t even sell half of what "The Key" sold and I think the newer NOCTURNUS CD that just came out a couple years ago probably didn’t even sell half… I don’ even think it sold the third of what even "Thresholds" sold so when you look at it, just the amount of… I talk to some people of smaller labels and they say you know, 2.000 or 3.000 is great for their label so sales look alot different than they used to as far as that."
So, was it right after that that you first got rid of O’Sullivan and searched for a full time singer or did it happen later while you were working on newer material?
"Oh well, right after we did the U.S. tour we got rid of Jim, he had some very big problems and it just got worse when… we had to share the bus with the guy you know and after the tour was over, it was pretty much he was out right away and then the singer thing came about right before we were starting to think about doing the second CD."
Do you remember how the newer material was written because the stuff was much more technical than the previous stuff, ‘Empire Of The Sands’ being the closest to the newest stuff but at the same time these new songs weren’t as catchy as before, seemed more like a bunch of riffs were put together with no real direction with the exception of ‘Gridzone’ and ‘Alter Reality’? Did you have a big hand into that?
"Actually, no I had not much of a hand into doing that was on "Thresholds". Basically before we started to… well, we did start writing some of the songs and I was singing ’em at first and everybody in the band was really complaining alot about the fact that I only wanted to write occult lyrics and you know, since I was singing I wanted to write the lyrics, so they all wanted to start writing lyrics and I said "Well you know I can’t…", it was really starting to cause problems in the band, so I said "Okay everybody! Submit lyrics" you know, so we all started submitting lyrics and my stuff was getting buried more and more and more and that’s pretty much how that started happening. And then we started to talk to the record label about the second CD, budgets and things like that, you know, lots of bands were just starting to do videos and the label said "Well I’ll tell you what, if you guys get a frontman, go a little bit more on the science fiction side of things, you can probably do alot more sales and you can probably… you’ll get a video, you’ll get this…" and things like that. And so everybody was more interested in how they can boost sales other than how they can make the band sound… so they came to me and said "We have to get a singer or else the band can’t last the way it is and that way there’s one person up there singing and you know everybody can get lyrics to this one person…" I didn’t really… I was the only person that was opposed into doing that but when you have four other people in the band, it’s like four against one, so that was the vote, four against one, so I said "Okay I’ll sit back and play drums, I won’t do anything else, you write all the songs, I’ll just learn the drum parts to it." So, I had not much of a hand at all in "Thresholds"."
So Dan Izzo (ex-TORTURED SOULS) joined the outfit as the new singer with a much more – I would say powerful but generic / typical Death Metal voice than yours. Did you make alot of auditions before settling your choice on him? Was TORTURED SOULS a wellknown underground band in the Tampa area?
"TORTURTED SOULS, we didn’t even know who they were really. Dan was the only person that came in and sang the songs in a correct timing. I guess the problem was the way I write and play at the same time, I kind of sing differently than other people with normal singing because I’m playing drums and sing, so it was very very hard for singers to come in and sing the songs for some reasons, we tried out quite a few people and people were just like having a real hard time with the timing of the songs, you know, coming in, coming out and stuff like that, they’re like ‘People don’t write songs like this, this is not the way vocals go in songs’ and Dan was probably the only one that came in and got the timing right and also he had a voice that was very much similar to what mine was even if he was more of a growler Death Metal like you said a generic type of Death Metal sound… I think that’s the way it worked."
Did Earache ask you to hear the newer material before you entered the studio at that point or did they still have complete confidence into it?
"They never really worried about that until I think after I left the band. After I left the band I know they did these two songs for Earache and Earache heard it and dropped ’em but as far as before that, no we never really had a problem with them wanting to hear stuff before we went into the studio."
Even if you still hadn’t found a new bass player, you managed to enter the studio late ’91 to record "Thresholds" with the help of Chris Anderson on bass but he refused to join the band as he had other commitments. What can you tell us about this guy that I had never heard of before (and after)?
"Oh yeah, Chris Anderson was the friend of Mike, Sean and Lou and he wasn’t really into that kind of music but he was a fantastic bass player and he came in and within a month learnt all those songs, just recorded ’em perfectly in the studio, no problems whatsoever and he just was like I said, he wasn’t into that kind of music so he wasn’t really interested in being in the band or touring or anything at that point, he just kind of came in, learnt the songs, did it for us and that was about it. Actually I know right now that Emo (Mowery) and him are room mates at this point right now but I don’t think either one of ’em really have a full band."
This album was once again produced by Tom Morris and this time the mastering job wasn’t the disaster known with "The Key" but still those two albums couldn’t really compete in terms of sound with the other major Thrash / Death releases around. How do you feel about that statement?
"I think the drums were much better sounding on "Thresholds" but the guitars were really weak sounding on there, that was a big complaint by Mike and Sean and, you know, they were always complaining that their leads weren’t loud enough, things like that, but I think it was just kind of hard for us to capture the sound that we really wanted, like I said for me. I went into that studio that morning with the brand new drum set, I had to put things together and played on it… and in two days I did all the drum tracks and after that I was… you know, I went back to work at that time, so they did alot of that stuff without me there and that’s why it kind of just didn’t sound the way like I would have wanted it to sound, but… I think it was also the record company’s decision to use Tom Morris, they wanted to use him because he did the MORBID ANGEL and stuff like that. I like Jim Morris alot better, I like his sound and Scott (Burns) of course… didn’t really want to use Scott at the time because so many people were using Scott, no offence because he got a fantastic sound but I think Jim Morris would have been the best person to use at that point, out of everybody at Morrisound."
Like I stated before, the newer songs were extremely hard to get into as there was not really many catchy / distinguishable parts into them, a bit like VOIVOD or WATCHTOWER evolved with their early albums and it seems some people gave up on it at this point. So looking back, would you say that this album went a bit too far comparing to let’s say ATHEIST who managed to retain a certain dose of catchiness?
