So here we broke away from the gray misery that is life on Sunday, April the 7th 2002. In Club Xanth’s infamous backstage area. Sun Diego didn’t let anybody down and we had everything you could ask for in a great night of Underground Metal. The killer venue that Club Xanth turned out to be, a die-hard chief organizer in the form of Dave, who’s goal it seems to be to assault the herd of Christianity one sheep at a time and wrecking-ball bands. This was the 3rd installment of an now (hopefully, we need it down here) monthly mauling organized by Dave’s Catacombs Promotion and this was their blackest one yet. After being battered into submission by GUTROT I met up with NOCTUARY backstage to talk to those Metal lunatics of god’s creation (no pun). Turned out that backstage was where everybody had a few beers and smokes, some members of CATTLE DECAPITATION and RISE were to be found among others. Dave set me up with the band and hails to him for that! All 4 of the guys were there to put up with me and time just flew by. Now, this won’t be your usual interview, I’m afraid. I never liked those Interviews where I would read nothing but a touched up bio and some butt-kisses. I wanted to have fun and get some info out of the guys you might never read anywhere else, and I hope in the end you will feel like being there with the guys. But hey, fingers off that beer, that’s mine! Answers by Joseph unless stated otherwise. We started out with the funniest rumor I have heard about the band yet, them trying to get on Sony of all Labels!
So, I heard (pointing my index finger at Travis from CATTLE DECAPITATION as if he was the source, when he wasn’t, just to make him feel uneasy) that you guys are trying to get on Sony now? Didn’t MORBID ANGEL and CARCASS proof that it will rather kill a band than lift it to the next level?
(Insane laughter) "Yeah, they just failed. That seems to be a typical thing to happen; you just can’t bring that into mainstream. But no, dude, we’re not trying to get on Sony. But it’s not like we would mind if they called."
I just got your 2 song promo disc the other day and it seems that NOCTUARY draws a lot of influences from MAIDEN and stuff?
"Yeah, totally. A lot of old MAIDEN, old MEGADETH, a lot of the old Metal bands are a big influence and important to us."
Then what did you think when you heard that MEGADETH are no more?
"Well, that’s crazy! I wasn’t too impressed with their last couple of CD’s but I’m a big fan of his Guitar playing, of course. It’s kind of sad to hear that he can’t play anymore and that he has a problem with his arms."
Well, maybe he started shooting up H again!
"It’s too bad, maybe we would have had another great album coming our way after all these years! (laughter) You never know…"
How many songs are on the promo?
I was overjoyed when I heard that promo, it is so fucking good and so different!
Christopher: "That’s good! You got it then! Some people notice that it is really different and some people do not notice it at all.
Yeah, even the first time I saw you guys in 98 it was obvious! Classic Old school! And then there was that guy Gus Chamber from GRIP INC. in the audience who took a leak at the bar, was too drunk to make it to the bathroom and too much of a rockstar, too, I guess.
"He was there? That guy is like a famous tattoo-artist."
Dude, I would never ever get a tattoo by him, you’ll end up going home with extra presents you never wanted, stuff you didn’t even have to pay for!
I just thought that that guy had no decency at all.
Christopher: "For some people who get huge in the mainstream, it’s not about your integrity, not your musical talent, it really comes down to who you know. If you can draw a crowd, no-one cares. You’re signed. It’s got nothing to do with if you are nice, or if you’re a bastard."
Steven: "But then again, take a talented band like OPETH, they are fucking amazing and actually draw people! So, there is people who actually appreciate the music!"
Dude, they had a huge feature in guitar player, I think it was like 2 to 3 pages.
Christopher: "See, that’s fuckin soo great! They are the least recognized best Metal band out there. I only knew about them because I was a big fan of EDGE OF SANITY and he did Backup vocals on "Crimson", so I went and got their first album and went "wow", this is so different! All gloomy, Black Metal style. I was kind of worried first because it had that Orchid on there." (LAFF)
Steven: "That’s the tragedy with the Underground scene, there is so many bands that are so talented and will just never get out to the mainstream. Even within the Underground they are not getting anywhere. Just the ones that are super fast, not necessarily good, just super fast."
And it seems to me that there is some strong songwriting around when it comes to modern Death Metal, but most of the contemporary DM frontmen just growl it away, no vocal lines, no phrasing, just urghurghurgh.
Christopher: "Vocals can really kill a band. You can have a great group behind you and if you singer can’t handle it, people will hate that band."
Yeah, but people seem to like that over-the-top, faster than SUFFOCATION approach.
Christopher: "Every band, like, is competing when it comes to who has the fastest drummer. And that’s just very boring."
