No no no – you can relax again… Unlike zillions of other bands from the past, New Jersey’s Death / Thrashers REVENANT have NOT reformed and probably never will (even though it would be cool to hear some new material by these guys!), but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we refuse to feature them in VOICES once again (the first time being in our classic print issue # 6)… Their one and only full length "Prophies Of A Dying World" unfortunately never really captured the intensity of the band, but all those of you who listened to some demo- and/or live-recordings of the four piece will certainly agree that there was a lot more, something really special about them. Lacy obviously agreed, cause he got in touch with former guitar player / vocalist Henry Veggian and re-lived the band’s history for us once more… Read on!
Greetings Henry! A dream of mine has came true, because I have found your e-mail address… REVENANT is one of my favourite acts, an underground legend, so I have thought about to interrogate you about the past, all right?
"Great, no problem.”
Please tell us about how, when and by whom the band was established? Were you good friends? Did you know each other before the foundation of the band? How old were you at that time?
"The band was formed in the winter of 1986. Our original bass player, John Pratscher, was in my grade in high school. We were both fans of CELTIC FROST, VOIVOD, WHIPLASH, and other great bands of that time. We decided to form a band, so we started composing music. We worked hard every night for a few months and wrote 4-5 songs. Then we asked a friend of ours, Mike, to play drums. He quit after a short time. A few months later, John McEntee (now of INCANTATION) and Joe Fregenti joined the group. We met those other guys by word of mouth, and from knowing of the locals bands. There was a very good small scene for heavy music at that time. I had just turned 16 years old when the band was formed. The rest of the members were 17-18 years old.”
You came from New Jersey. How was the scene there at that time? Please tell us detailed about it!
"There were in fact two scenes. In New Jersey there were many bands who played the style of METALLICA / ANTHRAX, or the classic style of JUDAS PRIEST / IRON MAIDEN. Some of those bands included HADES, MUCKY PUP, PREDATOR, GOTHIC SLAM, etc. The only truly great underground Thrash Metal band from New Jersey during that time was WHIPLASH. They were from Passaic, a small city near where we lived, but you had to go to New York City to hear them play. There was also OVERKILL, but I never liked them much. The New York scene was better. There was NUCLEAR ASSAULT, CARNIVORE and all the great hardcore bands like CRO-MAGS, LEWAY and AGNOSTIC FRONT. The best clubs were in New York, too. So we would go to see local shows in Jersey and the bigger shows in New York. From 1986-1988 I saw the POSSESSED / DARK ANGEL tour, the SLAYER / OVERKILL tour, the VOIVOD / CELTIC FROST tour, and the VOIVOD / KREATOR tour. I also attended dozens of other smaller shows. It was a magical time in New York City – I remember the city looking much like the film "The Warriors". So there were two scnes: the smaller scene in New Jersey, and the bigger scene in New York. They were both connected, and we learned many things from those two scenes in those early days. It wasn’t until late 1988 / early 1989 that the true underground bands – DEATH, MORBID ANGEL, SEPULTURA, NAPALM DEATH – started coming to play in New York City. It was during that same period that Dave, Tim and Will joined REVENANT and we started writing better songs and playing serious concerts. It was also then that we started becoming friends and playing concerts with IMMOLATION, RIPPING CORPSE, SUFFOCATION, HUMAN REMAINS, NOKTURNEL and the other great bands from the NY / NJ scene and other bands from around the country, like DECEASED, CANNIBAL CORPSE, MORBID ANGEL, etc.”
How often did you rehearse a week? How were your rehearsals? Which bands did have an effect on you?
"We rehearsed 3-4 days a week, at night, after work, and on the weekends. We rehearsed in the basement of Dave’s house. The sessions were usually about 3-4 hours long. Dave and I would also practice without the other members to write material. We would begin with a riff or an idea for a drum beat and build the pieces slowly. Our songwriting process was slow, but it resulted in original music. There is a difference between being technical and being songwriters. To be technically great with your instrument requires that you work alone on your instrument; to write a great song requires that you work well with people. I think that ’The Unearthly’ from the "Prophecies…" record stands as an example of both those elements working together. You have to understand that we were also very young. I was 19-20 years old when we recorded the first records, so many of these things were only in our thoughts and dreams – we never consciously said these things. We just worked hard. We always admired bands that had a strong work ethic. MORBID ANGEL set a good example for us when we hung out with them and played shows, because they were older musicians and very serious.”
