Instead of going for the "next big thing" again, I figured it might be equally (of not even more) interesting to have a little retrospect look at one of the most brutal acts from the early 90s: Pittsburg’s one and only ROTTREVORE! If you missed out on them at the time you better make sure to get yourself copies of their two EPs and / or the ir classic full length album "Iniquitous" to experience sheer Death Metal brutality! Former guitarist / vocalist Mark Mastro not only turned back the clock for us, he also introduced us to his new band EVISCIUM in the following interview…
The first time I heard about ROTTREVORE was when you released the "The Epitome Of Pantalgia" demo back in 1990… For how long had the band been together at the time? Was that your debut release or did you put out anything before already?
"Yes the "Epitome…" demo was the first studio release for the band. I think we may have done some rehearsals and a live show or two that may have been circulating through the tape trading scene, but other than that, the demo was the first thing we recorded as a band in the studio. Before the release of the demo me and Chris Webber had been writing some songs for a few months until we found Chris Free to play bass for us, Nick E. was a friend of Chris W. for a long time before that, so as a complete band I think we were together for around 6-8 months before the demo was recorded."
What have you all been doing prior to forming ROTTREVORE? Any other bands that you’ve been involved in?
"Before ROTTREVORE was formed I was doing a zine called INFERNAL BLEEDING. I only did two issues with some help of a few local death head pals. At the time we were all huge tape traders, and it seemed like the thing to do to get some exposure for alot of killer bands that were out at that time. It was alot of fun and we met some great people and got some contacts as well. Chris Webber was in a band called CHAOTIC PLAGUE before we formed ROTTREVORE, they put out a few really heavy demos, they are very rare so more than likely only the hardcore traders will have them."
Which bands did inspire the ROTTREVORE style or even made you form the band back then?
"I think early on it was a combination of bands like slayer, celtic frost, death, kreator, candlemass, bloodfeast, but as the mid to late 80s started to really form an underground scene it was bands like autopsy, carcass, nihilist, grave, dismember, morbid angel, bolt thrower, immolation, necrophobic, crematory, macrodex… Basically it was any and all guitar heavy catchy as hell time change bands from that era that was circulating in the tape trading underground. Honestly it was so many I have to limit my list because I could go on and on… Tons of kick ass old school shit."
Your next release was the "Copulation Of The Virtuous And Vicious" EP, that got released by Relapse Records back in 1991. How did you hook up with them and why didn’t it work out in the long run?
"The Copulation…" EP was released on Relapse Records shortly after Matt / Relapse relocated from Colorado to Pennsylvania. I used to correspond with him (through snail mail of course back then). He asked us to do an EP with them so we agreed. It was a good offer at the time and he did a great job with promotion and layout etc. It wasn’t an issue of not working out in the long run, just after the release it was time to move on for both Relapse and us. We probably would have done a full length for them if we were asked to, though no hard feelings."
That EP featured three previously unreleased ROTTREVORE tracks and a re-recording of the demo track ‘Intimidation’… When did you write those tracks and what made you re-record ‘Intimidation’? Was that the band’s most popular tune at the time?
"The songs on that EP were new except for ‘Intimidation’. We decided that the demo version of the song wasn’t as good as it should have been, so it was re-recorded and re-mixed, much better I think. The popularity of all the songs from the demo was great, ‘Disembodied’ got a good response too."
How about ROTTREVORE live shows around that time? Did you play any real tours in the US (or even outside the country) or just one off shows here and there? With whom did you share the stage? Any cool memories on certain gigs that you’d like to share with us?
"At live shows we always got a great crowd response. At the time it was hard in the Pittsburgh tri-state area to get a large crowd. Some were killer though… Cleveland, Rhode Island, Buffalo were always good crowds, some bands we’ve played with are Incantation, Mortician, Impetigo, Sathanas / Bathym, Phlegm, Disharmonic Orchestra, Lethal Prayer, Hideous Mangleous… to name some. The show that really sticks out for us, is when we played an open mic night at some Heavy Metal Rock’n’Roll poser club. We told the promoter that we’re a Rock’n’Roll Metal band. When we got on stage after the other bands who were playing like Pat Benatar, Kiss, CheAp Trick, Mötley Crüe covers, we crushed them with ferocity and brutal heaviness. They totally hated us – WE LOVED IT!!"
