NUNSLAUGHTER is probably one of the oldest cult Death Metal bands around. Like they say themselves, everybody has been involved in the underground, put together a fanzine or traded (demo-) tapes must have at least heard of them. Last year their debut album "Hell’s Unholy Fire" saw the obscure light. To promote that album, they got over to Europe for the first time in their career, and went on a small tour together with CENTINEX. I must say that their gig was one of the most entertaining ones I’ve seen in a loooong time! The constant ‘satanic’ inter-action between vocalist Don Of The Dead and drummer Jim simply made everyone in the audience smile! Before the gig, I had a nice talk with Don Of The Dead, drummer Jim also filled in at the end here and there…
If I’m correct, this is the first European tour you’re doing throughout your career, right?
"That’s right and everything’s going pretty well so far. The hospitality, the people, the food, all the getting around has been really easy going, unfortunately I got a bit sick last night, but it will work out hopefully. We’re going to drink some beers together with CENTINEX hopefully (laughs)."
Who actually came up with the bandname NUNSLAUGHTER?
"I can’t remember specifically who came up with it, it was just a meeting of minds I guess. It was just one night when we were all suggesting bandnames and one of the three spit that name out, the three of us looked at each other and we were like – ‘Yeah, that’s it, that’s the name we have to use.’ I think it’s a good bandname that suits our music."
And who drew your logo?
"Well, the thing is that we have about 25 different logos (laughs). The logo on the LP was made by a friend of mine who wrote to me and asked me one day if he could draw a logo for us, and I told him to go ahead. I think his name is Necrophobic Art or something like that. Christoph Szpajdel just drew another logo for us, he had made two different logos for us before, but he made a new one like two days ago which we will use in the future also."
When you started out, how would you say the scene was back then in Pittsburgh?
"The scene was excellent in Pittsburgh, the years 1985 – 1989 were really excellent and great. Punk and Metal bands got along great, everybody went to the shows and it didn’t matter if it was Hardcore or Death Metal or Heavy Metal. A show was a show and you went to it. Shortly after that, it really went downhill. We had great bands like NECROPOLIS, DREAM DEATH, DOOM WATCH, HALF LIFE… Today, the scene in Pittsburgh really sucks."
Would you say that at that time, you were mainly influenced by the Death Metal bands of the first era, like BATHORY, HELLHAMMER, VENOM or more by bands of the second era like MASSACRE, MANTAS and POSSESSED?
"VENOM was already around like 1981 – 1982, BATHORY around 1982 – 1983 and even MANTAS was 1984, everybody was just tape-trading. At that time, we were mainly influenced by the very early eighties Death Metal bands and the mid eighties Metal bands, 1983 – SODOM, 1984 – DESTRUCTION, which really was a great Metal band, BATHORY, VENOM, MANTAS and early DEATH, early MASSACRE, DEVASTATION and MASTER from Chicago, SADUS, AUTOPSY, DECEASED, HELLWITCH… Not all these bands did necessarily influence us, but that was the stuff that we listened to in those days."
Your first demo, "Ritual Of Darkness" has become a pure cult-demo over the years and has even been re-released on a bootleg 7" if I’m right. What do you think is the main reason why that demo has got such a legendary status these days?
"That’s a tough question. I think at that time, there were just less bands to choose from. I was already heavily involved in the Metal scene because I wrote to a lot of bands when we recorded it. I also distributed that demo very much, I taped and recorded it and gave it to everybody I knew for free or whatever. The "Ritual Of Darkness" demo is probably one of those demos that just passed the test of time."
Do you still have some memories about the recording of that tape?
"Oh yeah (laughs). It was recorded on two simple cassette-decks in a guy’s garage and we just let it run through a big soundboard. We didn’t even have a cymbal-stand, so I had to hold the cymbals with my thumb (laughs). We were not sure what sound we wanted on the tape, so when we were busy, the guy who recorded it changed the levels on all of the four songs, so all the four songs sound differently. They have a different guitar-sound, the bass sounds different, the drums sound rather muddy. We were trying to figure out what we actually wanted, but once we recorded the songs, we said ‘That’s good enough’."
Were you very much involved in the underground at the time of your first demo?
"I just started tapetrading but I wasn’t heavily involved in it. I just started finding out a lot of bands that I liked already had demos or albums. To make contact was rather difficult because there were not that many underground fanzines around at that time. You almost had to know somebody who was already busy with it for quite a while and who was already tapetrading with this and that person. When you don’t have any demos to trade, nobody wants to trade with you, that’s obvious. So, it started with me by buying a fanzine and ordering every demo that was reviewed in there, so I could trade for more demos and it built up from there. But in 1984 – 1985, I was already writing to bands and people like Chuck Schuldiner, Darren and Travis from SADUS, Chris Reifert of AUTOPSY. Of course they didn’t know who I was, it was more letters to say ‘Hey, I like your shit’."
What are your thoughts about the band’s second demo "Rotting Christ"? I got that demo through tapetrading a while ago and I must say that the sound on that demo is somehow a bit strange I think.