"Yeah ATHEIST were a fantastic band and actually WATCHTOWER, their second album "Control And Resistance" is one of my favorites and it is way over the edge but it’s fantastic. I definitively think that "Thresholds" lost any bit of actual songs, you know, they were just a bunch of… like I said before, scales and stuff thrown together to make songs, you know the guitar players will go and learn certain scales from people and they just come in and make songs out of ’em. So it really wasn’t like songwriting anymore, it was just like, how much technical stuff can we put into one song."
The lyrical approach for this new effort was even more off the wall than before, exploring territories that had never been approached in Metal at least, but at the same time do you think many people were giving a good amount of attention to those lyrics?
"Actually, I know that when we did the "Thresholds" tour, everybody that was coming up to me go ‘What’s going on with NOCTURNUS? It’s not the same anymore’, you know, I mean they liked it, but I don’t think that anybody have ever heard one person like "Thresholds" more than "The Key". So, like I said with the lyrics, the lyrics changed, because I wasn’t writing anymore and everybody else had their ideas of what they wanted to throw into the band so that’s basically what happened with "Threholds". I mean I’m not into writing songs about army men jumping out of planes and destroying military bases and things like that, that’s not really what I meant to for music. So I think that’s the thing that actually destroyed NOCTURNUS, from that point on it just got worse."
A video was shot for ‘Alter Reality’, how did that go?
"We did it… I think on a 2.000 or 3.000$ budget, this guy came and rented a camera and that was all done with one camera, he pretty much recorded us doing a soundcheck that afternoon and then at the show we did that night and then he took it back to California and added a bunch of scenes from the NASA into it, like I said that to me wouldn’t be a way I would have done a video for NOCTURNUS but at that point, that’s what NOCTURNUS was about."
Does that mean that the Earache support for NOCTURNUS was still okay at that point or was it becoming somewhat hard to get something from ’em?
"Well the whole thing was that they promised us a video if we got a lead singer and so we got a lead singer and did a video and I do know it got played on MTV over in Europe quite a few times, I believe. And I think that it even got played once on the Metal thing they used to have here in the States on MTV."
After the album was completed, you finally found a new bassist with Emo Mowery (ex-FALLEN IDOLS) who originally was from Seattle. How did you get him into the band exactly? Talking about this guy who was obviously a much better bassist that O’Sullivan, it seems that he soon took a big place in the band – to the point that he became NOCTURNUS singer a few years ago…
"Yeah Emo… I guess he saw us on tour in Seattle so he knew who we were – I don’t remember him being at the show or anything but he said he was there and then he moved to Tampa and he was playing with some people that we knew but I guess it wasn’t working out too good and then when we put out the ad for a new bass player he just came around and he seemed to be one of the only people you know that was available at the time and he ended up in the band. After that you can look at the history of NOCTURNUS for that (laughs)."
After a "comeback" gig in Tampa in March ’92 with the new line up, you embarked on a 41 date European tour with CONFESSOR as support, going in about every European country, how did that go?
"That tour I think we got along really good with CONFESSOR, they’re very… or they were a very strange band as far as sound, they’re very off timing, weird singing, I thought that was a real good tour that we did and we did quite a few dates, like you said, and hit quite a few countries, so we.. the first tour we did for the first CD, we only hit, I think, five major countries in Europe and this time we hit probably, you know, eight or nine different countries. So it was much better as far as the tour itself, the places we hit, we had, I think, it’s called Metallysée, Johann, he was doing our tour, he was our tour manager and everything, so that went pretty good. We had a bus, with the first tour we had a van you know, and so as far as the tour went, well it went pretty well. There was a few shows where there was really hardly anybody there, like Italy and a few places like that, we had a couple of shows where I don’t think the promotion was very good and we just didn’t have many people there but alot of people just didn’t really like the new line up and the way things sounded at that point, I think they were much more into the evil side of NOCTURNUS."
Considering that you were the headliners this time, would you say that the crowds were big enough for a headlining tour or would you say that it was still too early for the band to go on as headliners and another tour as support band would have been maybe more helpful for NOCTURNUS?
"Probably at that point it would have been better, I think… you know, to go out with another bigger band again and for the most part, you know, that’s always the case. You can always find somebody pretty much bigger than you to go on tour with and I think you can get better shows that way, better crowds and therefore expand your audience."
What were the countries where you got the best response? Could it be in Eastern Europe like Poland etc… more than U.K. or Holland etc…?
"Well the worst thing is that we never got to play Poland or anywhere like that, we pretty much stuck to England, France, Germany, Spain, Holland, Belgium… I think we did one show in Switzerland, one show in Denmark… we didn’t still hit that many countries, like I said, I think we hit about eight countries, but I would say definitively Holland was probably the best place for us overall, both times and Germany was definitively second you know. Some places in Germany were fantastic but just about every place in Holland was really good but it’s really strange being from the U.S., when I went over to Europe I realised that Holland wasn’t even as big as Florida, so when you talk about a whole country that’s not even as big as the state that you’re from and then you play eight shows or so in Holland and you’re only an hour or so away from each show, it seems like… you know for the size of the country it was fantastic you know?! Every show was packed with people, so to me that was the big difference and, you know, like in the U.S. you might do 40 shows but they’re really spread out and there’s a lot of driving in between so I think the difference… things were a little bit more closer in Europe to each other."
From an interview I remember that you did in Denmark for some fanzine, it seems that the relations between Earache and the band were deteriorating at that point to the point that I believe they didn’t show up when you played seven dates in U.K…
"Yeah they were supposed to do some merchandising for us and some tour support, stuff like that and.. you know some royalties were due and I think they just didn’t show up and we weren’t invited to their office the second time we were there, so I think things were pretty bad with us and Earache at that point, the sales weren’t that good of "Thresholds" and Lou was really saying alot of bad stuff about Dig and I think, you know they wanted to change the band and then when it didn’t work they blamed Earache on it and I don’t think it was anybody to blame but the people in NOCTURNUS that wanted to change. You know if something is not broke, don’t fix it, you know, don’t try to fix it that’s the way I see it."