In 1992 Hollands Cenotaph Records released another ROTTREVORE 7"EP entitled "Fornication In Delirium", which only featured two tracks… How did that co-operation come about and why did you only use two songs for that release?
"Well as far as the Cenotaph EP, we only did two songs because the other releases had alot of songs on it. I think if we could do it over again we would have only put three songs on the demo and two on the first EP. We were writing kinda slow because we wanted the songs to be done right and not just thrown together quickly. I haven’t spoken with Adwin of Cenotaph since shortly after we did the EP with him… If you know of his whereabouts, please let me know." (Unfortunately not, I lost contact either… But hey Adwin, if you should read this, get in touch again, ok? – Frank)
As far as I know you always managed to keep your line up pretty steady throughout the years, apart from the split with Nick Esquival, who was your drummer at the time of your debut demo… So, was the chemistry between the rest of you guys just perfect or how did you survive the usual line-up changes that other bands constantly go through?
"Nick was our first drummer and probably the best as far as chemistry goes. He was a very creative drummer and had super input. I haven’t seen him in years. Hey Nick!! The other two drummers Bob O. and Jason G. were also local death head friends who filled the spot… but the input was shallow. Jason G. was a good drummer though."
In 1993 you finally unleashed the one and only ROTTREVORE album "Iniquitous" through Spanish Drowned Productions… How did you hook up with them?
"Well now you’ve hit a sore spot Frank, hah. The Drowned release was the worst fucking nightmare company we dealt with. I mean, it was a totally funded CD by them, but: the contracts on their end were never filled to their agreement!! We only received 20 copies of the CD… That’s it! The company fell through the cracks and we got screwed, it was a very low pressing CD by (drowned in hell!!!!!). The original copies did not have the Repulse logo on the back cover, from what I found out later on. Dave Rotten had pressed them on his own label. As far as I’m concerned they are bootlegs! Also who the hell is Mastercult Records??? A bootleg of our demo, two EPs and a live show is on it, but I cannot find Mastercult Records anywhere! If you do a search for it on the web, all links go right to Repulse Records! I have no use for any of them rip off labels, any info on the Drowned former owner, please let me know. Fuck all bootleggers!!!!!!"
The album was basically a compilation of all available ROTTREVORE material up to that date, except for ‘Intimidation’, wasn’t it? What made you do so? I mean, have you been slow songwriters or was it more or less meant as a gift for all the die hard followers of the band at the time, who wanted to hear the material with a proper production after all? Did you exclude ‘Intimidation’ because it was already re-recorded on the EP?
"The songs on the CD were definetly a collection of our better tunes, plus we were a bit slow with new song writing. I think we had a few more that were almost done, but not polished enough for the CD. ‘Intimidation’ was left off because it was on two other recordings and it came out well on the other one."
With ‘Jesters Of Recession’ and ‘Incompetent Secondary’ the album also had two brandnew tracks… did they represent ROTTREVORE best at the time? When did you write them?
"Yeah, I think they were a good representation of our style at the time. We were trying to get some heavy parts that were catchy and fit the styye we were playing."
It seems that many people had problems in pronouncing the band’s name properly as you even had an explanation on the album’s sleeve… Who came up with it and what actually inspired that name?
"The name ROTTREVORE was a Chris Webber and myself creation, hah. It is a made up word that does not mean a damn thing. We spent one night in a local coffee shop over about two pots of coffee trying to come up with a totally original name that was catchy, that was our baby. The original name was much longer of an ending added on to rottrevore, but it sounded stupid as hell, so we dropped it from the ending. I won’t say what it was, we’ll keep that in the closet, hah."
Are you aware of the fact that there’s a record label and a zine of the same name by now? How do you feel about that?
"Now you hit another sore spot… yeah I’m totally aware of the label’s name. I wrote to them asking where they got the name. They said one day they were looking through a Relapse catalog and seen our EP on sale, so they just took the name for their label. It’s really a compliment I guess, but it’s a made up fictional name, damn guys, have some originality."
