I bet that many of you reading our magazine are really curious to find out about the whereabouts of original MORBID ANGEL guitarist Richard Brunelle (who parted ways with the band shortly after "Blessed Are The Sick"), aren’t you? Well, the time to bring him back into the spotlight right now couldn’t be any better as Richard not only has a new band going (PATHS OF POSSESSION), there’s also a self financed debut album, entitled "Legacy In Ashes", which will get a proper (re-)release through Polands Still Dead Productions later this year… We hooked up with Richard for the following exclusive interview, getting you first hand information about his past, present and future activities…
Ok, before we talk about PATHS OF POSSESSION, we obviously should go back in time a little in order to clear up the dust of when and why you exactly split up with MORBID ANGEL? There’s been several stories circulating, but as far as I can recall, yours haven’t really been heard yet. So, was the split more of a personal or musical nature (or both) and did it come rather quick or was it something that was unavoidable for a longer period of time already?
"This was a long time ago, I really don’t think about it anymore. I would say around the time "Blessed Are The Sick" was being recorded things became clear, but we had all been friends a long time so we tried to make things work. When it came time for the next recording project it was decided that it would be best for Morbid Angel to find another person to take my place. I take most of the blame, I should have worked harder, the standards for the band were very high and when it came time to step up I came up a little short."
What have you done right after? Did you first of all take some time off from the music business or was it clear for you straight away that you would be continuing on with a new project?
"I got another band together right away but I must have went through 10 different people, trying to find a reason why I did not work harder to stay with Morbid Angel. What I mean by this is, to do another Death Metal project would mean, what is the point, why not just stay where you were? Many years went by, I did many demos but there was always something missing. Which meant working a normal day job to survive."
How did things develop then? I mean, was it more like, people heard about the fact that you were out of MORBID ANGEL and contacted you for the possibilty of forming a new band or more the opposite around, that you started to look for new musicians yourself?
"I always tried to start my own thing. I had many offers but my dream was to start my own thing, be in complete control of my destiny or at least as in control as the next guy."
You mentioned to me that you were working on several projects before PATHS OF POSSESSION actually came to live, so would you mind telling us some names here and with whom you worked together during that period of time?
"There were some brief times when I worked with people that are wellknown, but those times were too short to mention. I pretty much was the foundation of the band and I recruited people around the Tampa area. As far as Paths of PossesSion is concerned, all names prior to that one no longer exist in my mind. Paths of PossesSion has always been the name. "Legacy In Ashes" stamped the name into reality."
What were the main difficulties that you had to go through and why those other projects didn’t really seem to work out?
"I was talking a little about it in an earlier question. First difficulty was, what’s the point of doing a new band like Morbid Angel when I could have worked harder and be one with MORBID. After I got over that problem I tried different kinds of music, always Metal but not Death Metal, made demos but never really felt confident that this was something to push on to the world. There’s a time in the mid 90’s I left music alone and did not have a band. Then about 5 years ago I started on a path that ended up where I am at now with "Legacy In Ashes"."
As far as I can recall you even got offered to re-join MORBID ANGEL at one point, basically to fill in for some live shows. So did that really become reality? What was going on in MORBID ANGEL at the time and why did it not work out again between them and you?
"Yes, I did do some shows with Morbid Angel, it was when Black Sabbath was doing a US tour and the guys from MORBID thought it would be a great experience for me, because I have always loved Tony Iommi’s guitar playing. When that tour was done we went our separate ways. I am forever grateful for that experience. The problem came up again and I had a taste of what it is like to write music with my own endeavors, to stay with MORBID would mean I would have to dedicate all my time and effort to learning the music. Not to make an excuse but I am not talented enough to learn all the music that was being prepared for the new CD plus offer new music for MORBID and that was what was needed. Eric Rutan could do that. I was learning in order for me to harness my talent. It would have to come from me writing music. I could not do that in Morbid Angel and it would hurt the band to be a robot. I am sure I could have worked hard enough to play the music but it would mean all my time and effort would be dedicated to music that I did not write."
Are you still friends with Pete and Trey these days? Do you still see each other? And what about David or old members like Mike Browning?
"I am friends with Pete, I see him once in awhile, I consider Trey, David and Mike my friends."
Was PATHS OF POSSESSION your own creation right after? Or was it like a new band that came to live, which you just joined? I’m just asking, because I found out that the whole project originally was called SWOLLEN back in ’94 or something…
"Around ’94 Swollen was the name, it changed a couple of times, then was called Swollen again before Paths of PossesSion. I have always been the foundation, I wrote most of my guitar parts. I have never joined another band since Morbid Angel."
Tell us a bit more about the guys you’re currently working with – I heard that Randy (bass / vocals) and Chad (drums) originally have been in a band from Alabama, called SILVAVEN… What kind of band was SILHAVEN, musically speaking? Did they record and release anything with them? And did they move to Florida to join SWALLEN / PATHS OF POSSESSION?
"I don’t know much about what Silhaven did. I heard the music, it was crazy, lots of great ideas, great musicans. They were in the vein of Death Metal. They made a demo, not sure if it got released by any label. Randy was already living here when he joined up with me about 4 years ago. As far as Chad goes, he came to me one day and said that he no longer wants to play drums. He sold his drums and chose a different path."
Before Chad joined, you had a guy named Erin Fuller on drums, who used to be in the Black Metal band CRYPTIC WINDS. What happened to him, why did he not work out?