You recorded two demos, "Beyond The Winds Of Sorrow” and "Asphyxiated Time”. Which songs were on these tapes? What kind of response did you get on them from the press and the fans?
"Those demo tapes established us as one of the first true underground bands on the local scene. The songs weren’t very good, but we played them with fire. We jumped on stage and banged our heads and we screamed and made noise. We played cover songs then, too – ’Circle Of The Tyrants’, ’To The Wall’, etc. The fans at some of the small local shows never heard of SEPULTURA in 1987, and when we hit the stage and played those covers and our songs about 90 percent of the crowd would groan and go to the bar. But that small ten percent who moved to the stage and listened and banged their heads – they were the beginning of the scene. The underground fanzines loved us in that time. I already had a name because I played in the band REGURGITATION with Jim from O.L.D., and we had a song on a vinyl album in1986 ("Speed Metal Hell Vol. 1" on New Renaisance Records). So we would send REVENANT tapes out to all the fanzines, and most of them reviewed it well. I must have done hundreds of interviews back then, with fanzines and tape traders, etc. The U.S. Post Office earned a ton of money from REVENANT in the late 1980s!”
Did you also send the demos to labels? Do you still remember how many labels did want to get in touch with you?
"I don’t think we started sending tapes to record labels until about 1988 or 1989, and by then the band was going through line-up changes. Labels were not interested in a band like us at that time. We were too strange and crazy. Then again, most labels were not interested in us later, either!”
How did you get together with Nuclear Blast? At that time this label was a small, underground one and they’ve mostly had Death Metal bands, haven’t they? Do you remember, which bands were still on Nuclear Blast?
"No, Nuclear Blast was not a small label then. They did not have any major acts, but they were known throughout the world of the underground. They contacted us after Thrash Records released our first 7" record in 1990, and they sold thousands of copies in very little time. Nuclear Blast contacted us the week after we played a concert in Wisconsin with ATHEIST, CYNIC, BROKEN HOPE. It was a very good show for us and maybe somebody told the label that they were impressed with us. So Nuclear Blast offered us a contract. We were shocked. We ran straight to a local asshole who managed some bands, asking him for advice. He said "yeah, go for it” and we did. There was no negotiation, nothing. We signed it and they released one of the songs from the 7" on the first volume of "Death Is Just The Beginning”. Nuclear Blast was a perfect label for us then – they were small and dedicated to experimental bands. So they had groups like BENEDICTION and DISMEMBER, but also crazy bands like PUNGENT STENCH and DISHARMONIC ORCHESTRA. I always respected the label for their support of bands that could not find a home elsewhere. The rest is history. We worked well with the label for about one year, and then everything fell apart.”
At that time ANACRUSIS was on the label too (sorry Lacy, but ANACRUSIS never was on Nuclear Blast! – Frank) and they also played complex, progressive Thrash Metal… Did you know them?
"I remember the band’s name, but not their music. Sorry. I also remember that ATROCITY was signed in that time period. I remember their first record made a good impression on me.”
You have released a single "Distant Eyes" too. Was it maybe a 7” EP? What must we know about this material?
"As I noted earlier, the Thrash Records 7" put REVENANT on the map. It was a great recording session. We recorded the record in Upper Montclair, N.J., at a small studio. We recorded three songs – the two on the record and a third song, a version of ‘Asphyxiated Time’ that has never been released. It is the heaviest version of ‘Asphyxiated Time’ – raw and powerful. In retrospect, we should have used it for the "Prophecies…" record.”
Your debut album was the mighty, classic "Prophecies Of A Dying World” (1991). To what did the title of the record refer? By whom were the music and the lyrics written?
"Thanks for the compliment. I should state from the beginning that I dislike that record intensely. Only one song – ‘The Unearthly’ – truly represented the band. The rest is garbage. The title was one of those ideas that I would get from time to time: what if we made a record using various stories, each of which spoke about the end of the world? So every song is a slightly different interpretation of that theme. I composed the lyrics. I was only beginning to write during that time – John, our old bass player, used to write the lyrics until 1988. He was also our original singer, so he had a good sense of how to write the words. I started in 1989 because he left the band, and I found that I would drift off into other worlds when I wrote. And I never came back. We worked on the music for "Prophecies…" together. We re-wrote many of the old songs, and we wrote some new material – the title track, ‘The Unearthly’, ‘Psychic Unknown’, etc. The problem with the record was that we were writing new material until the day before we entered the studio. We did not allow enough time to rehearse, and it was all downhill from there.”
