The American Death Metal band SADISTIC INTENT is somehow a bit of a living legend. They were founded in 1987 by the brothers Cortez and play obscure Death Metal with a conviction you hear very little anymore. The EPs “Resurrection” (1994) and “Ancient Black Earth" (1997) are absolutely milestones in the genre and should be in everybody’s Death Metal collection. In the past, the band never played in Europe, but – for quite some time in the meantime – nowadays they cross the pond annually for a few shows. Recently a new EP – "Reawakening Horrid Thoughts" (2014) – with three new songs was released. More than reason enough to hook up again with guitarist Rick Cortez.
You recently released a new EP, “Reawakening Horrid Thoughts”. There was already talk of this EP in January 2013, so why did it take you so long to release it?
"We started recording the songs ourselves at our rehearsal studio inside Dark Realm Records, so we decided to make the announcement that we had a new EP coming soon. During the tracking phase of the recording, the property manager told us we had 30 days to move out! We did not expect that to happen and it certainly put a wrench in the gears so to speak. We thought the moving process would be somewhat quick but that was not the case. Next thing you know a few months had passed and when we did get the keys to our new location, the city made it very difficult for us to re-open. We then continued on with the recording and Bay finished his vocals. We tried to do the mixing phase of the recording but our computer could not handle it. Since our money was tied up with the shop situation, we didn’t have much of a choice but hold off on the recording. Eventually Bay was introduced to this guy named Sebastian Dominguez who offered to help us finish our mix at his home studio! He could not work very many hours or days so it was a bit of a slow process. When we finally did finish the recording, we turned it in to Iron Pegasus Records but with our luck, the record pressing plant came across some problems!! I heard that they were busy and backed up so that took more time. And when they eventually got to our vinyl, they had some technical trouble which delayed things even more but at least it ultimately got completed!"
‘Malignant Spirits’ was originally written to be recorded for POSSESSED. In which way would you say that you approached the writing of that song differently, when you compare it to for example a song that was originally meant for SADISTIC INTENT?
"Being members of POSSESSED, it really gave me more insight on the style of the band’s original song writer, Mike Torrao. So when the time came for us to write new music for that band, I kept all those elements in mind. In a sense, there were guidelines that confined what or what we could not even attempt musically speaking for POSSESSED. Being that POSSESSED was always an influence for SADISTIC INTENT, it was not extremely different. But when we write for SADISTIC INTENT, there is actually more elements that we can utilize for the song writing process. Now that I think about it, I first came out with the main verse riff in front of Jeff Becerra during one of our rehearsals. During the song writing process of what ended up becoming ‘Malignant Spirits’, we only kept the first two albums in mind. Originally Jeff wrote his own lyrics for that song with a different title, but once he no longer wanted us to continue on with POSSESSED, we told him to keep his lyrics and that we were keeping our music which Bay and I completely wrote. Later on I ended up writing the lyrics and ‘Malignant Spirits’ came to be."
The next song is ‘Horrid Thoughts’ which already dates from 1987. Why did you exactly go for that song in particular? Do you see it in a way that the circle is kind of closed this way (as the EP features a ‘new’ track from 1987, but also new material, ‘Malignant Spirits’)?
"There were a couple reasons, but yes, we thought that having a brand new song and a very old song (25 years apart from each other) back to back would be a unique thing for us. We really like the contrast between the two songs and also, we happen to like ‘Horrid Thoughts’ (laughs)! It was an old song that we never got the chance to properly record and we simply felt that it was the right time for it to come back from obscurity!"
The EP ends with a cover of DARKTHRONE’s ‘Fuck Off And Die’. To be honest, when I first read the tracklist, I thought that it was going to be a cover of VOIVOD. I also think that it would have maybe fitted the band better.
"Honestly, Bay and I first heard VOIVOD in 1984 but neither of us really ever got into their music. Nothing personal against them but when it comes down to it, we are more inspired by DARKTHRONE than by VOIVOD. I still remember when DARKTHRONE first put out their early corpse paint Black Metal albums, and how a lot the journalists back then gave them bad reviews complaining about the sound! When I heard those albums, I got it right away, the raw sound fit the style perfectly but popular opinion did not like it! I really respected the fact that DARKTHRONE fired back, telling everybody that they wanted that type of sound and basically told all the critics to fuck off (laughs)!"