According to what Lou said back then, there was plans to maybe have a five song EP released at that point featuring a non LP track, ‘Possess The Priest’, ‘Alter Reality’ and three live tracks, but it didn’t see the light, can you tell us why?
"I don’t remember that being the point of doing an EP, I think we did… actually I wasn’t sure what was going on at that point after we did the "Thresholds" tour of Europe, I guess it was pretty certain that we weren’t going to be doing a U.S. tour for it anytime soon and so probably not doing one at all. ‘Possess…’ was an old old song that Richard Bateman and I wrote so we started working on that and a couple other new songs just for a new LP. I think our record contract was like for I believe three records and then one EP, so I think we were still gonna do another full LP at that time and then probably doing an EP after that like a live thing."
It seems that you had most of a possible third album written by the time you did that European tour, which included ‘Paranormal States’, ‘Mummified’ (used in 1993 on a two song 7"), ‘The Invertebrate Plague’, ‘Orbital Decay’ (finally used on the 2000 "Ethereal Tomb" album), ‘Monster Island’ or ‘The Great Spot’ but as everybody knows it never became reality, so can you tell us how this unrealised material sounded like?
"Actually the only two songs that I remember working on was ‘Possess…’ and ‘Mummified’ and it might have been one other song we had started working on. By the time that I had left the band, some of those other songs weren’t even ideas then, the two songs that you stated that were on the 7" were recorded after I left the band, ‘Mummified’ and ‘Possess…’, ‘Possess’ like I said was really written by Bateman and me back in 1987 and we have video tapes and stuff of us playing that song. Of course it was changed a little bit and the lyrics were changed a little bit but basically ‘Possess…’ was stolen and used by them, they put that ‘Mummified’ on it, a two song demo for Earache, to show the new drummer and the new songs and Earache at that point dropped ’em."
So what happened after you completed that European tour because next thing we heard is that you were out as they had a new drummer and the Earache deal was terminated. So, what happened exactly between you and the rest of the band because it seems that you were kicked out despite the fact that you formed the band?
"Yeah I did form the band and the people that were still in NOCTURNUS at that point, none of those people were the original members and none of those people came up with the name either and alot of people know that story already, that the name was totally stolen from me. I did know at this point back in 1992 that they had trademarked my name with their names and behind my back they did that, I had never trademarked the name, NOCTURNUS, because I figured we had "The Key" out and we were getting ready to record another album and we’re signed to a label so I figured, you know, who would steal the name at that point?! I never figured that my own band members would steal the name from me but actually… I mean I was so tired of the band at that point and I had ran into Vince quite a few times and ACHERON and they needed a drummer and I was very much into helping him, do some stuff and with our contract with Earache I couldn’t have done that, done both at the same time would have been a problem with Earache but I was going to help Vince anyway, do some drum tracks and possibly play in the band you know?! So basically when they fired me from NOCTURNUS I moved my drums right out of that warehouse about three doors down to the ACHERON warehouse so there was really no time in between the two."
What do you think of NOCTURNUS following efforts in the shape of the ‘Mummified’ / ‘Possess The Priest’ 7" on Moribund in 1993 and "Ethereal Tomb" CD on Seasons Of Mist in 2000? Do you think those records live up to the NOCTURNUS legacy?
"Well like I said, I’ve already explained the ‘Possess…’ / ‘Mummified’ 7", like I said ‘Possess…’ wasn’t even the main part of the song and the title, the title okay, it was my idea and alot of the riffs in that song were Richard and Gino riffs just basically stolen and re-used so the ‘Possess…’ song itself wasn’t even written… the main part of it wasn’t even written by anybody that was in the band at that time. Now as far as the "Ethereal Tomb", I think it sounded quite a bit like "Thresholds" to me, it kind of followed the lines of "Thresholds" I thought. I don’t think the production was quite as good on "Ethereal…" as… I know I talked to Emo and Mike a couple times here and there and they hated the production on that… hmmm I don’t think it sold very well either."
Do you have an idea of what they’re doing now since they broke up, Davis and Mowery having formed their own band?
"I know that they had kicked Lou out first and… for a while I wasn’t talking to any of ’em. Every once I’d see Mike and I would talk to him and… I know they kicked Lou out and later on they kicked Sean out and it was just Mike and Emo and they had another new drummer and then all of a sudden Davis quit and right now it’s just Emo and the drummer, but they’re not gonna keep the name because they can’t. Davis pretty much isn’t doing anything now, he’s got a job and he’s happy with his job so I guess he’s not playing guitar at this point and I guess Sean and Lou, I’m not sure what they’re doing… those are the two people that I really don’t like to talk to, so they’re out doing their own thing, I know Lou had a band before NOCTURNUS reformed called CRY BLUE and it was like Sting kind of music I guess (laughs) or even worse, but I don’t think those two are doing anything. So I don’t think anybody really is doing anything in NOCTURNUS."
Do you have any idea of how many albums you sold and what’s the best thing you’ve accomplished with that outfit which was originally your band?
"Well, like I said, I think we sold a little over 70.000 of "The Key" and right around 30.000 of "Thresholds", I think it was an amazing amount for… we weren’t expecting that to happen and it just did really well and I think that was a good accomplishment just being able to do that and go on tour."