Robert: "There is very few bands that actually do that really fast shit tastefully."
Joseph: "Like THE CROWN, that guy is amazing, and CADAVER INC. That’s my favorite drummer of all time. The guy who played in VED BUENS ENDE and DODHEIMSGARD. That guy Czral. He is an amazing drummer! He is the most talented Norwegian drummer ever! Have you ever heard VED BUENS ENDE? They are really, really experimental, very weird. But it’s really different than everything else. The vocals are like wacky, crazy, an amazing band."
It was interesting to see back then, although only a handful of people bought the best boring Death Metal album ever released namely "Soulside Journey" by DARKTHRONE, everybody recognized Fenriz’ talent. Next thing you know, he plays very basic on their follow-up album, "A Blaze In The Northern Sky".
"It changed the face of Black Metal, that’s for sure. That started a whole new style."
Christopher: "But I mean, they are fuckin’ AC/DC! They put the same album out every year and it sells!"
Joseph: "But their newer albums are more technical and have a better production, they are cool! Their covers used to be awesome, too. Now they are like pastel. Fenriz was at Milwaukee and hanging out. DARKTHRONE are supposed to be a boring live-band. A bit like SATYRICON, although their bassist made up for it. Tyr, when he is live, he is crazy! He headbangs while the rest of the band just stands there."
The craziest guy I have ever seen live is Robert Vigna of IMMOLATION!
Christopher: "The bald guy! He is insane! He is the shit! He is the man! That guy is incredible! I have to say, they are holding it together up there!"
You mentioned that SUFFOCATION had a big influence on the scene here back in the day…
"OMG…SUFFOCATION! Especially here in California! They used to fly SUFFOCATION from NY to California just for two shows!"
Christopher: "If you didn’t like SUFFOCATION, you sucked. That’s what it was. They were probably one of the most popular Death Metal bands here."
Joseph: "THE best live band I have ever seen, dude! They fuckin headbanged like crazy and they were tight as hell!"
Christopher: "They hit every note…every note."
Joseph: "They were so precise, oh my god! It was like (plays air guitar and makes funny guitar sounds) and it was all the same notes (as on CD), all the same! I was sworn to those guys."
I read an interview once back then and they said they wanted to re-record "Breeding The Spawn".
"That would have been great! Because the production was horrible. That was a mistake."
Christopher: "That was the birth of digital music."
Thinking of "Effigy Of The Forgotten", I think IMMORTAL had a similar impact on the Black Metal scene with "Pure Holocaust".
"IMMORTAL, DARKTHRONE, they just were pioneers of their style."
Christopher: "And IMMORTAL progressed! They have a cool new direction. "At The Heart Of Winter" was just so different from what they did before. It took me by surprise, it was so Metal!"
Have you guys seen the Immortal videos?
Christopher: "We used to laugh so hard, when he (Abbath) would do that, we laughed so hard! We would run outside and mimic it, hahaha."
Jospeh: "I love it how they have a sense of humor, I love their videos! That’s what we do on stage and we don’t care. We make jokes, we laugh! We’re having fun and we look like goofballs."
Christopher: "I think the more energy you have on stage, the more energy the crowd will have and it’s all about having fun! We do have some pretty cool local fans who know our music and get up and sing along. That’s awesome!"
It’s hard to come up with a good Metal Video. But Morbid Angel’s were masterpieces!
Christopher: "Oh yeah, ‘Rapture’, ‘God Of Emptiness’… they had the money."
Coming back to the promo, there are a lot of new things in there, right? Like the chants among others, sounds a bit like STORM.
"We were experimenting a bit more. (Robert yells: DUDE! STORM!) I had the STORM demo back in the day, the VED BUENS ENDE demo, all these good demos."
Wasn’t it lame when Kari (Rueslatten) denied everything about STORM afterwards and even got an attorney involved?
"I know, that sucks! She was an awesome singer, too."
She was like, "I never read the lyrics, I just went into the studio and sang them, I didn’t even know what they were about!"
"That’s total bullshit that she did that!"
So, when can we expect the next NOCTUARY release to hit the shelves? Have you guys recorded yet?
Christopher: "No, we have recorded just those two songs. Right now we are pretty much shopping around and we only had two albums on the last label. We are looking around right now. All we want is good budget for the studio, and tour support! US and Europe would kill!"
Joseph: "That rumor about Sony is obviously crazy! If there was a label that would be good for us it would be a label such as Metal Blade, Century Media. Metal Blade signed a lot of bands lately and it’s awesome that they are going back to the Metal! But then you have labels such as Roadrunner. Even DEICIDE left them! That’s crazy! The only semi-Metal band on there is SLIPKNOT doing their thing. Roadrunner used to be the classic label!"