The reactions to your new EP have been quite mixed. Some were even a bit disappointed when you read the reviews on this website. How do you see the EP yourself, now when it’s finally released?
"Oddly enough, some of the complaints were regarding the sound! Aside from that, Bay and I talked about this before it even came out and we knew that some people would not get the fact that we recorded a very old song. It’s very old school with that Punk feel that bands like VENOM and CELTIC FROST had back in the 80s and that’s something that’s somewhat rare these days. Although there have been some naysayers, there also have been those who really enjoy it! A few days ago someone told us that “Reawakening Horrid Thoughts” was the best release of 2014 and that’s just one example of the positive feedback we’ve received! As far as the different opinions with the reviews, it’s always been that way ever since the old days. Some people might find it hard to believe but even in the past, we also had mixed reviews so again, it comes with the territory. We’ve always listened to our music before we release it and ask ourselves, is this something I will enjoy and not regret later on? If this did not pass our test so to speak, we would not have released the songs! Over the years we’ve noticed that a lot of recordings have this new style well polished production and to be honest and blunt, we totally did not want that typical cookie cutter modern sound! Some of our favourite recordings are actually demos with the raw old school sound, and that is the vibe that we wanted and captured! Sometimes those bands would even re-record the same songs later on with a more expensive ‘professional’ studio and we always liked the raw versions better! But let me make this clear, ‘raw’ does not mean that it sounds like shit, no way! It’s kind of like when I watch an old horror movie from the 70s, it may not look super clean and digitally enhanced like today’s movies, but I prefer the old school grain, because it compliments that type of movie better as opposed to the modern high definition state of the art looking productions! “Reawakening Horrid Thoughts” has that grit and that is something we do not regret!"
Normally, a split with PENTACLE should follow soon and as far as I know the songs are also already recorded. So, can you give us an update on that release?
"Actually no, the songs are not currently recorded. We changed the original songs that we were going to record and decided to go with two other songs. Currently, SADISTIC INTENT have not rehearsed for a few months now, but that will change soon. Our goal is to get those two songs solid and record them before mid 2015."
I interviewed you for the first time back in 1998. And back then, there was already talk of your debut “The Second Coming Of Darkness”. This question must probably bore you to death by now – and I’m aware that you had a lot of problems with getting the reels of the original recordings back – but do you have any idea when your debut will finally see the light of day? Will it still be released by Necropolis Records and produced by Bernie Versailles?
"Necropolis Records sold us our record back years ago. As far as Bernie Versailles, that recording master ended up getting damaged! In a strange way, with the reality of what went down behind the scenes, I think it’s better that it didn’t come out. However, before SADISTIC INTENT comes to an end, that is something that we find imperative, that album will get completed but not by panicking or caving in to pressure! The way time flies nowadays, honestly, I do not see it happening this year, perhaps next year. Recording wise, for now, we look forward to having that split out with our old friends PENTACLE!"
It’s actually quite hard these days to find your older releases. Do you actually like the idea that a person should undertake some effort, in order to find and buy your releases?
"No, it’s just our reality. SADISTIC INTENT is an underground band, therefore the amount of copies and the distribution makes it a lot more difficult to find our releases compared to bands that are signed by big labels. However, that proves that we have a very dedicated audience worldwide and we are grateful."
There’s hardly any Death Metal band out there these days that – at least by people who have been following the underground for a long time – is respected as much as SADISTIC INTENT. I mean, I know many people who regard SADISTIC INTENT as one of the very few ‘true’ bands who play this ancient and obscure Death Metal from the heart and has done so for over 25 years now.
"We are extremely honoured to be considered one of those few bands. I believe that the diehards see that we ignored the trends and even when people said that our type of music was dead, we never changed our music or attitude! The fact that we’ve been doing SADISTIC INTENT for well over 25 years without the help of a big label, I think the underground fans know that it takes heart to keep it going that long."
You recently relocated your shop Dark Realm Records. Would you say that the new address is working out in a better way for you? Do you have better sales and more visitors?