I always thought that your lyrics would also be in the typical guts’n’gore type direction, but then I read an interview somewhere and found out that you were actually writing a lot more about things that were obviously pissing you off, like rich fags, society, politics etc. – very Punk type lyrics… Tell us a bit more about that and why you didn’t like to write about Satanic or gory stuff?
"Our lyrics were always a topic for alot of people. We didn’t write about much gore / black type because that’s not who we were. Most of them were about things that pissed us off, government issues, doomy… We didn’t care for the black / gore lyrics much because it’s been done and it wasn’t what we were about. I think most Black Metal bands that have that stereotype about them aren’t really into that life style as though they portray it I guess. We decided to write our lyrics about our everyday surroundings, likes, dis-likes etc…"
What is the story behind the song ‘Clogged Sewer Pipe’, which you never recorded, but played live a few times? It pretty much seems like a fun track to me, almost in the vein of S.O.D. and the likes…
"Hah, I’m surprised you know of this song. It has only been played live a few times and is a rare tune. We did the song for Slap A Ham Records. We were asked to be on the compilation EP, but the song had to be no longer than ten seconds or so. It was kind of a joke 7” EP for all the bands to do such a short song, but fun as hell. Also it was cool to do live, alot of people liked it… and sometimes requested it."
I noticed that you are also a very talented artist and that you even did the cool coverart for the "Fornication In Delirium" EP and also for the album… When did you notice your talent, who inspired you at the time and did you do anything else besides those covers?
"Yeah I did all of the ROTTREVORE artwork from the logo, demo, two 7"EPs… But I think the background art on the "Copulation…" EP behind my drawing was done by another guy who Relapse Records had previous been dealing with. I had no problem with it. They wanted more fill in behind my art. I also did the logos for IMMOLATION, CHAOTIC PLAGUE, DERKETA, EXIT-13, FUNERUS, ABOMINATOR (AUST)."
You already mentioned the ROTTREVORE bootleg CD on Mastercult Records, which is entitled "The Epitome Of Vicious Fornication" and features all your pre-album releases and a bunch of live tracks, so I suppose you’re aware of it… How do you feel about it?
"Yes I am very aware of this bootleg. I found out about it shortly after it was "distributed" through Repulse Records. The band nor I was informed of it. I had to find out through other sources the hard way. The only place that it was available is through the label I mentioned earlier. On the actual CD (I’m sorry, it is a CDR copy and a very poor production CDR at that, with very shitty booklet and xeroxed covers), it says it is put out by Mastercult Records of Mexico. But I cannot seem to find any info of the label at all. All web searche for Mastercult Records seem to point in one direction. Seems very strange, if anyone knows of who actually put this out or who bootlegged it, please let me know. A ROTTREVORE early releases will be put out by Necroharmonic Records in a few more months with much better production, packaging, live shows and some other stuff as well. Do not buy this shitty Mastercult Records CDR. Die you fuckin’ rip off pigs!!! I obtained a copy of this bootleg from a real cool guy, Andres of the bands GORETRADE and INTERNAL SUFFERING and the label Goregiastic through a trade we made together."
What caused the break up of ROTTREVORE in the end and when exactly did you stop?
"I left the band around ’95 I think. It was partly due to me and Chris W., the other guitarist having a bit of musical differences. We were starting to head in different directions, plus I was going to start a family with my wife Becky. I now have two great kids, a boy and a girl . Toward the end I was starting to get a little burned out. I decided to take a permanant leave of abscence. All is still good with the other members though. Everyone has their own lives I guess."
You have a new band now, called EVISCIUM… Is that your first project after ROTTREVORE’s split or have you done anything in between as well? Who else is with you in the line-up, what kind of musical style do you play, is it musically in any way connected to the stuff you did in ROTTREVORE? Have you already played any shows and / or recorded anything?
"Yes my new band is called EVISCIUM , it’s the first project I’ve done since ROTTREVORE. It is in the vein of older school early 90s Death with the brutality of some of todays bands. We will be doing a promo mini CD that Still Dead Productions will be releasing some time in the early months of 2003. I guess after that we will be shopping for a good full length CD deal. The members of EVISCIUM will be John Scagline (guitars), Jarod Altamare (drums / backing vox), Sharon Bascovsky (bass) of DERKETA and myself on guitars / main vox. We haven’t played live yet, but I think we will be doing some shows in early 2003 with a few local Pittsburgh acts."