Have you ever been to Europe?
"NOOOO!! We very badly want to go and it has to be so awesome not to sit on the bus for 14 hours to get to the next venue but to hop from city to city within a couple of hours. It just sucks to travel forever to play in front of 50 people (Remark: San Diego has the worst scene I’ve ever seen in my whole live, and don’t get them wrong, they would play at your mothers party if you promised them a case of beer!). That’s US, dude, everywhere in the US."
Christopher: "San Diego is getting better, though. I used to live down here and it was the same thing, like 10 people would show up for a show, but now with bands like DEEDS OF FLESH drawing 300 people, that’s awesome! That means that the scene is growing. Let’s wait and see. And to have All Ages shows is important (if it is All Ages there will be no alcohol available, but people under 21 will be able to attend, how does a German under 21 only survive in this country?? Thank god I’m 28…) All ages will get out a lot of kids! I mean, the fans are mostly young kids and it’s important to enable them to come and see bands play."
Europe’s so different, everybody hangs out outside and gets drunk and then, when the bands play, you see both hair and people fly! In the early 90’s we would sing songs together and stuff outside the venue and in between bands. But Black Metal changed everything and people we not allowed to have fun anymore, it seems. It’s getting better, though. But then again, are there any over-dedicated Black Metal Fans in the states, guys that are way to extreme?
"Yeah, there are, but they stay at home! They stay in their bedroom and hang out on the Internet. It’s funny though, I’ve been on the net myself for 7 years now and that’s how I met Robert."
Travis (CATTLE DECAPITATION) cracked me up 4 weeks ago. He was on stage and again, no-one was going off….Travis, did you have a few beers or something?
Travis: "Yeah! (everybody dies laughing) And he was like making fun off everybody, it was the funniest thing because he told them like it is and instead of getting mad at Travis the crowd just stood there feeling guilty. That’s classic!"
To come back to NOCTUARY, how did you guys get into Black Metal back then? Was it IRON MAIDEN to MEGADETH to BATHORY???
"You know what? Actually I heard the EMPEROR demo through a friend at High school and I was like, WOW, this is different! Totally different from anything else I listen to! I was listening to old METALLICA, MEGADETH, IRON MAIDEN and all that, that the shit, all the classic stuff, and when I heard EMPEROR I thought that this is totally crazy! And I was always into IMPALED NAZARENE, back in the day, great stuff!"
Did you ever get to see EMPEROR?
"I saw them in Milwaukee the first year they came out here, they were cool! They actually were not able to plug in the keyboard, there were just not enough plugs at the venue to hook up the keyboard. But they actually sounded really good without keys! It was pretty cool! I never really got huge into EMPEROR. I really like their side of the split with ENSLAVED and the demo was awesome! But I didn’t like their later stuff that much and the last, I couldn’t care less."
Did you get to see ZYKLON on their tour?
"You know what? We played with them in Milwaukee! The CD is pretty cool, it’s more like Death Metal MORBID ANGEL style but live they were good, but not too overwhelming. But then again, Milwaukee doesn’t make it easy."
Yeah, it’s not my brand of beer either, I mean (pointing at my MESSIAH "Hymn To Abramelin" shirt) this is where I’m coming from and I was overjoyed when I saw your shirt! (Talking to Steven who was wearing a CARCASS 92 Tour shirt). Did you ever get to see CARCASS play live?
Steven: "No, I didn’t. I never saw CARCASS and that’s something I missed out on in life."
Joseph: "That’s like his favorite band and he has never seen them live! A buddy who did guest guitar stuff on (mmmbmlllmlm…I didn’t understand what he said), he toured with CARCASS and he did played guitar for DEATH, actually!"
Was his name John Hand?
(takes Joseph a second to get that joke) "He was on the set for the ‘Heartwork’ video."
It was the funniest thing because I saw Jeff Walker with his long, filthy dreadlocks and then suddenly, 4 weeks later, I saw him on Headbangers Ball with straight hair!
Robert: "That was kinda weird. The dreads were nasty, man!"
What’s up with those American Black Metal Labels? I know most European ones are geared towards commercial success and will drop you after a week of bad sales.
"We don’t really mind where the label is located as long as it is reputable. From Europe or America, wherever they are fuckin’ coming from."
But then again, some labels just disappear over night, just look at Invasion!