"Erin Fuller had personal problems along with this story he was asked to join a band that had large financial backing. He said he would still play with Paths of PossesSion but a decision was made to make a change. For the next 6 months we worked with Chad. I have a large house and rent a room to Ridley for the last 3 years. When I needed a drummer he stepped forward and I have been working with him now. Ridley is a very solid drummer, I am glad we are working together. Chad was a very big disappointment. But sometimes things work in mysterious ways. Ridley should have been the drummer to begin with. He was already in a band so that is why it never worked out before."
Then there’s a guy named Jay Fossen on guitar, who originally was a bass player, wasn’t he? What has he been up to previously and why did he switch from bass to guitar?
"Where did you find this out? (hehe… I have my sources… – Frank) He played bass because I had trouble finding a bass player, so he stepped in and as soon as we found someone to play bass he moved to guitar, which is his chosen instrument. I don’t think Jay was really doing anything serious until he joined up with me."
When you started to write your first own music right after the split-up with MORBID ANGEL, was it still along those lines of old MORBID ANGEL or did you try to come up with something completely different?
"At first it was very different, not as brutal and reflected my personality which was a person who acted as if I was always happy. It did not take me long to figure out that it was going to be very difficult to write good music. I got with another guitarist who was a master at his instrument and began to co-write with him. This was not long after MORBID and I started writing very aggressive Death Metal, but then I had a lot of trouble finding a good blend of music that could get me a record deal. And the long path began… It was then I chose the road to starting my own band and finding people that I could help realize my dreams. When I write now I always think of some heavy guitar riff, and build a song around that. Big fat heavy guitar riffs are what I write, I don’t think of a style really."
I know it’s always kinda difficult for someone involved so deeply, but how would you personally categorize PATHS OF POSSESSION musically? Is it still brutal Death Metal or are you trying to express yourself in a completely different way these days?
"Paths of PossesSion will be many different things, reference the word "paths" in the band name. This first creation "Legacy In Ashes" is brutal Death Metal. Death goes to war with fife to gain the upper hand. This is a jailbreak, the forces of darkness have been released."
You already mentioned "Legacy In Ashes" a couple of times, which is your self financed debut album… Is that the first ever recording you made as a band or have there been any demos or anything previously already?
"When Randy joined the band that is when I would say Paths of PossesSion began. We used a different name and did make demos but we really never released them."
You recorded the album in a studio called Ohzone, which I’m unfortunately not familiar with at all, so could you tell us a bit more about it maybe and how you found out about it?
"We saw it in a local magazine, they had an advertisement, we liked the atmosphere there, made the move to use them on a demo which we never released. When it came to time to record "Legacy In Ashes" from the past experience with them it seemed liked the best choice. It is more like a family atmosphere there rather than just a studio."
What made you record in a rather unknown studio and not in a more established one? When, and for how long have you been recording the record there?
"Legacy…" was recorded in the early part of 2002. We were there for about a month, not sure how many hours, but we did put a lot of time into it. We chose this studio because they said that they could give us a solid finished product. We had worked with them before and they liked working with us."
Does "Legacy in Ashes" feature all brandnew PATHS OF POSSESSION material exclusively or is a more or less a collection of songs that you wrote throughout the last couple of years?
"I am the founder of Paths of PossesSion, this is a collection of music form as far as 10 years ago. The day Randy and myself got together is when Paths of PossesSion started taking shape. Some of the material is brand new."
Still Dead Productions from Poland are going to re-release the album this year… so, will there be any differences between your version and the re-release (packing, bonus tracks or whatever)? How did you hook up with them and have you been distributing the record completely on your own so far?
"Still Dead Productions has expressed that this should be the best it could be and I agree. So, we are planning on going in the studio to do a few things, there will be a noticable difference with the 8 songs that make up "Legacy Of Ashes". At this point we have done everything on our own. Still Dead Productions contacted us a few months ago about releasing "Legacy In Ashes"."
There’s also been talk about a possible split CD with DARK FAITH on a new label from Florida, called Splatter God Records – tell us more about that, like what kind of material you’re gonna use for that and how you got together with this label…
"I am not sure what is going to happen with that, it does not look good. Splatter God needed 4 or 5 songs and I do not want to split up "Legacy In Ashes" all 8 songs go together like a story. I do not want to do any recording at this point I plan on recording some time later this year."
I suppose back in your MORBID ANGEL days you were focusing on music exclusively as you were already earning a bit of money with the band. But with PATHS OF POSSESSION this won’t be the case yet, so what are you doing in order to survive? Do you work a regular 9 – 5 job or something?
"I do not make money from music, I work for the man to survive. I have been blessed there are unseen forces at work."
I find it rather weird that so little is known about PATHS OF POSSESSION yet as you already played a lot of shows locally, a.o. with bands like Immolation, Nile, Vader, Incantation, Deeds of Flesh, Monstrosity, Diabolic, Amon Amarth and The Crown… So, are you still lacking in proper promotion or what is the reason for that? How about the internet? Have you never considered setting up a website in order to get the name out more easily?
"Legacy In Ashes" was made last year, this is the first step. Now it is time to move foward. All things will come to life now that the music will be available for all to hear. My friend, I am open to all ideas, any advice would be welcomed."
Ok Richard, that’s all for now – all the best of luck with PATHS OF POSSESSION. If there’s anything else we should’ve missed out on, feel free to tell us about it now. The last words are yours!
"I want to say thank you Frank and everyone for taking an interest in me. I am very grateful for the times I had back in the day. I have chosen a path that has taken me to the depths of hell. Many times I have not accepted the fate I have been delt, through the music and all who take interest I will become a force to reckon with. All will see the Paths of Possession."
Interview and old Richard Brunelle pic: Frank Stöver