What are the other old ROTTREVORE members up to these days?
"As far as the other Rottrevore members, Chris Webber is a truck driver , Nick E. is missing in action, I haven’t seen him in years… last I heard he was in the Boston area, Chris Free is a cable internet installer / tech, Jason G. is in construction and Bob O. is in some kind of fashion design shit."
How do you feel within the Death Metal underground these days? Has it still the same magic for you as it had back in its early days? Do you prefer the good old days, with xeroxed fanzines, writing letters, tapetrading and word of mouth promotion or the current situation, with internet, websites, emails and MP3s etc.?
"The Metal scene is a different game now. Back in the late 80s – mid 90s it was really intimate. The whole snail mail, tape trading, getting flyers of bands , zines , shows seemed more magical than it is today. Almost like when you were a kid Xmas morning. The mailman was your greatest hero. I remember getting packages in almost every day with something in it: a zine, tapes, promos, flyers, upcoming shows (you got upcoming shows via snail mail – wow!!! – Frank), things for trade etc. I remember sifting through 1000s of hours of tape trades to get a few good demos in. Today it’s as if that underground feel is diluted a bit. Things move at 1000000 mph. If you’re curious about what a band sounds like, just simply right click… download , in seconds you’re listening to it. I guess you have to go with the times. The old school days seemed alot more special , everyone who went through it would aggree I guess." (yep! – Frank)
Any new bands that impressed you lately? Do you still listen to any of the old stuff from back then, when you originally started out?
"I still listen to the old stuff alot. I really need to convert my old demos like NIHILIST, ABHORRENCE, DEMIGOD, DEMILICH, MACRODEX / CRYPT OF KERBEROS, CREMATORY, NECROVORE to mp3, in fear of loosing them, of getting old and eaten buy my tape player. Some of the bands I listen to these days are UTOPIE, INHUME, MANGLED, DISGORGE (HOL and MEX), FUCK IM DEAD, FUNEBRARUM, LAST DAYS OF HUMANITY, RETCH… and a ton of others that are drop tuned brutal heavy sewage core."
Ok Mark, I think that’s all for now. Thanx for taking the time, all the best for you and your new band EVISCIUM. If you would like to add something to this interview, feel free to do so now. Keep it brutal!
"Thanks alot Frank for the great interview and interest in the old band! Look out for EVISCIUM sometime in early 2003. Also if anyone knows exactly who Mastercult Records rip off bootlegging dicks are please let me know."
Here’s a statement from Dave Rotten (ex-DROWNED PRODUCTIONS / REPULSE RECORDS) regarding the things that Mark talked about in the interview above:
I saw the interview with ROTTREVORE and there was some surprising bullshit told over there… First off, the ROTTREVORE album was released on Drowned so it’s impossible that it would have the Repulse logo on the back… I never re-pressed that CD on Repulse!! That’s a huge bullshit!! As for their royalties… well, they were paid like 6.000 US$ (back then the dollar was cheaper…) for the recording studio, so they were entitled to royalties in money, not CDs, but we were kind enough to send them 20 CDs for themselves. Shortly after I left Hard Vinyl in very bad terms, because they were the rip-offs, they didn’t let me run the label the way I wanted, so after that I didn’t have anyhting to do with that. The rights for the label name was owned by them and of course all recordings!! If they have to claim something, they should contact Hard Vinyl!! Their logo & address is on the back of the fucking CD!! I also must mention that there were only 1.000 copies made of that CD!! Believe it or not!! I kept a very sporadic but cool relationship with Mark Mastro through the years, and he even wrote me back in March 2002 asking me about the Mastercult CD-R bootleg, so everything was cool, but… after that I never heard of him again until this stupid answer from his side… As for Mastercult, well, the fact that I’m selling them doesn’t mean I’m the one doing them!! Apart of this, I have absolutely no time to do things like this!! I don’t own so many cult recordings myself and I cannot even pass a tape to CD myself, so what the fuck is he saying?? Accusing with no proofs is too cheap and easy…