Do you think you could have managed to become a bigger act if the band would have stayed a compact outfit or would you say that this original approach put you right away in a corner because history has proven that there was no real big market for technical / off the wall material (i.e. CYNIC, ATHEIST, WATCHTOWER)…
"I think that if the band had stayed the way it was near to the beginning, not right at the beginning but like the "Science Of Horror" days and maybe some of "The Key" before it was getting too technical, I think we could have branched of in many different ways and done things that could have kept us going, I mean bands like MORBID ANGEL and stuff are still going, DEICIDE stuff like that, I think the original ideas if they would have been kept with, I think the band could still have been together today."
By 1992 the Florida Metal scene was starting to return to an embryonic form after the explosion known a few years before due to different reasons, overcrowded scene for one part and crowds moving for other forms of music (as the Grunge thing being responsible for most of that), anything to say about that?
"Yeah I guess it did just get too overcrowded and just too many bands doing the same type of music, you know, everybody was… I guess you can say jumping on the bandwagon literally (laughs) and it did kinda overcrowd the market and I think the same thing started to happen with Black Metal at that point, I think alot of bands just know that it was starting to get a popular sound and everything and I believe that you know the same thing is happening and overcrowding Black Metal bands cos just look through some of the magazines around and every review says this band sounds like either like DIMMU BORGIR or CRADLE OF FILTH and to me, I really like those bands, but I think there’s too many people just… they hear something and they, you know, other like it, you know, they wanna sound too much like that and doesn’t want to put any originality into what they’re doing themselves so… yeah I think the scene definitively really died down… here and there you get a few bands that pull some big crowds but overall most of your crowds are gonna be under 100 people even today."
Also would you say in all honesty that the second wave of Death Metal bands coming out from Florida (a.k.a. MONSTROSITY, BRUTALITY, BURIAL…) were as good as the original wave?
"Hmmm I think the original bands, you know, were just the originals and the other bands after that were just people that really liked the music and started their own bands based on what was already out there, so they had the sound quite a bit like the original bands in a way because that’s what they were listening to at the time, I mean when I grew up, we didn’t have bands to listen to like that because we were just starting ourselves so I think alot of these bands, the reason that they kind of ended up sounding like the other bands was because that was their biggest influences."
Next thing I’ve heard after that split from NOCTURNUS is that you’d joined your previous partner, Vincent Crowley in ACHERON, how did that happen considering that you had fired him a few years before in NOCTURNUS?
We actually never fired Vince from NOCTURNUS (well I was saying that because Richard Bateman said that recently while he was answering to my interview – Laurent), Vince left because he really couldn’t get along with Gino, so he left I think to Pittsburg, he moved, so he took his songs with him, like I’ve explained before, so he was never fired from NOCTURNUS ever. I think things were going pretty good except for the fact, you know, him and Gino weren’t getting along and Richard and Gino weren’t getting along either, so he actually left on his own situation and then ACHERON was in the studio recording when we were in the studio and I ended up singing some back ups for Vince on "Rites Of The Black Mass". After that we had talked, you know, about going ahead and… I played drums on the next CD that he was gonna put out and I ended up of course in the band and doing two CDs with Vince so… I liked to play with ACHERON, it was more along lines of what I’ve always wanted to do anyway so… it was less technical and a little bit more straight forward and very into the occult orientated stuff which I’m definitively into, so I think for me, at the time, I was very happy with that band instead of being in a band with a bunch of science fiction freaks (laughs)."
Considering that I’ve never followed ACHERON’s career because I always thought that the material was generic and insipid, tell us what you did with ACHERON, how much input you had in that band and how long it lasted…
"Well as you know ACHERON is back together again I believe, Vince is gonna put the band back together for probably the fourth time now I think after breaking it up. He writes everything, words, lyrics, music and he’s got his own ideas and I think they were good, I liked the stuff in ACHERON, of course it wasn’t overly technical and alot of people do like that, it has that old, you know… kind of CELTIC FROST kind of sound so I enjoyed it, you know, I thought it was a really good thing. We played quite a few shows locally, never did any touring or anything and then we did the two CDs, "Lex Taelionis" and "Victory" or "Satanic Victory", it had two different titles because of the U.S. release and European release… And "Lex…" of course there was a bunch of – most of it – old songs from the NOCTURNUS days that we played, ‘The Entity’ is on there… pretty much all of Vince’s old songs are on "Lex…" that we did back then."
How did the ACHERON story with you end up exactly?
"What happened was that ACHERON was going to go on tour again or in fact not again, but for the first time and I had just got a really good job that I used to have before back and I told Vince that I wasn’t gonna be on the tour at that point, you know, it was only like I think three weeks or so – the tour that was being set up for Europe, and so I told Vince that I couldn’t go and I said you know "If you need to find somebody else to go, go ahead and do that!" I just thought it would be better for them to find somebody that could do touring and stuff with them, there was no pay involved ever so for me I wasn’t able to go on tour at that point, I had a life that I didn’t want to leave and it just wasn’t feasible at that point for me to leave and go on tour with no money involved and things like that but the tour… after I left the band, they got another drummer and the tour actually fall thru anyway, so I think Vince still has never toured with ACHERON outside of a couple shows in the U.S. so it still has to happen!"
Did you form NOCTURNUS A.D. right after that ACHERON story or did you play in another band in between?
"I did a couple projects with people, there was nothing that I would call my band… I did an Industrial project called DEACON SCREECH and we ended up doing a split CD with a band called VAMPIRE CIRCUS who was… actually it was the keyboard player that was in ACHERON after I left and… I just did a couple things around you know, around Tampa for some friends of mine that needed a drummer at the time, so you know, I just did a couple project bands and stuff like that and then finally decided to put a band back together you know, a good band."
So NOCTURNUS A.D. was formed mid 1999 with you going back to your original position as drummer / singer, Richard Bateman (ex- NASTY SAVAGE / GARDY LOO), Gino Marino (who last time we heard from him was when he was jamming with MORBID ANGEL in 1992 to possibly replace the departed Richard Brunelle) and Mike Walkowski (guitars), so how did you all get together again because it was in fact the original NOCTURNUS line up minus Crowley?