As far as the music goes, you were very complex, but not so brutal. How would you characterize your music?
"If you ever attended a REVENANT concert you would never say such a thing. We were a brutal live band – that’s why I hate the "Prophecies…" record. It’s too clean. There are traders who have some of the shows from our European tour. Listen to those, and you will see what I mean, or listen to our later demos, 7" records, or the "Overman" EP. We achieved a balance of complexity and brutality on those recordings that simply did not come through on the "Prophecies…" record.”
I remember, at that time I have read an interview with you in the German Rock Hard, and you were compared to POSSESSED. What do you think about it? Did you like POSSESSED?
"I am flattered by the comparison. POSSESSED were one of the great bands of their time. I mentioned earlier that I saw them live in New York City in 1986, with DARK ANGEL. I loved the West Coast Thrash bands, especially SLAYER, DARK ANGEL and POSSESSED. I still worship those records. There is also something wrong in that comparison. POSSESSED was a Satanic band; that is to say, they had a theological approach to their lyrics and image and music. REVENANT was not. We were influenced by fantastic literature and science fiction, humanist philosophy, etc. They were fallen angels, we were ghostly. There is an important difference.”
I would say, this statement is true, but you were more complex than POSSESSED, moreover, your voice was similar to Jeff Becerra’s…
"Maybe, but I don’t hear it. He was better. Jeff Becerra was more raw in his approach. He sang with his guts and his throat. I only developed a good singing voice for the REVENANT style after the "Prophecies…" record. REVENANT was completely changed during the European tour with GOREFEST. We became a machine, and the first thing to change was my approach to the vocals. Just listen to the "Overman" EP – you will hear it.”
Although songs like ‘Distant eyes’, ‘Asphyxiated Time’ or ‘The Unearthly’ are speaking for themselves, please comment on all of the songs as far as the music and the lyrics go…
"Everyone asks me this question and I always refuse to answer. I don’t like to comment on individual songs and interpret them for other people – they should use their own minds to read the lyrics. Sorry to disappoint you. There is one thing you probably don’t know about ‘The Unearthly’ – it was inspired by the Ken Russell film, "Altered States”."
Were you satisfied with the sound? It became really dark and the album has a depressive atmosphere…
"No, I was not satisfied. That record is the classic example of a recording that sounds great on the speakers in the recording studio and awful on your stereo at home. The guitars should have been more distorted, the bass sounds terrible and the drums are flat. There are more things wrong with that record’s sonic composition than I care to list. I also understand that some people like the record for the very reasons that I hate it. That’s fine. You also have to listen to other records made in that same studio to understnad what I mean – RIPPING CORPSE, MUCKY PUP, etc. None of them sound very good. They all sound, well, thin.”
As far as the cover of the album, it depicts a desolate world. The colours are depressive too, a very dejected picture…
"The album cover was given to us by the record label. We didn’t like it at first, but we could not find a good artist to work with here in the U.S., so were stuck with it. Only later we realized that the photograph on the cover was a copyright free one, and the label used it only to save money. Robert Plant used the same photo on the cover of one of his singles a few years later. I laughed, because I am a big LED ZEPPELIN fan, and you would think Robert Plant’s record label would pay some money for a better cover – or at least realize it had been used by another group.”
Were you on tour after the release of the album? Did you play any gigs? With which bands did you play?
"We played about 22-23 shows in Europe in late 1991. GOREFEST was the opening band, and we also played with NAPALM DEATH in Belgium and with PUNGENT STENCH in Germany on that tour. We came home, wrote some songs, and found ourselves back where we started: playing shows with our best friends RIPPING CORPSE on the local scene and in the Northeast U.S.. I recall that we also played some local shows with TYPE O NEGATIVE in 1992. Those were excellent.”
In 1993 "Exhalted Being" was released, it was a single too. What could you say about this material?
