Even though I was heavily into tapetrading back in the 80s, I still missed out on a couple of really great acts nevertheless. One of them certainly is the Texas bunch that went by the name MORBID SCREAM, which I discovered through the great Tarot Productions compilation CD "The Signal To Attack: 1986-1990” extremely late (2007 to be exact)… but the fact that I still enjoyed the material after so many years should easily speak for its timeless quality! Lacy tracked down former drummer Jimi Bowman to discuss with him the band’s rather shortlived career. Unfortunately his answers leave a lot to be desired, but what the heck. Here’s the result nevertheless…
So Jimi, at which point did you find interest in music and Metal in particular? What did you find so exciting in this untrendy music back at the time?
"I would say I started getting into Metal at a pretty early age. My dad listened to Rock, so I grew up listening to The Who and Zeppelin. I was probably one of the few 5 year olds that listened to Zep."
When did you decide to play an instrument and how did your choice fall on drums? Do you play other instruments as well?
"My dad was a drummer, so I grew up around them, it was an easy choice."
What were your influences to become a Metal musician?
"Not anyone in particular, I listened so much different stuff."
Were you self taught at that time or…?
"I was self taught for the most part. I took music theory in High School as well as played in band in Elementary School."
What do you recall from the Texas scene of those times where was a great underground buzz with acts such as MILITIA, S. A. SLAYER, WATCHTOWER, SYRUS, SYRANAX etc.? What did you feel, seeing that explosion around your area? Could you tell us more about it?
"The Texas scene from mid 80s to early 90s was insane. With bands like Rigor Mortis and Dead Horse there were always great local shows. At the time you didn’t realize what was happening, it is only now looking back that you see it was unlike anything."
Did you have a healthy club scene as well?
"We did, with clubs like Joe’s Garage and The Axiom in Houston there were great places to play. There were always good national acts hitting those spots."
Would you say that the Metal scene had a strong background and fanbase in Texas? Were you close to some bands?
"There was a very large fanbase and we were close to a lot of the bands."
Do you agre, that the aforementioned bands have opened the doors for bands, such as RIPPING CORPSE, SOLITUDE AETURNUS, MORBID SCREAM, DEVASTATION, GAMMACIDE, NECROVORE etc.?
"I’m not sure if I understand this question… Are you asking if we opened the door or did someone open the door for us?"
In your opinion, how did these bands sound like? Did they copy each other or were all of them unique and hadn’t anything to do with each other?
"They each had their own style."
Before being involved in MORBID SCREAM, what were the previous acts that you’ve played with? Were they your first experiences as a musician or…?
"Morbid Scream was my first actual band. Anything prior was just jamming with friends."
How and when was MORBID SCREAM formed exactly? What about the musical past of the other bandmembers? Was MORBID SCREAM the very first act for all of them?
"We got together sometime in late ’86 and it was a first for all of us."
Do you agree that MORBID SCREAM belonged to the second generation of Thrash Metal?
"I guess that would depend on how you defined generations. We were heavily influenced by early Anthrax, Slayer and Metallica."
Who came up with the name of the band?
"We came up with it together."
What about your rehearsals? Did you start writing originals right from the start or were you jamming on covers of bands such as EXODUS, METALLICA, SLAYER etc?
"We pretty much started writing orginal material out of the gate. We did not really mess with covers too much."
Your first effort was the Demo ’87, featuring ‘Face Of Death’ and ‘The Coming Of War’… How was the demo recorded what was probably your first studio experience?
"We recorded it at Sound Logic with Danny Brown and it was our first studio experience."
Did you record only two tracks because you hadn’t more material at this point or did you only want to check out how the tracks sound in the studio situation?
"I think it was more of a cashflow situation more than anything."
Did you sell the demo at your early shows or was it destined to be shopped around?
"We sold the demo and sent it off to magazines and radio shows."
Did you spread the demo through the fanzine / tapetrading network as well? Were you aware of its importance?
"We were pretty aware and sent it to everyone we could."