"You remember Unisound? The old ROTTING CHRIST album and everything, those were great! Those were the days, and suddenly the label was gone!?! That’s what happens though. You gotta go with a label that has been around for a while, has a good track record, good people working there and they have to know what they are doing."
Just listening to those two promo songs it’s obvious that NOCTUARY is putting so much work into it
Christopher: "Thanks! We spend some time, hahaha. Those songs took a while to write."
Doesn’t it piss you off to hear SIX FEET UNDER?
(Laughter) "Oh my god, I can’t believe you said that….I saw them live and it was just…..Chris Barnes was awesome in his heyday, and Allen West! It was cool to see Chris Barnes and Allen West but at the same time it was like their day was almost over, sad to say. They just changed."
But then again SFU sells like crazy in Germany, entering the charts.
Christopher: "It’s just because of Chris Barnes. For some reason the "mainstream" never recognized his work while he was in CANNIBAL CORPSE but now they seem to like his style. Good Marketing."
Do you guys know what happened to Kam Lee?
"Kam Lee?? I always hear rumors…hehehe..it’s weird."
From Jane Schuldiner I got Chuck’s Memorial Video and it is the saddest thing. I cried… it has him on there being a baby, him at his first KISS gig, guess he was 8 or 9, shortly after that getting hisfirst guitar for Christmas and so on… just sad! That was really touching. He always was the coolest guy to talk to when you met him but for some reason some members of the press gave him a hard time.
"I guess he was really to himself. That’s how he was on tours. He didn’t really talk to others too much."
I remember early on, we had all these great Death and Black Metal bands play live, and there was so much dedication, but the scene seems to have matured to a point where our "big" bands just pump out record after record. Cannibal Corpse are like the Rolling Stones of Death Metal!
"Totally! But the newer CANNIBAL CORPSE stuff is not as bad as I thought it was. But it’s not really as interesting anymore."
Christopher: "They are doing their part and thing to keep the scene alive and while their music may not be progressing as much as it used to, at least they are doing their thing to get kids into metal. It’s just like a stepping stone. Everybody used to listen to IRON MAIDEN first. Well, now it’s CANNIBAL CORPSE. So, a year or two from then they will get into the even heavier stuff."
Have you ever heard BETHLEHEM’s "Dictius Te Necare"? Those vocals are sooo extreme, even people who usually hate DM vocals seem like it.
"Yeah, the vocals are crazy! And the demo will go for a lot of money on eBay nowadays, it’s sick!"
Actually, the European market for Metal is different. You can go to a Walmart kinda store and get you Metal releases there. In Germany, at least.
Christopher: "It’s hard to picture that (as an American) because here you have to go to these little stores! For the good, good stuff, at least. At Tower Records (big record warehouse chain) you can get like CANNIBAL CORPSE and MORBID ANGEL, but if you want to get anything UG you have to find it first."
So, what happened to Wild Rags (they had a HUGE store in LA)? Richard (the owner) just took off?
"Wild Rags? Hahaha… the rumor is that he had gotten into a lot of trouble with the IRS (taxes) he got arrested and put in jail! Then the IRS auctioned off all his stuff. I would have liked to know when the auction was, I would have tried to pick some stuff up, too. Hahaha… but I guess Dark Realm got most of it. SADISTIC INTENT supposedly ceased all their CD’s that he had. Wild Rags had a lot of good demos, though, like a wall of demos. But people got pissed because he was bootlegging stuff like the EMPEROR demos."
Steven: "Richard was kind of weird. He would yell at his customers and shit, he was a weirdo, dude! He was always cool to me but sometimes I would be there and he would go and yell at some guy in the back: "Don’t touch that shirt!!!". He would go crazy! He eagle-eyed everyone, too, to make sure you wouldn’t steal anything. That was a good store, though. He had sooo much shit, a lot of hard to find stuff."
You just made such a good point, see, in Europe you can listen to CD’s before you buy them and I think that’s one of the main reasons why some Underground Metal made it big. People can check any band out before spending their hard-earned money while over here you buy CD’s sealed, and people tend to go with "name bands" because they do not want to waste money on an Underground release they might end up hating.
"We had that years ago where you could listen to CD’s, but it was big chains and they would never carry extreme forms of music. Only the real mainstream stuff. And they lost a lot of money because they couldn’t send opened CD’s back to the distributor. They are all gone now."
Christopher: "And that’s why it is important to have a strong label to get the word out. You have to have the distribution and the promotion. The younger labels just can’t do that kind of stuff. It’s a shame."
Steven: "We are not opposed to bigger labels at all, I mean, who gives a fuck as long as you can actually buy the album at your local store! We just want to spread the music!"