"Let me see… I guess I had just been talking to Richard Bateman and decided to reform the band with Gino again and I didn’t know at the time that NOCTURNUS had gotten back together, I didn’t even know that, so we kinda got it going on with us three and Richard said he knew another guitar player which was pretty good in rhythms and stuff so we got Mike Walkowski in there and we started to write some new songs. Well we went through… like ‘Nocturnus’ which was an old one and just to get you know, familiar we said "Oh let’s keep that anyway…" cos Richard and Gino wrote the music and I wrote the lyrics so it was the only NOCTURNUS song that was never put on… well like I said not the only one but it was the only one of the demos that wasn’t put on any of the CDs so basically that’s how it kind of came back together. And we were just gonna call it NOCTURNUS because I had no idea that the name had been taken from me so we had to change it."
Were you the one who decided to go on with that bandname NOCTURNUS A.D. and in a way having your revenge on NOCTURNUS who were still around?
"Well at that point it’s the time that I found out that they had owned the name, they did it back in ’92 as they trademarked it back in ’92 but I didn’t really find that out until I went to start using my name again, NOCTURNUS, and I got a letter from Lou saying that they were gonna sue me in court if I continued to use the name, so I decided to just add the A.D. to it and still use the name and kind of let it go from there because the "Science Of Horror" demo, I copyrighted the demo along with the name back then in ’88 but I never trademarked it but it was music written lyrically by me that was copyrighted under the name NOCTURNUS by then so if they wanted to take it in court, well I probably would have won."
Did you get some attention for that new band from the press in general or did it stay underground so to speak?
"I got a little bit of attention at first you know, people wanted to see what it was all about and then NOCTURNUS had their situation going so we changed the name and we didn’t really record anything for a little while, we had some rehearsal tapes that we were making, things like that but everything still was kinda shaky even from the beginning I was trying to put the situation like that back together so we weren’t sure what was gonna happen really."
Gino once again didn’t last long and was replaced by Scott Wallin. How could this happen considering that you knew Gino for a long time at that point? Do you have an idea what this guy is doing nowadays?
"Gino is probably in trouble with the law again (laughs). He couldn’t drive anymore and things like that, he didn’t live that close anyway so it was just the best idea to let him go out of the band and just keep it with Bateman, myself and Mike Walkowski and then… but Mike didn’t play leads at all, he was just strictly a rhythm guitar player so once again we started looking for a replacement for him and there was somebody that I knew for a while, Scott Wallin, he’s been around for a long time but he never really played in any band except for one band a long time ago… like when NOCTURNUS was just starting out too, probably even before that, but he hadn’t played in a band in years so you know, he played in the band for a little while and he was eventually replaced too."
When NOCTURNUS A.D. was formed, did you have a particular vision on how this outfit would sound after all the experience you had gotten from the past?
"Well like I said, every band I’ve been in, I play drums and I don’t really write guitar riffs or anything and I do vocals and lyrics of course and that’s where I do my own creativity besides from playing drums. But as most people know nowadays, the way people work with copyrights and stuff, whoever writes the music owns it so there’s a difference there because I don’t write music that much you know… I kind write a few little things here and there on keyboards or whatever but I’m not really… you know I can write drum parts all day long and vocals, lyrics so when it comes to that it’s kinda like I’m limited to what the people in the band wanna write and I just have to, you know, kinda put my touches on that as far as drumming and lyrics so… but lyrics you know, when you look at a band, you can look at a band as 50% music and 50% lyrics so lyrics have alot to do with, you know, what the band is about really, I mean you have satanic bands that are just Metal, you can have satanic bands that are in another kind of situations, so you know that’s the way I kind of look at it. So basically I wanted NOCTURNUS A.D. to be alot like the old NOCTURNUS but like I said, I’m kind of always up to what the other people are writing so you know that has alot to do with it."
Then the bandname was changed in favor of AFTER DEATH and you started recording a three song demo in a local studio but it wasn’t completed as apparently you got in trouble with the studio owners because of the lyrical content of your songs, tell us more about the bandname change and all that stuff!
"Oh well once we got Scott in the band he had alot of songs he had written a long time so we decided to, kind of just redo the whole thing again and call it AFTER DEATH and we were gonna record, but actually Guido from Hammerheart was in town and he got hold of me, see what I was doing and he ended up to come by and watch us rehearse one night and he said he would do an EP for us, so we went to a studio and started recording basic three songs, but there was some other stuff that we were gonna do, some intros and probably a remix of a song like a really evil weird… not techno, just a strange remix of probably one of the songs… so we went to a studio, I wasn’t familiar with the studio, it was in Tampa and it’s the only studio that got that real big recording room and I wanted to try to get that huge kind of sound like the older style Black Metal albums, alot of ’em you know, so it was a huge room where you can record an orchestra, the Florida orchestra records there quite a bit, they have a phenomenal equipment in there. So we went in there and we started recording and I started doing my lyrics on the third day and we finished most of the lyrics – there were all the lyrics I think and we came back… all we had left was to do the leads and mix basically and when we came back in there the guy told us that we were kicked out of the studio because of our lyrical content. He would not push a satanic band in his studio, he wouldn’t let something get released that he recorded so he backed up all the stuff we did on like ten CD-Rs and all the tracks, good tracks, bad tracks, different versions of the songs you know, different takes, I mean just everything and nothing was labelled so we had to take that into another studio and it took, you know, days almost just to figure out what tracks were the right ones and I still don’t think we had everything exactly the way it was when we were in the other studio, so we had alot of problems, their computer kept crashing cos it was all done on pro tools and the effects that were used in the other studio weren’t working with the new effects. So basically it would have been a much better thing to start all the way over again recording and we didn’t, we took the original thing and kept with that and… it was supposed to had been done for about 1.000$ and the first studio cost us 1.000$ and then the second studio cost us another 2.000 so we were like ending for 3.000 already and Hammerheart just didn’t want to put that much money to put an EP out, so basically they said "Well we’re gonna pay 1.000 for the first studio" so we were kind of stuck with the 2.000$ bill from the other studio… well, we went ahead and paid that and kept the recording so that’s about how that came about, it was supposed to be released for Hammerheart but we never did that."