Did this demo open some doors for the band? Did this tape draw the fans attention to the band?
"I think it helped a lot, more than anything else we recorded. We got national radio airplay with that on Z-rock and won some contests."
Was it unambiguous for you to form a Thrash band right from the start?
"Yes, we all wanted the same thing."
Do you agree that Thrash Metal was on its peak around ’86/’87 ? What did/does this music mean to you all?
"I don’t think it peaked then at least not for us. We were peaking more when our second demo was released. Being in Morbid Scream was an important part of my life and will always mean a lot."
As far as myself, I’m always telling that in the States four big Thrash centers existed: the Bay Area, New York, Los Angeles and Texas. What do you think about it? What were the main differences and similarities between these scenes?
"I was not really that familiar with the other scenes aside from Texas. Texas at that time was very special and I don’t think anything like that will ever exist again."
It has been rumored that members of NECROVORE played with MORBID SCREAM, but this is not the case, is that correct?
"No one from Necrovore ever played with Morbid."
Your next demo was released only two years later, what happened with you during that period? Why did pass so much time between both demos?
"We were writing material and trying to fine tune our setlist. We grew a lot as a band in those years."
During 1989 you entered the Sound Logic Studios the record your second demo called "Morbid Scream” featuring ‘Morbid Scream’, ‘Timeless Sleep’, ‘Fist In Your Face’ and ‘Cries Of Sanity’. How did the recording sessions go with this demo?
"They went great, Danny was fun to work with."
A lot of local killer demos and records were recorded including GAMMACIDE, SEDITION, etc. Why did so many local Metal bands use Sound Logic to record their material?
"I think a lot of bands like the way our demos sounded. That credit really goes to Danny, he was a good engineer."
Was it a kind of studio like the Morrisound in Tampa, Florida?
"I have no idea."
Did you use all of the tunes that you had written for this tape?
"No, we picked the four best songs we had."
Was it a better representation of the band? Did you develop musically compared to the first material?
"I think we were much tighter as a band and the songs were written better."
Did this demo sound closer to what you wanted to achieve with MORBID SCREAM?
"At the time, yes."
How much promotion did you make for this demo? Did you shop it around to attract label interests?
"We sent it out everywhere and sold a lot of copies worldwide."
Were there any labels at all, that started showing interest in the band to be signed?
"No, not really."
What about your songs when it comes to the structuring of them? Who was responsible for the music? Would you say, that you created your own blend of killer riffs, speed and crunchy groove?
"We really wrote all of our songs as a band. Everyone contributed in different ways."
You had a sound that mixed the heaviness of early METALLICA with the grooviness of the "Reign In Blood” era of SLAYER, what do you think about that?
"I would agree, they were both huge influences on us."
In your opinion, are SLAYER the most influential outfit that left their mark on the scene?
"Without a question. What they did and still do is amazing."
What about the lyrical aspect of the songs?
"They varied, we tried not to dwell too much on one topic."
What do you recall from your shows? Did you play a lot of local gigs in Texas? Did you have the possibility to open for bands, such as EXODUS, SLAYER, METALLICA etc.?
"Yes, we played a lot. We opened for Sepultura, Kreator, DRI, Overkill, MOD and many others."
In 1990, feeling the need to stretch out musically, you shortened your name to THE MORBID, what made you to change your name? Was it still the same line up at this point?
"We just changed a lot musically and wanted to grow. It was still the same lineup, but we brought in others members for different things."
How did Pete Young of ANGKOR WAT get in the picture exactly performing on percussion? Did he only help you out or…?
"He was and is still one of my best friends. We are actually in a project now together…"
THE MORBID released in 1990 "The Morbider The Merrier” demo… Can you give us details on this demo?
"It was very different and much more diverse."
Would you say, that this demo would prove to be the band’s best attempt and most diverse release, featuring unorthodox (for Metal at least) instruments such as marimba and congas, while still retaining all the heaviness of the original MORBID SCREAM sound?
"I think so, it is my favorite thing we recorded. I love the songs on that demo."
