RECIPIENTS OF DEATH was a very raw and aggressive but unfortunately also rather short lived Thrash Metal band from Los Angeles, California. The band was founded in 1986 and released two EPs throughout their career – “Recipients Of Death” (1988) and “Final Flight” (1990) – which were both produced by Eric Meyer (DARK ANGEL). The main attraction of their music – especially on their first EP – is the unrelentless speed and heaviness of the songs. If you can picture a mixture between the early material of SLAYER / DARK ANGEL and the faster stuff from a band like SADUS, you get a pretty good idea how RECIPIENTS OF DEATH sounds like. Both EPs have now been officially released on CD by Vic Records. If you would like to check out their music, click on the link at the end of this interview. We hooked up with Rich Gonzales (vocals, bass, guitar) to find out a little bit more about the career of the band.
As far as we know, you’re from Los Angeles, California. How was it like to grow up in that city in the mid eighties?
“Well, we grew up on the outskirts of the big city, but close enough to hit the city whenever we wanted. The scene back then was so fresh. SLAYER were just breaking through and our local scene was all over it. Lucky for us, we were in a similar vein, being fast and heavy!”
How old were you when you became interested in heavy music? And how did you discover heavy music? Through friends in school or acquaintances?
“I would say I was 15 or 16 when a friend came to school with the tapes “Kill ‘Em All” and “Show No Mercy”. Remember those cassettes? Funny shit. Anyhow, those bands changed everything for me. Up until then, I was listening to IRON MAIDEN and JUDAS PRIEST, the more classic kind of Metal so to speak. So, hearing SLAYER was a game changer, big time!”
At the time, it was not easy to get hold of new music and information. How did you deal with that back then? Did you also used to hunt for new releases in record shops?
“We had a few handy sources to expose ourselves to all kinds of newer Metal bands. Wild Rags Records – our label at the time – also had a little store in town that sold tons of obscure music and had killer shirts and cool stickers for sale. I even worked there for a short while and went through all the records, tapes and fanzines that Richard had coming in.”
RECIPIENTS OF DEATH was founded in 1986. How did you get together to form the band? How did you hook up with the other band members?
“The guys had already kind of started playing covers with a different line-up. I had just bought a brand new black Ibanez Destroyer bass and went to watch a rehearsal in this tiny garage. They didn’t have a bass player. I told them about my new bass guitar and I was in! It was that easy, I didn’t even know how to play yet! But I learned fast. In no time, we were writing originals. Our motivation came from the desire to play heavy riffs, loud and in front of a crowd. Our first few backyard parties were epic and just legendary stuff. If you were there back then, you know what I’m talking about.”
Who came up with the band name RECIPIENTS OF DEATH?
“Our drummer Chris Broguiere thought of the name. He spelled it wrong in the early days, which was so classic Spinal Tap. But I fixed it. And then things got serious.”
Would you say that you looked up to the other bands from the Los Angeles area who were around at the time, like for example SAVAGE GRACE, AGENT STEEL, DARK ANGEL and SLAYER?
“Definitely! SLAYER and DARK ANGEL for sure. Eric Meyer helped produce our music. Our drummer Chris Broguiere was going to audition for SLAYER the first time Dave Lombardo left, but it didn’t happen in the end. We really took to SLAYER in all aspects. They’re still one of my favorites to this day.”
How skilled were you guys when you formed RECIPIENTS OF DEATH? Did you already make music previously for quite a few years when you founded the band?
“RECIPIENTS OF DEATH was the very first band for me. As I said previously, I had just bought my first bass and didn’t even play a note yet. The other guys were a little further along, but not that much. I’d say we were all pretty much beginners. We rehearsed relentlessly for the next few years and honed in our skills. We became extremely tight for a young and heavy band playing so fast.”
Was it hard to come up with your own material? Did you also play a few covers in the beginning?
“We played a few covers, just for fun. Songs from SLAYER, S.O.D. and CELTIC FROST. They always help making you a better player and help teach you how to write and structure songs. But writing original material was definitely more fun and came very natural and organic to us. So it’s all we did after a while.”