Just as surprising as what happened to Gino earlier, Bateman got the boot and was replaced by Todd Williams, Lisa Lombardo was added as a keyboard player and finally the long awaited demo was completed. How would you compare that material to the other stuff you did over the years? Considering what was the early line up of NOCTURNUS A.D., would you say that there was alot of similarities with the ’87 NOCTURNUS especially since you used ‘Nocturnus’ on that tape?
"Yeah we do ‘Nocturnus’ and that’s on there and that’s kind of like why we wanted to do an EP first, it was just to get rid of the old styled stuff and make room for some newer things that we were coming up with. The EP was pretty much put in a can after Richard left – he’s now back with GARDY LOO and also LOWBROW, and there was alot of problems, you know still… so Todd replaced Bateman and he was a friend of Scott, he used to play in a band with Scott a long time ago so we got Todd in the band and of course I met Lisa and… at first I was playing for her band and she said "Well, you know, I do know how to play keyboards, I just haven’t played in a long time", she was classically trained as a pianist so I said "Well, I do have some keyboards laying around" so we started working and we ended up adding that to that recording, just to go ahead and come up with the demo from it. But at that point, you know, Bateman was gone from the band and he played bass on it and it just wasn’t really what the band was sounding anymore, so basically two years after that demo was recorded we finally finished messing around and put it together and I gave it to some people… I didn’t really wanna people to consider it as exactly what the band sounded like. Everytime I gave the recording to somebody I say "Hey it’s already two years old…" you know it’s like "The band doesn’t really sound like that anymore" so I believe that musicwise it was quite a bit like the old ’87 line up of NOCTURNUS."
So after more line up changes during the last two years (Scott Wallin being replaced by Chris Farmer who left the bunch also and Walkowski being replaced in June 2002 by ex-BRUTALITY, DIABOLIC, CRADLE OF FILTH guitarist, Bryan Hipp), what can we expect from AFTER DEATH in the future?
"Basically… like I said, everytime we change somebody in the band, it really changes the band itself, the sound of the band quite a bit because… well Chris Farmer was only in the band for a very short period, he was also in DEVINE ESSENCE and when Scott’s drinking became a real problem, we finally said ‘we have enough of it’ so Chris just said "Well if you need a guitar player, you know I’ll do it" but it just wasn’t a good situation for him to try working with both bands and do everything so that kind of didn’t work out either so we were left with just Mike Walkowski. And like I said, he couldn’t play leads either and his style of playing was more towards the METALLICA kind of stuff, he just wasn’t into anything really super heavy or Black Metal sounding stuff, so when we found Bryan not too long ago, we decided that he would be the best person in the band so since we have Bryan in the band, we taught him some of the old songs and we start working on new stuff now and it’s alot more along the line of Black Metal type of sound you know and that’s what I always wanted, but like I said, if you don’t have a guitar player that just can’t write like that… everybody writes differently so like I said musicwise I’ve kind of been always stuck to who’s in the band with me so…"
Did you get label interest after completing that demo and is it worth the wait considering that nowadays bands can easily put out their own work and sell it via internet mostly?
"We have websites www.afterdeath666.com, www.divineesssence.com and we don’t really sell anything over the websites, there are just for information and things like that, we have some people listening to the old demo but I really don’t think it represents what we are doing now at all, everything has got alot heavier and alot better, and just alot more closer to what I’m wanting… it’s kind of hard to get exactly what you want you know when you’re not doing the actual music. Especially with the occult, for me it’s been a very big problem to have people in the band, I’ve always wanted a full band with everybody into it but that’s almost asking for… just too much you know. It would be fantastic to have that but so far I still don’t have that, there are still… well Bryan is definitively interested in the occult so ¾ of the band right now is very occult orientated so that’s a good thing, you know, and it’s getting closer to what I’ve always wanted to have in a band… so, you know, as far as what we’re doing now, we just bought a 16 track machine and we start to get some really good sounds coming out of that thing so once we get… you know, brand new songs that are totally brand new and we’re very happy with the way they sound, then we’ll record ’em and start shopping it."
So far, what kind of response have you got from people who have followed your work over the years?
"Hmm they think – the AFTER DEATH demo that I’ve sent ’em – they do think it’s not quite as heavy as some of the other stuff I’ve done. Lyricwise it’s definitively just as heavy as anything I’ve ever done if not even a little bit more crazier in some parts on the vocals… as far as the words themselves I try to actually sing a little clearer because I do believe that people listen to what you’re saying, has alot to do with everything and I do believe that some of the lyrics I’m writing especially even now, alot of that stuff I want people to know what I’m saying, I want people to hear it… the first time they hear it I don’t want them have to sit with their CD booklet and figure out what I’m saying, I’d like people that they really understand what I’m doing but alot of people really don’t seem to think that way, I mean I like singing both ways, the old way I used to sing and the new way, so sometimes I’m mixing it up, you know alot of people want to hear me sing the way I used to which is not a problem – that has never been a problem – I just thought I’d try something a little bit different, but I think you know especially since the music now is getting heavier I think it’s time for my vocals to go back to the way that it used to be. I was just trying to kinda fit in with what the music sounded like at the point, with what we were doing at the time. So, since now we have a new guitar player, a new bass player, the music is of course much different so it’s kinda like… I think people are really gonna like what’s gonna be coming out next because I think that’s gonna be what people definitively were expecting, you know, and hopefully it may be better than that you know (laughs)… I wanna surprise people again, I wanna do something, you know, that people say "Damn there’s nothing that sounds like that!" you know?! So I think that’s what we’re looking to try to to this time."