How much did your music change compared to the first two demos?
"Way more, we were heavily into the Subpop scene and were really growing into other forms of music."
What type of feedback did you get for this tape?
"It was pretty mixed. I think a lot of people did not like it."
How was the status of Thrash Metal at this point in your opinion? Would you say, that it started to go out of fashion?
"I think the Subpop / Grunge scene gave it a kick to the nuts. This was really the same for all Metal. When I heard that first Soundgarden record, it changed my life…"
Unfortunately the band broke up shortly after releasing the third demo. What kind of goals did lead to the demise of the band and what did you do after the band’s demise? In which bands were you involved? Did you remain in touch with each other?
"We actually still played together in a different project with another member added. We formed a band called Beulah and added Dru Lupkey on guitars and keys. I don’t talk to all the members on a regular basis. I probably talk with Jason more than others."
Not only you, but MILITIA, NECROVORE, ROTTING CORPSE, WATCHTOWER etc. have thrown in the towel as well, does it mean that the Texas Thrash scene started into decay or…?
"I think everyone just grew into other things. There is a little bit of a surge right now in Texas. Rigor Mortis and Gammacide have started playing again."
Metal in general seemed to be kind of dead during the early / mid 90s, what was the reason of it?
"The Grunge and alternative Rock scene dominated it."
Was the Metal scene oversaturated and the fans tried to jump from a trend to another one? Would you say, that Grunge and Pop / Punk almost killed the traditional Metal?
"I think it was something new and a lot of people latched on to it."
How do you feel when you see that there’s still people who really understood how great MORBID SCREAM was and who still enjoy your music after all those years? Do you think that your music has passed the test of time?
"That is a tough question. I think a lot people really enjoy it still. It is very flattering to me and I am happy I was involved in it."
Both MORBID SCREAM demos and THE MORBID demo have been re-released on the Texas Thrash Bash compilation along with both demos by SEDITION on Hammerwitch Records in 2007 respectively "The Signal To Attack: 1986-1990” compilation that was released by Tarot Productions, which is run by Proscriptor McGovern drummer and vocalist of ABSU… Were you deeply involved in the making of these releases? Can you tell us more about these records?
"The one Tarot Productions did is the only released version that we authorized. Prosciptor mastered it on his one and we had very little to do with that end of it. The other release was put out without our permission and I’m not sure who did it… Whomever did should not have!!!"
Morbid Scream was a band in the mid to late 80s that was part of what began as a movement of very fast paced Death / Thrash Metal in the Texas Metal underground, right?
"Yes, along with other big bands from all over Texas."
ABSU, or more accurately, Proscriptor McGovern, pays homage to Morbid Scream for helping "Chronicle The Evolution” of ABSU, is that correct?
"Yes he does. They grew up listening to our music as well as us all being friends."
"The point of this release of old demos and live tracks is to show that Morbid Scream were playing a style of Metal that came long before its time and this release is to give respects to a band that helped ABSU find who they were as musicians and become one of the greatest Thrash Black Metal acts to grace not only the state of Texas or the continent of North America, but the entire world…" How do you see it?
"I don’t know about all that. I just know at the time we played what we thought was good and what we liked. It was a great experience to have others share the same vision and support us. It is very flattering that ABSU feels that way and is a huge compliment!"
Would you say, that the quality of these recordings isn’t that great, but for demos in the mid 80s, they are quite beautifully polished up?
"The studio recordings sound pretty good, but the live stuff is pretty rough. A lot of it was taken from a videotape."
Did the fans respect Morbid Scream immensely for playing your part in the beginnings of ABSU, and for being forerunners of a great genre long before its prime?
"I’m not sure if they do or don’t. It’s not like they come up to me on a daily basis stating one way or the other."
Do you think, that Morbid Scream played exactly what the genre title of Death / Thrash Metal suggests and you blasted through with a fast-paced Thrash attack with nearly pseudo-Death vocals?