You released your first EP “Recipients Of Death” in February 1988. Was it a very conscious decision not to release a demo tape and immediately come up with an EP instead? Did you release any live tapes or rehearsals previously?
“We did not release any tapes prior to the first EP. We got the offer for the EP from Wild Rags and we just took it. So, putting out tapes never really happened. It seemed like a good plan to put out a quality product, rather than spit out rehearsal tapes that didn’t sound good.”
“Recipients Of Death” was recorded in L.A., but do you remember when and where the EP exactly was recorded? What do you still remember about the recordings of the EP?
“We recorded both EPs at Buzz’s studio in Sun Valley, California. Right across from Hanna Barbera studios. The engineer was Ross Stien and Eric Meyer from DARK ANGEL produced both recordings. Both sessions were fun and a killer learning experience for us.”
Eric Meyer has a recording engineering degree and he was always involved in the production of the DARK ANGEL albums as much as he could. How did you get in touch with him for the production of the EP?
“Eric was then in the early stages of his production career. I believe Richard Campos from Wild Rags lured him in to guide us along and help us produce the recordings. I remember discussing some tricks on playing fast, but he pretty much let us do our thing. Our pre-production preparation was advanced. So there was not much needed as far as performances.”
Musically, your material on the debut EP is rather close to the sound of DARK ANGEL. Do you agree?
“I do. We were more influenced by SLAYER. But DARK ANGEL was another favorite of ours. In fact, my first tattoo was a little demon which you can see on the cover artwork of “We Have Arrived”. I love that album cover!”
On the thanklist of “Recipients Of Death”, bands like BLOODLUST, BLOODCUM, NECROPHAGIA and CRYPTIC SLAUGHTER are mentioned. Were they just bands you shared a stage with in your early career or would you say that they were really friends and that you were in close contact with them?
“Both. We played local gigs with those bands and considered them friends. I don’t talk to them anymore these days, with the exception of Sandy K. Vasquez and John Lisi from BLOODLUST. They’re both still good friends of mine to this day. Scott Peterson and Rob ‘Blasko’ Nicholson from CRYPTIC SLAUGHTER came to our rehearsals a few times and even joined us on stage to do a couple of D.R.I. covers with us. I wish we had that on film. Fun times!”
“Recipients Of Death” – as well as the follow-up “Final Flight” – were both released by Wild Rags. Did you actually have a good relationship with them, because over here in Europe, Richard and his label didn’t exactly have a very good reputation.
“Richard was good to us, but he definitely had the reputation as a snake. I lost contact with him, but he and I were always friends. There are no hard feelings from me. It is possible that he ripped us off and never really paid us what we made through him, but there’s no way to tell. We were so young and just wanted to play music.”
The cover concept and design of the EP, as well as the band logo on the back cover were done by you. Was there actually a deeper thought behind it?
“Not really. It’s right out in the open. War, destruction and the devil. Right in your face!”
What kind of feedback did you receive when “Recipients Of Death” was released?
“The reviews were great. We were really on a roll and bound to be promising, right behind SEPULTURA and POSSESSED. But we came up short, no doubt.”
Did you support “Recipients Of Death” a lot through gigs once the EP was released? Or did you even go on tour?
“We were still young when the first EP came out and played a lot locally. But we didn’t do much touring. We toured a little down in Mexico City, but that got cut short before we could really take off. One thing for sure is that we did play some of the most epic backyard parties ever. Those gigs were awesome!”
As far as we know, you never toured over here in Europe throughout your career. Is that correct?
“That’s correct. We never made it to Europe, which is a shame. We would have done really good over there, for sure. We were planning a festival run in Europe, but the band struggled at the time, so plans dissolved.”
Your second EP – “Final Flight” – was released in April 1990. When did you start the songwriting for that EP? And would you say that it went well?
“Things were getting rocky with Zack Taylor and Albert Gomez after the first EP was finished. But we had the “Final Flight” deal signed and we didn’t want to lose the contract. We auditioned guitarists to replace the two vacancies, but nobody had what it took to play like us. So I grabbed the guitar and started grinding away with Chris, writing songs in time to enter the studio.”
“Final Flight” was recorded in four days. Would you say that you made a lot of progress as a band in the two years between both EPs?