"The sound of that demo is odd (laughs). Originally, we recorded it on a 4-track in another garage, and the actual recording came out quite well. But we hadn’t recorded the vocals yet which we had to do one week later, and we couldn’t effort to rent that 4-track recorder for another week. So we took the recordings to the house of our vocalist at that time and let him do the vocals on it, and he kind of totally fucked up the sound with it. It really sounded like shit but we couldn’t afford another 4-track. But it still sounded pretty aggressive, so we decided to put it out anyway. Strange enough, that "Rotting Christ" demo is the second best known demo of NUNSLAUGHTER. Later on, it got re-released as a 7" as well."
Was it actually named after the Greek act? I think they were already around at that time as well…
"No, I didn’t know about that band until the demo came out. I think that Greek band’s first demo got released somewhere around 1988, wasn’t it?"
I’m not sure, I have a demo of them called "Ade’s Winds" which is from 1987 I think, but I’m not 100% sure about that.
"Well, anyway, the fact that our demo was also called "Rotting Christ" was just a coincidence. Actually, Necroabyssious, who’s now playing in VARATHRON, who was also playing in ROTTING CHRIST at that time wrote to me because of that, because our demo was called after his band. We got friends for a while."
In 1991, the third demo with the title "Impale The Soul Of Christ On The Inverted Cross Of Death" saw the light. What’s the story behind that demo?
"We really lacked a strong drummer at that time. I was in college and I only had a very small pool of musicians to choose from. I wrote almost the entire demo and the week that we were supposed to record, our vocalist at that time, Greg, who was the original singer backed out for a stupid excuse, he had to get married or something, so he didn’t want to sing on the tape. That’s actually how I started singing because we actually planned to hire a guy to come over to my house, but in the end I did it. We recorded that demo in the living room when I was still in college."
With three demos already released at that time, didn’t you get some offers by a serious label to release an album?
"Yes and no. The expectations with the "Impale…" demo were great and I think it kind of fell short of what people thought when we were going to have a good sounding demo. It got distributed really well through Relapse and there was some interest but no real interest as far as an LP release goes, but we got some interest for singles. At that time, the members came and went, the band wasn’t too stable, so I didn’t want to go ahead with that."
After that, it took three years before you got back to the scene with the "Guts Of Christ" demo if I’m right? What happened within those years?
"It’s more like two years actually. What happened with that demo was that I just wanted to do it as a very limited release, 100 copies or something like that. The drummer of the "Impale…" demo started a small distribution, he wanted to license the demo to a distributor which would make the work easier for me, so I said fine. ‘We went ahead and recorded it, we printed up the covers, made the tapes and then he mainly did nothing with it, no promotion whatsoever. So, it was put on a shelf like for more than a year and then I said to him ‘Just give me back the tapes and all the shit you have of it and I’m going ahead. I’m going to make new covers and distribute it.’ So, it actually came out in 1993, but it lasted until 1994 until the copies started to spread. Nevertheless quite a lot of people have that demo."
I’ve been following the underground scene for already quite some time and I get the feeling that nowadays your name is spread and mentioned as an influence much more than for example 5 years ago…
"I don’t know. There were a lot of other things that I was doing at the time of the formation of NUNSLAUGHTER. So, I didn’t necessarily always concentrate on the band until a few years when I really wanted to get the name out. If people are mentioning NUNSLAUGHTER as an influence more these days than five years ago, well…"
Nowadays, there are also quite some people who started hailing the obscure bands of the eighties again. Do you think you could somehow profit from this situation?
"It’s beneficial, I don’t know about profit. A few years ago, there really was something missing in Metal music the early nineties until maybe a few years ago, the interest in Metal music in general really went downhill. I think that if you look at the band from a nostalgic point of view, NUNSLAUGHTER being formed so long ago but nevertheless consistently putting out material, especially nowadays, I think it’s beneficial."
Many times, if a band releases a classic Death Metal album and later on totally switch their style, they say that they progressed or somehow think that the Death Metal style is too limited to progress. How do you feel about this and how do you keep Death Metal interesting for yourselves?
"I like bands with very limited solos, simple songs, to me that’s what the Death Metal of the early eighties made what it was. It was vile and despised. If bands say Death Metal is too limited, I think they just don’t look hard enough. The stuff that we put out today is still very early eighties sounding Death Metal: no solos, simple short songs about the devil (laughs)."
Would you say that NUNSLAUGHTER is an underrated band?
"I don’t know if we can be underrated (laughs)."