"The thought of "genre" never entered our mind in writing those songs. We wrote what we liked and thought was good. We never sat down and said "we need to write it a certain way". We wrote what we thought was good and we were heavily influenced by Slayer, early Metallica, Mercyful Fate and may others."
Did you come long before your time though?
"This is a silly question. Who would answer yes to this?"
Songs like ‘Face Of Death’ and ‘Morbid Scream’ are not only absolutely phenomenal, but incredibly catchy and heavy for the time in which they were written under demo quality, what’s your views about this?
"We were all about trying to make the songs catchy and having hooks. We were lucky that we could pull that off, it is not an easy thing to do by any means."
The studio demo tracks honestly probably could have been released as an album if they were this well produced back then, is that correct?
"Yes, for sure. They were high quality studio recordings. They were never properly mastered at the time, but still sounded good."
Do you think, that the great thing about releases this old is that live a band usually sounded the same as they did in the studio as production wasn’t as technologically advanced as to give the band neat tools to play with to manipulate sounds and vocals?
"The only overdubs we did on those recordings were the vocals and leads. Everything else was tracked live was how we played live. I did not play to a click track on any of those recordings…"
The live tracks are where the production quality suffers, but if one have ever heard any of the old Metallica bootlegs, this really sounds beautiful, how do you see it?
"It’s a little tough for me to listen to since I am a recording engineer. I can see how there is a appeal though."
Would you say, that the band is as tight and precise live as you were on your demos, and must have really been a force to be reckoned with back when they were still making this music?
"We were pretty tight because we practiced a lot. Just like any other band, you have performances that are outstanding as well as a bad night. It just happens sometimes."
It’s sad, that you never continued to push forward with your music and attempt to at least release a full length or EP in some way
"I don’t think it’s a matter of pushing forward. We all wanted to do different things."
"Fantastic release in every way, and a priceless jewel for any Thrash Metal fan…" Do you agree with it?
"I am very happy with what Proscriptor did."
"Morbid Scream is without a doubt the most underrated Texas band and this collection of the demos (remixed for a better sound), also has live tracks, adding the grand total to a whopping 19 songs representing an era that while gone is sorely missed…" What do you think about it?
"It is an era that is missed because there was an actual scene. That is not just because of MORBID SCREAM either. There were a ton of bands from that era that were really good. Dead Horse being on the top of the list, they were an amazing band for the time."
How do you view, that the vocals are a bit reminiscent of MASSACRE’s Kam Lee with a slight difference in pitch with a clearer devlivery of the words and musically, it has perfect blend of German and Bay Area Speed Metal?
"Not really familiar with Massacre, so I can’t really comment. Trent had a lot of different influences, so I am sure that helped in his vocal styling. I always thought his voice was very similar to Hallow’s Eve in some ways."
Would you say, that after all those years is there a demand on MORBID SCREAM’s material from the part of the fans?
"I think so, the first Tarot pressing sold out!"
Do you still often meet Texas Thrash musicians? Unfortunately Eric Roy of GAMMACIDE and Steve Cooper of S. A. SLAYER passed away
"Yes, I’ll run into them from time to time."
Do you still follow what’s going on in the Metal scene these days? Would you say that it’s having so many outfits around sounding more or less all the same instead of trying to come up with different, original ideas like it was back then when you could distinguish most of the bands?
"I still love Metal and support a lot of it. I think Neurosis is probably one of the most orginal and innovative bands in all genres of music."
How would you sum up MORBID SCREAM’s career?
"We had a great run for about 4-5 years…"
Jimi, thanks a lot for this feature, anything else to mention what I forgot to cover?
"I think we covered a lot… (laughing). The only thing I would mention is that I am still havily involved in music. I have a studio with two other partners, named Klearlight and we are doing a lot of great stuff. I recently recorded and mixed the "Rape, Pillage And Burn" EP. We are about to start tracking some new Divine Eve stuff. We are having a lot of fun and the studio is staying quite busy!"
www.myspace.com/morbidscream, www.myspace.com/tarotproductions, www.tarotproductions.com
Interview: Dávid László