Joseph: "We don’t really care where (what label) we go as long as it is a good label that will be there in the long run. As long as you don’t change your music it shouldn’t matter what label you are on. Just don’t become a second METALLICA!"
What made it hard on the US, too, was that there were a few years of nothing. I Europe, around Death Metals demise in 94, Black Metal stepped up and took the lead, while over here BM never really caught on, definitely not until lately.
Christopher: "Black Metal made a little appearance. But it really stayed Underground. Death Metal was just so huge here. SUFFOCATION and CANNIBAL CORPSE and DEICIDE."
Joseph: "There were like 10 Black Metal bands in the United States when we started and now, there is like hundreds. I think in 96/97 it started growing a lot. It took a while for America to catch onto that. But its catching on more and more. I think people are just tired of nothing. But now it seems that the scene is getting over-saturated with Black Metal, just like was back then with Death Metal."
Christopher: "I remember back in 94/95 every Death Metal Band around here sounded exactly like CANNIBAL CORPSE, and now those bands aren’t even around, and now there are tons of bands that sound like EMPEROR."
Steven: "It’s like boundaries are starting to disappear with metal, too. It used to be Thrash, or Black/Death. Those boundaries seem to disappear."
Totally, it was such a big deal back then when NECROPHOBIC were pretty much the first band to mix those two styles, Black and Death, and nowadays it’s no big deal anymore, almost the rule.
"Yeah, the boundaries are almost gone!"
To get back to Black Metal, any US bands you like?
"ABSU!! They are really good. We just saw them in December when we played with them. They were great and they kill live! Bands like KRIEG, THORNSPAWN. THORNSPAWN just signed with Osmose."
Another funny rumor, I heard that AKHENATEN is actually room mates with Kanwulf and Rob Darken in Germany!!
(Laughter) "I don’t believe that he would be roommate with Rob Darken, hahaha. That’s funny, dude! There are a lot of rumors on the Internet! Actually I heard that the drummer in ABSU is one of the top three guys to make it into SLAYER, and I know that’s not a rumor at all."
But then you heard what Dino said when asked if he would audition for LIMP BIZKIT: "No dude, that will fuck up my career", hahaha
(Laughter….again) "Gimmie a break! That’s funny dude, he is totally cool, though. We actually played with IMPALED in Hollywood and Dino went to that show. He popped in and popped out, he’s like that Hollywood-guy, goes to the Rainbow and the Roxy and shit."
So, live-wise, did you guys get exposed to a lot of European BM bands at all or is it mostly US bands that play US stages when it comes to Black Metal?
"We had Dark Funeral!"
Christopher: "The bigger bands come out here like DARK FUNERAL, ENSLAVED, EMPEROR."
Steven: "ENSLAVED was like the first band ever to make it out here, like back in 92. On Osmose!"
When you opened up for DARK FUNERAL in LA, was that part of a tour or just that one show?
"Only that show. They didn’t tour anyways. It was just San Francisco and 2 shows down here, that was that. But SATYRICON toured most of the US back then. They played the East coast and MARDUK last year, they did the whole US. Those guys were crazy!"
Oh really? Herve spending big bucks, that’s news to me! Hahaha….
"You saw the IMPALED NAZARENE Video? That’s like High Dollar, dude! And they’ve never been out here except the Metal Fest! And BLASPHEMY. They have never really played the United States, and that’s weird considering they live in Canada!"
Yeah, it’s hard to get support, I guess. And there is no support coming from the bigger media, is there?
"The BIGGER media? No! Not at all, and if so, they are condemning us! But then again, SLIPKNOT is huge, I mean they have a 30 foot Pentagram and it doesn’t seem to bother anyone!"
Guess the media have never heard of ANAL BLAST, hehehe….
"The Vaginal Vampire" album was good! And that guy in ANAL BLAST, now in SLIPKNOT, filled in for KATAKLYSM on a tour once when they toured back in the day. And the ANAL BLAST cover artwork was funny, that CRADLE OF FILTH look-alike cover!"
Almost as funny as Exit 13’s Venom Cover!
"Dude, THE CROWN just did that, too! Have you seen that one? With the VENOM logo? We’ll see them when they play here this Friday!"
So, you guys will be up in a few minutes… How many gigs do you play over the year generally?
"One or two a month. It fluctuates. We used to do like three a month back in the day, but we just decided to take a break, dude! Too many shows. We like going around! We play different states like 5 times a year when we go to other parts of the country, but we do not want to over-play here in California."
Then they got up, punched me in the face, drank my beer and destroyed San Diego…
Interview & pics: Götz Vogelsang