"Those were new songs. They were faster, shorter, and heavier than anything we had recorded before. For some reason, the people at Nuclear Blast did not like the new songs. I could never understand that, to this day. They would always say "try to capture your live sound in the studio” or "write some heavier material” and when we did, they didn’t like it. Fortunately we wrote those songs for ourselves and not for those idiots. When I told the label owner to fuck off in 1992, a local record label in New York (Rage Records) offered to release the demo as a 7". It is a very hard record to find these days.”
After that we didn’t really hear anything anymore from you, so please tell us, did you release any further records? How much material did you release altogether?
"Yes, we certainly vanished. Nobody even noticed, it was perfect. We recorded the "Overman" EP in 1995, but it was only released when our friend Erik Rutan mixed it in 2002. Fans should check the website for a complete discography. Go to www.geocities.com/revenant076"
When and why did the band split up? Please tell us about what you did do after the splitting! What are the other members nowadays doing? Are you still in touch with each other?
"We split up in early 1995. We were not getting along, and I wanted to dedicate myself to my studies at the University. I was the first to leave the band. I was just tired of it all, even if we were writing our best music at that time. I went to Italy that summer and spent a few months with my family, and when I came back I started jamming with other friends and relaxing. We all lost touch for a few years, but I never totally dropped out of the Metal scene. Yes, we are still in touch. Tim our bass player moved to Florida in 1996 and joined HATEPLOW. He lives in Sweden now. Dave our other guitarist played in rock bands until recently, singing and playing guitar. He’s a great musician. He now lives in Southern California, and has a motorcycle shop there. He is an expert motorcycle mechanic. Will our drummer is the only one of us who still lives in New Jersey. He has a small home studio and works in construction.”
Now you are in Pittsburgh! When did you move there? Please tell us a little bit about your job!
"Actually, I live In New York City now. I was in Pittsburgh from 1998 – 2003. I moved to Pittsburgh to study and obtain a doctorate in Literature from the University of Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is a great city, but it is also nice to be home. About my work, well, I am currently a visiting scholar at Columbia University here in New York. I am writing my dissertation, and I will be a professor soon, I hope.”
Are you a fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins? Mario Lemieux is my favourite hockey player…
"I am actually a fan of the Boston Bruins, but I did go see many Penguins games in Pittsburgh, and I also saw Lemieux play druing his comeback. I also saw him play when he was young, when the Penguins were champions. He is an incredible hockey player. The last time I saw him play, he scored a goal from behind the net!”
What’s your opinion about the present world? Are we living in a dying one? Do you believe in the prophecies of Nostradamus?
"I haven’t read Nostradamus since I was in high school, but there seem to be too many mystic visionaries in the world today. I am sure his books are selling well. I wonder if a writer gets publishing royalties in the afterlife? People have been saying the world is dying since the advent of thermodynamics in the 19th century. Well, it may be, but it is going to take a while, and just because it is dying – or because a person believes in the Second Coming – is not a reason to destroy the planet and throw your fucking garbage in the water.”
What do you think about the following notions:
chemical / biological warfare:
"Biotech is Godzilla!”
"Listen to the REVENANT song ‘The Burning Ground’.”
extinction of the ozone shield:
"It’s a scientific problem – there is debate over its depletion.”
"Fine, just don’t clone a race of idiots. We already have one – the human race.”
"Like the rest, too big a topic to get into here. I would recommend reading the book Empire by Hardt / Negri. It is totally incorrect, but a good place to start.”
"Where was it when I was freezing in Pittsburgh?”
politics / George W. Bush:
"Politics and George W. Bush are two completely different things.”
Back to music. What do you think about the present underground scene compared to the late ’80s / early ’90s one? Which bands do you like? Do you often go to concerts?
"Some new bands are great. HATE ETERNAL and NILE are excellent. But I can’t compare the two scenes. I hear many things from my friends. Some of them complain that the old scene is dead, but I still see the same old faces at every show – so it can’t be too bad. I am surprised by the fact that so many younger fans have heard of the bands from the classic NJ / NY scene, since really only IMMOLATION has been consistently making music for the last 15 years. The rest of us stopped years ago.”
How often do you play guitar? Do you nowadays also listen to "Prophecies Of A Dying World”?