Jim: "Well, I think that the real underground with the tapetrading, the old shirts and demos, it doesn’t exist anymore these days. These days, with the upcoming bands, everybody has a CD. We worked for many years just to get a CD, an album, out. These bands don’t have demos anymore or the underground feeling, everything is coming out on CD and has CD-quality. To me, a demo-tape meant that you’re demonstrating your abilities to get a record-deal, a recording which fans, friends or traders can listen to. I don’t think you’ll ever hear something from us that’s not thought-through. We check ourselves and when we write something and it doesn’t sound like a NUNSLAUGHTER riff, we don’t use it. As far as our rating goes, I guess every publicity is good publicity. I don’t mean to brag or anything but if anybody claims to be underground there’s no way that you haven’t heard of us, not necessarily like us. You can’t call yourself a real underground trader if you haven’t heard of NUNSLAUGHTER. Don Of The Dead has been trading tapes and corresponding for over 16 years, I’m into the scene for like 11 or 12 years, so there’s really no way. If you’re talking about underground, everybody wants to leave the underground as soon as possible, everybody wants to be dictated by labels and distributed. If it takes that to be rated, than I don’t want to be rated."
Which other bands of today do you also really respect and do you think maybe never got the credit they deserved?
"DECEASED without any doubt! That band has done so many shows and so much promotion and just continuously put out Metal and they really don’t get the recognition they deserve, I don’t know why. They just don’t sell that many albums, back in the days they played a lot of shows outside of D.C."
Jim: "That band still exists, just because a band still exists they still deserve respect and recognition. There’s nothing wrong with digging in the past and to search for split up bands. If someone tells you to check that album of VIOLENT FORCE of 1984 out, that band hasn’t been around for like 12 years or something, I’d say ‘Go and listen to it!’. An album like that will probably do more for you and you will probably find out more about what was going on at that time and Metal in general than anything that’s going around now. People tend to forget about those bands, forget the past. That’s what it’s all about, leaving your mark, leaving the things behind. I think that most of the bands I would mention, you heard of them, but the other people in this club may have not heard of them. Back then when I was like 16 years old, those bands made a lasting impression on my life through their music."
In my opinion, many of the bands out there who claim to be Death Metal bands these days aren’t even Death Metal bands. To me, Death Metal is raw and obscure, even scary music and was not meant to be ‘nice’ or whatever you wanna call it…
"Absolutely, you’re 100% right. A band which totally captures the essence of Death Metal is for example SADISTIC INTENT, you still get a very dark feeling from them, also CRUCIFIER or GRAND BELIAL’S KEY, those are some great bands that still haven’t lost their way. The bands with the keyboards and the melodies and all that kind of stuff, I don’t know. The older you get, you also get a different opinion about what Metal or Death Metal is or should sound like. In 10 years from now, people will probably talk about how totally underground this or that band was, that they incorporated the true feeling of Death Metal and that the stuff before was just pure shit. The bands of today that claim to be Death Metal, they probably never put out a demo, wrote or corresponded or bought an underground fanzine. That has nothing to do with the underground. I don’t want to be part of some popular Rock band, that’s not an interest of me. If it would ever look as if NUNSLAUGHTER was going in that direction, it would be over, because NUNSLAUGHTER is still very special to me."
Most of the time, even the demos that get released these days are on CD format. I guess you prefer the days when the demos were released as tapes in very limited quantities, right?
"Yeah, for example the first GOATLORD demo looks really terrible and I just love it (laughs)."
Do you happen to know the band PENTACLE from the Netherlands? They have a great album out on Damnation Records…
"No, I don’t, I’ve heard of them though."
I’m asking you this because I know their vocalist likes your stuff and I think that you would also really appreciate the stuff they’re doing…
"Then I must check them out, because it’s really hard to find new stuff these days that I like. Actually I do remember seeing their album, now that you’re mentioning it."
What about the live album that Damnation Records was planning to put out?
"Damnation is planning a mini live album, it should have been out to sell it on this tour but they have some problems with their design guy. I just talked to Daan from Damnation about two days ago and he said that the layout should be done by the end of this month and then hopefully they’ll start pressing it, in about two months it should be out."
Are you happy and satisfied with the way your debut "Hell’s Unholy Fire" came out?
"We had a lot of problems with Repulse Records on which we were originally signed on. We didn’t have that much influence or input on the actual release, how the layout and the design would look like but I think they did a great job on that. There’s a few things on the cover that I would like to change, but for the most part, the look of it is pretty good I would say. As far as the sound goes, I think we’ll have a better attempt on the next record. But since this is our first album and since there are also so many old songs on there, I think it’s a great release, it really sounds like an oldschool Death Metal record that would have been released like ten years ago."
When you overview your career, what would you say were the highlights in the band’s career?
"To me, right now is the best period with all our releases, the contacts and the interest we’re getting. I would have to say between the "Rotting Christ" demo and the "Guts Of Christ" demo were probably the worst times. I felt the "Impale…" demo was pretty weak, especially because of the drumming and I wasn’t sure if I was going to continue with the band. It was extremely difficult to find a drummer that could play what I wanted and finding the money to keep it going, to record another demo and to keep the mail going out. I would say that was the worst time."
When you’re going back to America after this tour, what are you going to do then?
"We got quite a few releases planned. We have one show coming up in the States, besides that, I guess we’ll be spending quite some time in our rehearsal room. Hopefully in about one year and a half, we’ll have another album out."
Live Pics: Hacker (last 3)
remaining pics taken from the band’s official homepage www.nunslaughter.com