“I would say we were really starting to mature and round off as far as songwriting goes. But the struggles we were going through really snuffed out the progress we made as a tight unit. Chris and I were starting to connect writing wise, but performing with the whole band was really where the true magic spoke. So we were quite limited.”
“Final Flight” has a much more ‘rough’ sound which suits the songs really well. The furious speed of the debut is also a bit reduced on this EP. Would you say that this approach worked out better?
“Yes. I would say that we started developing a more Power / Thrash approach, as opposed to the Speed / Thrash on the first release. I felt it lent itself to better songs, but still keeping the Thrash roots. The new songs were more fun to play live. They sounded great in the live setting. Plus with me playing guitar and writing all the new material, it was just bound to sound different.”
Is it fair to say that Chris and you were sort of the ‘core’ of RECIPIENTS OF DEATH? Because the two of you are the only two band members which can be heard on both EPs.
“In a sense, you could say that. The first release was the core line-up, but things were rough after a while and the guitarists were having personal issues. Chris and I had a record deal signed and we wanted to make it happen. So I started playing guitar and started writing songs for the EP “Final Flight”. It was my first time playing guitar, but I really dug in and put those songs together. I had an eye on John Lisi from the band BLOODLUST for a while. I asked him to come play leads in the studio, and he agreed. He really nailed it and gave the songs the polished and professional sound it needed to keep us legit! I’m actually still friends with John Lisi to this day. We both watch football and both still play music. Plus he has a kickass El Camino!”
What actually happened to the guitarists Zac Taylor and Albert Gomez who played on the debut EP? Why did they leave the band?
“Both guys had personal problems and really needed help I wasn’t able to give them. I loved them both like brothers, but continuing with the band was just not an option. It’s a tough pill to swallow, knowing we had a good thing going, but life can be a mother fucker sometimes.”
How come you went again for ‘just’ an EP and not an album? Would you say that you were slow songwriters?
“The original plan was a full album, but we didn’t have enough material, so we decided to just put out another EP. We decided to record our best four songs and hopefully regroup and put out a full album later, but that never happened. And so, the band split up. It’s tragic to think we missed our chance.”
There’s a flyer on the internet of a gig you did at the Reseda Country Club on the 22nd of June 1991. Was this one of the last gigs you guys played with RECIPIENTS OF DEATH?
“It might have been one of the later gigs for sure. I remember the chick I was dating back then was super hot. She and all her friends came over and we partied hard that night! Good times.”
When did the band split up? And what were the main reasons for the split?
“When the “Final Flight” EP was released, we were trying to gather things and make a plan to come back, meaner and more brutal than ever. We had John Lisi and invited Albert back in the band. We started playing shows again, but we never really got the traction and perfect fit to fulfill the dream. So we decided to take a break. Then time went by, and we never really regrouped.”
Have you guys kept in touch with each other throughout the years?
“I still keep in touch with Albert Gomez. Chris Broguiere not so much. Everybody grew up and went on with their lives. I’m the only one who continued playing music, I played in a few cool bands and later joined DIESEL MACHINE and put out two releases, “Torture Test” and “Evolve”. It’s not Thrash but super heavy and extreme Groove Metal like PANTERA and CROWBAR. Check that shit out if you dare.”
After RECIPIENTS OF DEATH, Albert Gomez has been active in BRUTUS. John Lisi is still playing in BLOODLUST. Both Zack Taylor and Chris Broguiere seem to have retired from the metal scene after RECIPIENTS OF DEATH split up. Is that correct?
“Albert played shortly in a few local bands. John Lisi is a working Blues guitarist, putting out albums and touring all over.”
You also played in the band PRONG later on from 2000 until 2002. Do you think it’s a pity that you never recorded an album with that band?
“Yeah, that was short lived. I was rehearsing a live set and preparing for a tour, but things fell through and I ended up not going. Shortly after that, I was involved in a near death motorcycle accident. So lots of things changed for me from that point on.”
As far as we know, this is the first time that your EPs are officially released on CD. Are you happy with the result?
“Yes I’m very happy! Somebody released a similar CD with both EPs but without our permission. So it feels good to work with Vic Records and putting out a fully remastered product. It really needed it!”