"We were under the impression that our lease would get renewed like it did in the past but things changed and we had no choice. Once our lease expired we had to move out. After the move, we have noticed that not everyone has gotten the word about the new location. Literally earlier today, we had a couple who came in and said that they thought we had went out of business and they just found out that we were open again. Fortunately after the move, we’ve had enough people who’ve helped to keep us going but we know things can still improve. We wanted to keep the original dark atmosphere of the shop going, but at the same time we wanted to make the new Dark Realm store even better. And we succeeded!"
In the past, you hardly ever played in Europe. But since 2009 and 2010 – when you toured with EVIL DEAD – you come over more regularly. What would you say is the coolest aspect of playing in Europe, when you compare it to the U.S.?
"In order for a European appearance or tour to happen, it costs thousands of dollars to pay for the flights, hotels, transportation, etc. So in reality, when a promoter books a tour, they do not want to lose their money and it took years for SADISTIC INTENT to gain a strong enough following throughout Europe, where now the promoters are willing to book us. About the USA, to be blunt about it, for many years before the internet, it was very trendy and if you were not on a bigger record label with the distribution getting pushed on the big magazines or even MTV for some years, the majority of ‘Metal’ fans out here would not support the underground. Fortunately there were always a few diehards in the USA who did support us, but in reality, percentage wise, it was only a few. Ever since our early years, we would receive a lot of mail from all over Europe and that is something that we will never forget. I believe the internet has opened up the doors to the underground now, and although things are not ideal, the USA has improved in the last few years. Our last USA tour finally went well, but if it was not for that experience, I would be saying that Europe is way better (laughs)! That being said, what I notice about some of the Europeans, is that they tend to travel far to see SADISTIC INTENT! There’s been several times where we’ve met people who literally flew in from another country to see us on stage! That type of dedication is something I would say is a more prominent aspect of the European Metal scene. Another thing, Europe has some of the greatest Metal festivals on earth! To put this to a close, I’d like to say that we appreciate everyone who supports SADISTIC INTENT and it’s an honour when they show up to see us on stage. It doesn’t matter what country, the diehards are worldwide!"
You’ve played a lot of gigs throughout 2013 and 2014 in the U.S., Australia and at festivals in Europe but also quite exotic places like Malaysia and Singapore. How do you look at those concerts? What were the highlights for you? And how do you react when you get a proposal for a gig in a country like Malaysia and Singapore (which is to me almost the same like playing on the moon)?
"The truth is, we’ve had some very memorable gigs all over the place (laughs)! Sometimes we’ll get more energy from certain crowds and yeah, it’s always a pleasure to see that the audience get into the music. It’s part of that elevated live experience! The strange thing about a country like Singapore is that their government is religious and strict when it comes to a band like SADISTIC INTENT! The promoter told us that we were not supposed to play something like three or four songs because they were deemed as blasphemous and also that we could not wear our inverted crosses! Our initial reaction, well, it seemed a bit odd that we’d get invited with those conditions. But since we already had a few Metalheads out there who had told us they enjoy SADISTIC INTENT, that helped to make it happen! Highlights, well, being on stage was one of them, especially because we knew we were forbidden! Before going on stage, we asked the promoter about the laws so we read the situation and decided that darkness would prevail! We figured, those government people don’t like or know our music, so let’s just play all of the songs and we did. We even kept on our inverted crosses (laughs)! The fans appreciated SADISTIC INTENT and it was a pleasure to meet them out there, there were some guys who were very into our music and literally had every single release, even the different editions and they had us sign their collection. It seemed surreal in a way. Not very long before that, we never imagined we would appear in that part of the world! It’s kind of like you said, we made it out to the moon and back (laughs)!"
What would you say are your current future plans?
"We took a break from the band in order to concentrate on the recent re-opening of Dark Realm, but it’s time to get back to the rehearsal room and start getting that PENTACLE split completed! Also, we’re currently in the middle of talking with promoters about doing some more tours. First in South America in the summer, then later on in Europe in the winter, if things go as planned. There you have it. And on the distant horizon of plans … “The Second Coming Of Darkness”."
Interview: Steven Willems
Live pics: Frank Stöver