"I still play guitar, but I like to play the classic stuff – LED ZEPPELIN, etc. I don’t think I played guitar at all from 1995-1999. I started again a few years ago and rediscovered it, so to speak. No, I don’t listen to "Prophecies…" I don’t even own a copy – if I need a copy for someone I borrow the CD from a friend of mine, copy it, and give it back to him.”
In my opinion, you were a very talented and very good band, but you never got the appreciation that you would have deserved…
"We were appreciated. Maybe you just didn’t see it. The press was always good to us. The local papers in New Jersey voted us best Metal band of the year in 1991. Rock Hard magazine and Kerrang! gave us good reviews. We were featured in the big U.S. Metal magazines, and every fanzine in the world wrote about us. We had a dedicated following and, with one or two drunk exceptions, our concerts were always incredible. I cannot complain.”
Didn’t you think about reforming REVENANT?
"Definitely not. Sorry. There is an interesting side not to this, however. Not many people know this, but Dave Jengo and I played in WHIPLASH in 1993. It was the original WHIPLASH line-up, plus two. Tony Scaglione on drums, Tony Bono on bass, and Tony Portaro on guitar. Dave played second guitar and I sang – five Italian guys making musical pandemonium. I knew Tony Scaglione from one year when we were in the same mathematics class at a local college, and it was after he left playing with SLAYER and later with RAGING SLAB. He wanted to reform WHIPLASH, so he asked me to do it. We rehearsed all winter and learned all the classic songs from "Power And Pain” and "Ticket To Mayhem” plus a few DEEP PURPLE songs. We sounded incredible, it was heavy and tight and perfect. Then we booked a concert, but it snowed a blizzard on the day of the show. I was pissed off, because we never rehearsed again. I don’t know why. Years later, they asked me to make a record with them and go to Europe and tour, but I turned them down. But I still want to play that one concert we never played that night – just to sing ’Warmonger’ with all my heart!”
In your opinion, was REVENANT an underground band or a wellknown one? How many fans did you have back then?
"We were always an underground band. As for fans, I can’t say. The label never really told us how many records we sold. Our concerts were always well-attended; in Europe we had hundreds of people every night, and here in the U.S. too.”
What does underground mean to you, respectvely to be underground? What do you think about the mainstream, popular things?
"Not much. I think Metal has become commercial in the last ten years, and I don’t care for much of it anymore. I even hear Death Metal on TV advertisements now. It’s sad.”
Bands like DEATH ANGEL, NASTY SAVAGE, HEATHEN, EXODUS, NUCLEAR ASSAULT etc. who were active in the ’80s have returned again and very good albums released… What do you think about their reunion? Why are they back again?
"I am happy for them. I have never heard any of those new records, but it makes perfect sense that they would be good records. You get wiser as you get older. I am happy for Danny from NUCLEAR ASSAULT. The guy is a class act. I know him from the few concerts that REVENANT played with BRUTAL TRUTH. I still own the original NUCLEAR ASSAULT demo tapes.”
How would you personally characterize the former REVENANT members?
"In the words of the wizard from the John Milius film of "Conan the Barbarian": ’Great men once lived here – warriors, gods – once, but long ago.’”
You have mentioned that Tim Scott is living in Sweden and he creates or will create a REVENANT website. When will it be ready? Will there be many stuff on the website?
"It should be interesting. He asked me to write a new biography for it. John McEntee sent some old photos for the site. There is also a link to a novel that I translated to English from Italian a few years ago. I urge everyone to read that book, it’s very interesting. And there should be some downloads on the site, old photos, etc. Everyone should check it out at: www.geocities.com/revenant076”
Do you like the internet? Do you use it often? What do you think about the downloading of music?
"I don’t download music from the Internet, but it is obviously the future of the art. I’m turning into a stubborn old man – I only use the Internet to find weather reports, check e-mail, and plan my fishing trips.”
Henry, I think, I cannot ask anymore, it was an honour for me to do this interview. I wish you all the best. Anything else what you have forgotten to mention?
"The pleasure was all mine. There is one thing to add. If anyone in Europe is interested in buying the REVENANT "Overman" EP, they should contact Dani at Revenge Productions (www.revengeproductions.com). He has a few copies for sale, and he is a true supporter of the underground.”