Do you play on a regular basis with AFTER DEATH or is it hard nowadays since it seems there’s not many clubs around?
"Yeah it’s true… we’re trying not to play too much, like maybe three or four times a year, every couple of months we do a show. There’s only two clubs in this area that you can play out and one in fact you have to pay for everything, PA and everything, to play there and the other one is a smaller club that you can play out and ending up making money… that’s basically your two choices if you wanna play, so you kind of get tired of playing the same place over and over again. So, right now, like I said, it’s been kind of hard to keep a band together mainly because of the occult situation, people they just end up freaking out, they can’t understand I guess certain things and they think it’s just too deep you know, they just want to be a regular person and play regular music and they don’t want to be interested in what they’re singing about you know, so… I can understand that, if somebody doesn’t want to play in a band, in an occult orientated band, I wouldn’t want to have to do that you know, but I think deep down inside, I think it bothers alot of people and there’s alot of bands outthere, they sing about this stuff and they don’t believe in what they’re saying, they don’t practice anything, they’re not really much more than… when they open a book and copy a couple of things… that’s where all my creativity comes from, being in that magical current and I believe that’s the way I work with the band, when I play I would never, by any means, think that I am any fantastic incredible kind of drummer because I’ve seen guys out there that are just incredible to me, speedwise and everything and I’m like "Damn!", you know I don’t even compare when it comes to technicality to some people but I try and I’ve always tried to just be myself and be original and so you’re gonna play differently. And I look at playing as almost like a ritual or possession type of thing you can say and singing you know, invocations and things like that and playing really really helps me alot to get in the possessed of mood, in the way I’m feeling when I’m playing, so I think for me, it’s like, playing is an experience, it’s not a performance and I think there’s a difference between a performance, an experience and alot of these people around here are performing very well, but from experience I don’t know if they’re experiencing what they’re saying you know?! I think they’re just performing what they’re saying, so there’s a big difference in that to me and it’s always been very very hard for me to keep a band together because of that simple fact."
You have two other projects going on with Lisa Lombardo, DEVINE ESSENCE and WOLF & HAWK, tell the readers more about those projects and what you try to achieve with those…
"Well as a matter of fact, tonight (September 18th) we have a DEVINE ESSENCE show. DEVINE ESSENCE is Lisa’s band. When I met Lisa, she actually came to an AFTER DEATH show and it was a show we did on a Friday 13th and it was a full moon so we met on a very cool night, we found out that both of us are Gemini’s and we are also both Leo Rising, we were, like you know, two of the same people basically and she’s very interested in the occult and I’ve been into the occult for a long time you know, it was just like ‘Waouh this is pretty cool!’ and I’ve found out that she played guitar, had a band and she was looking for a drummer at the time. As a matter of fact that weekend that I met her, that was on a Friday we met, I went with her on Sunday and she tried out a drummer, I didn’t know the guy but I watched him play for a while and it just wasn’t working out you know, so I said "I’ll play for you, you know, we can do that. I’ve got a practice place in my house and we can practice there, you know, just like the other band, a couple nights a week" and she agreed to that and for a little while it was just her and I working on the songs and we had another guitar player that was left right away. I think he was more interested in her than in the band, so when he realized that it wasn’t gonna happen, he kinda took off and we ended up getting Chris Farmer who played in DEVINE ESSENCE and a little bit in AFTER DEATH and I think the same situation was happening with him. It’s very hard also, not just the fact of the occult situation but it’s very hard to have a girl in a band that you’re dating and you have the other guys in the band, sometimes it can cause problems, I think alot of people… I mean as a person I’m not a very jealous person and I like to let people do what they wanna do as far as I’m not standing over being jealous all the time, so I don’t mind if people talk to her, you know, and I know some guys who would not even let a guy look at their girlfriend you know. I’m very secure in myself and believe that she can handle herself and if I do see a problem arise and she can’t, then of course I would interced, but it’s just kind of difficult sometimes… but anyway we ended up a bass player, we played a couple shows with just two guitars and drums, no bass player at all! And a bass player approached us so he’s still in the band (Sir Thomas Swain) and we have a show tonight as a matter of fact in Tampa here.
The other project WOLF & HAWK… Lisa has a very good singing voice, she does some back ups in AFTER DEATH but they’re not the traditional operatic type vocals that you normally would hear in Black Metal, it’s more like just a real good singing voice, you know, so she does some real cool stuff in AFTER DEATH as far as back ups and with WOLF & HAWK she’s got a great singing voice and we decided that… she had a bunch of acoustic songs. When she had first learned to play guitar, of course she started on acoustic, so she wrote a bunch of stuff on acoustic and there are very good songs, they’re kind of dark, like DIVINE ESSENCE… DIVINE ESSENCE is essentially I would say a Power Metal band with a Black Metal edge to it. Her vocals really range from very good screams and heavy like evil heavy female type vocals, I’ve heard some female that sing just like guys do… it’s okay you know, but… she has a very original kind of weird singing voice for DIVINE ESSENCE but the band is essentially a Power Metal kind of stuff and I like being able to do that, it’s sort of similar to what I did in ACHERON. But anyway, back to WOLF & HAWK, it’s like I set her acoustic songs and I have a big range of different ethnic kind of drums, stuff coming from India, Egypt, a djembe that’s a big wooden drum with a goat skin head, stuff like that, I have alot of hand drums, some tambourines, weird chime bells stuff like that and so WOLF & HAWK is essentially that, it’s a band of… it’s just her and I, Lisa the Wolf and me. I’m very much into Egyptian magic and the hawk is of course Horus… those kind of birds of prey I really like, very interested in those things so we called it WOLF & HAWK! There’s a couple of MP3 free songs on there and you can check that out at www.wolfandhawk.com. It’s a bit different, like I said, it’s acoustic, it’s got almost like a middle Eastern drum kind of sound, really strange drumming, they are all hand drums that I do, layers, it’s no machines, no samples it’s all straight up, you know, just her and I… it’s pretty cool the way it comes out, I like this stuff, it’s got a very dark edge to it, so you know, like I said, I like to do other stuff, other than, you know, play to play… just one type of music, I like to spread around, I kind of do different things with drumming and I think it helps and you can get incorporated everything."
How would you compare the actual scene to the mythic ’80s when everything related to Metal was so much more exciting and original?
"The main thing I can see now that I would compare is how much better the musicians have gotten. I mean I just hear some stuff nowadays, it’s just incredible in music you know, I mean I just marvelled at it and say "Damn! I can’t do stuff like that, I wish I could!" you know at times but then again I really like… I can sit down and listen to LED ZEPPELIN, I like alot of their… I try to find their bootleg live stuff because there’s some awesome stuff there… so I go from a wide range of listening to things, so I think personally that now the music is just… it has just got much more intense, the musicianship is much more incredible, you got people, 18-19 years old, that are out there that got insanilly playing, you know, and I think it’s pretty cool. I don’t know how that would work on a wide range, but it seems that not too many people are doing just kind of straight forward Metal anymore and I really like that myself (Mike, check out what’s going in Europe, there’s plenty of them – but also some in the States fortunately – Laurent) and that’s what I’m hoping to do with some of this stuff especially the DIVINE ESSENCE, you know, it’s heavy and it’s straight forward, it’s got some feeling to it, it’s definitively got the evil edge to it like I like to say."
To end up that feature, name your fave ten releases ever…
"This is very difficult to say… ten best releases ever, I think I would definitively have to include a couple of the older things that I like, I would say CELTIC FROST "To Mega Therion", it’s still probably one of my all time favorite, "Hell Awaits" SLAYER, alot of people like "Reign In Blood" but I think "Hell…" would have been my favorite SLAYER and of course when it comes to that I would have to say definitively MERCYFUL FATE, I really like KING DIAMOND alot but the first two MERCYFUL FATE, actually the first three I should say, "Mellissa" and "Don’t Break The Oath" are just INCREDIBLE and I think alot of Black Metal acts just stand for that too, so that’s gotta be up there in the top ten… I have to think, you know, and to start making decisions on who I like and who I don’t like you know, I hate to do that, but you know, I like alot of the older stuff, it’ll be hard for me to say right of the top of head "This is my ten favorites"… but those few I named are definitively up there, right at the top of my head kind of things, I mean I listen to some Egyptian music too, that is just amazing and you have to think that you put that in there somewhere, I’d probably also put WATCHTOWER, the "Control And Resistance" CD in there, you know… just to sit back and listen to the amazing musicianship on that is just incredible, I like DEATH "Human" album, that’s gotta be way up there (laughs). And there’s all this new stuff you know, bands like LUX OCCULTA (I probably got it wrong but considering my poor knowledge on what’s on in nowadays scene it’s not surprising – Laurent), DIMMU BORGIR – I like their stuff alot, I like the CRADLE OF FILTH "Midian", I know alot of people have mixed views about it but I think it’s fantastic… so there’s alot of new Black Metal out there that I really like alot, so it would be kind of hard to say ‘top ten’… I would also have to add OZZY OSBOURNE "Speak Of The Devil", that’s got to be one of my all time favorite, Tommy Aldridge one of my hugest influences so I have to put "Speak…" definitively up there in the top, I have some really good LED ZEPPELIN bootlegs, live stuff that I consider very good so… I like… as far as a new kind of Rock band, I don’t know if you would really put them in that category or not but I like TOOL a lot especially their live performances, I’ve got some of their bootlegs that I’ve collected and they’re just amazing musicians too and they come from a very magical point of view with alot of their songs and stuff like that, I know some people might be surprised when I say TOOL, but I think they’re a very good band and it broke into the mainstream doing what they wanted to do, I do believe they’re not really a radio band, I would consider that they kind of do their own thing and they broke into the big mainstream and sell lots of records, and they’re a very occult orientated band and you gotta say that’s a pretty interesting thing of how actually they were able to do that!"
Anything you want to add, like if I forgot to mention a fact or whatever?
"I don’t think there’s probably too much left of my life (laughs) especially musically. I just want to let people know that if you dig AFTER DEATH, the old thing you know, that’s over two years old now… those were other musicians in the band, it’s not a correct representation of what I really wanted to do in the first place, so the next thing I’ll put out, I’m sure that I’m not gonna put it out until I’ll be very happy with it all the way around, so I would say that the next thing that you’ll hear from AFTER DEATH is gonna be something that I’m proud of and hopefully people will like it! We’ll probably end up just doing a demo and kinda releasing it not officially but just mainly to record companies and things like that, trading it around so people will get it eventually but I just hope that everything does work out this time with band members and points of views on religion or none religion, whatever you want to call it and I hope everybody outthere keeps an ear out for AFTER DEATH and DEVINE ESSENCE. I think if people will give it a chance, kind of open their minds up a little bit that they’ll end up liking it. I don’t wanna be putting out another "The Key" because it’s already been done and without the same musicians it’s not gonna be done again, it can’t be done again unless you would have the same people working on the same songs and even at that point I don’t think it would still be what it was so as far as that you know, I just want to let people know that I’m gonna do something different, you know it’s not gonna sound exactly like I’ve already done, I don’t want it to and I won’t let it happen so whether people will like it or not it’s gonna be just like it was before, it’s gonna be the way I like it… and we’ll see what happens after death."
Interview: Laurent Ramadier
Nocturnus Pics: Frank Stöver (6)