Some time ago I decided to try to contact someone in SAVAGE DEATH… It was not so difficult thanks to my friends and new communication tools that exist today and I can get to facilitate the work. The truth is that SAVAGE DEATH was a little known band that only released 2 demos that sound very Thrash and Death Metal when it was just the beginning. Two demos that sleep in the collection of old tape traders, some fanzines editors and some other fans who could get one. Today, thanks to the internet and download pages these demos are no longer so hidden. Well, I can not forget some bootlegs (that’s what I got). Today the band has surprised me with a good sounding re-edition of their 2 demos and some live tracks. I have contacted Tom Stevens, who once was the guitarist for SAVAGE DEATH and has been part of INCANTATION, MORPHEUS DESCENDS and NOKTURNEL, his current band. Ok, I hope that this talk is enough to quench the thirst of all who remember and like SAVAGE DEATH. Tom Stevens with you!
Greetings Tom! How is your mood? What are you about these days? Just busy with your band and answering some interviews?
"I am well and these days are busy ones. Not only with NOKTURNEL but with life in general. I am trying to book shows, write new music and keep promo going eternally."
Before starting with the history of SAVAGE DEATH I would like you to tell our readers who is Tom Stevens? What is your age and when and how you started to listen to Metal and then play it?
"People need to understand that though I love SAVAGE DEATH it was my band in High School as a teenager. I agreed to join the other 3 guys as long as I could write the majority of the music AND I insisted it had to be Satanic. I am not exactly young, I watched Metal take it shape after Rock… and watched it become heavier and heavier. I’d like to think I helped it along it’s way with my own songs as well. Although it was not as heavy… I began playing old MAIDEN and PRIEST and those bands turned me into the player I am today. It was my beginning. Many more can be named but those 2 bands were extremely important to me. Who am I? A father, husband, musician, writer, snake breeder, spiked leather making maniac who has been involved in the extreme Metal underground since day ONE."
Do you have any idea why this kind of music has corrupted your soul and why you have never been able to put it aside as happened to many guys who were into Metal in the beginning?
"Before Metal was so heavy I loved guitar solos. KISS, TRIUMPH, RUSH, RAINBOW… I lived for that shit and those guys could really play guitars. They were very influential bands and I was good at learining their music. When Metal became heavier I was there waiting and ready to make it even heavier. I am still ready right fucking now too! Many guys could not get any women in thier lives due to thier"Metal" looks, women were into BON JOVI looking motherfuckers when they thought of Metal… it was not an easy task to find a Metal woman way back when. Many got fed up and wanted to be in clubs full of women…listening to shitty music being trendy and probably still not getting any! They meet a girl, leave for a while and return after their little hearts were broken angry and looking to be full on Metal HAHA! I have little respect for those who bounce in and out of the scene… I never left. I never will, the music is a huge part of my life. I was drawn to Metal like flies are drawn to death. I live for it! Music never corrupted my soul. It was corrupted way before Metal existed… Nothing traumatic ever happened to me, I have been spiritually empty since a very young age."
Do you remember the first time you decided to learn to play an instrument? How much support you got from your parents when they realized that you enjoyed playing music and that music was not only"simple"and palatable to any ear?" I guess they were happy that you liked the aggressive music that is linked with the devil or anti-Christian themes? Ja, ja, ja…
"I played Piano at a very young age, maybe as young as 4 years old. I was extremly good when I was very young. I read music and could play some pretty complex pieces for a child. When I wanted a guitar my parents told me"NO, it will collect dust in your closet"… little did they know back then! My Father was a mortician funeral director and very involved and supportive of the Church. I was unhappy knowing I let him down with my evil music but you have to follow your heart… and mine is BLACK and cold… but you won’t find me in any dark corner whining about how depressed and misanthropic I am HAHA!"
What were the first bands that captivated you? What was your first concert you attended as a fan?
"My first concert was KISS on the KISS Alive 2 tour… As I mentioned earlier my first band was KISS, then I was into THE CARS, TRIUMPH, RUSH, RAINBOW and then onto OZZY (never much into SABBATH), DIO, MOTÖRHEAD, SAXON etc…"
Ok! I can I assume that your penchant for being in a loud band with dark lyrics, was thanks to your inspiration, your friends or who knows what the fuck was going through your mind, so… How did SAVAGE DEATH start and how do you met Joe Barrows, Tony Labosco, Eric Young and Dave Marks?
"A friend I partied with a lot in High School introduced me to Tony and Joe who had started the band with Dave Marks… though nothing had been recorded yet, those guys were a bit younger than me and I was shocked that especially Tony knew so much about underground Metal. It was no secret I was the local guitar hero, they knew I liked extreme Metal so they actually put on a show without the drums… they wore spikes, played guitar and bass and had an amp for vocals. I could tell it was what I was interested in doing. I made it clear I wanted to play Satanic Metal and they had no problem with that until later on… Dave Marks was a total poser… I wrecked his drum set the day another friend introduced me to Eric Young. Eric was far superior and went on to work with me again in NOKTURNEL. He was the best man at my wedding and will always be the greatest drummer I ever had. I was a very crazy person during my youth; I was very chaotic and angry and cared about nothing except"the right now". I never thought of tomorrow. I was borderline out of control… so it was easy to see that I became the main mind behind the band after joining and recording the earliest material written by the other guys. I cannot speak for the others, and they wrote a few good songs that people really liked, but I don’t think they were doing much more than playing killer music. For me? Like many young people of today they are full of emotion and need to vent. Unfortunately the underground Metal scene is now one big gay contest of extremes and I guess the next step for some after cutting themselves will be lighting themselves on fire? There has ALWAYS been anger in me, and strong feelings of hatred, and though I do not feel ve to prove how serious I am to anyone (since most are fucking posers anyway) I refuse to explain myself over and over. SAVAGE DEATH for me was all about being Black Metal. I did it 25 years ago and fell no need to do it again. My message was clear, and I am the same person today… but talking about ANYTHING over and over is boring… I have better shit to do with my time than philosophize with morons."
Was SAVAGE DEATH your first band? Do other members played in other bands or some other style before SAVAGE DEATH?
"I really don’t think so…"
How was the style of the band created? I do not know if I’m wrong but the demos sound a lot like SLAYER and POSSESSED, maybe I can anticipate that some of these bands influenced the way of playing?
"Look at it this way. On demo one you have 3 songs by the other guys… each has minimal riffs and its very simple music. Then my songs ‘Bring Me The Guts Of The Priest’ and ‘Savage Death’ were way more complex… I was already pushing those guys to advance. Demo 2 features mostly my music and lyrics and was WAY more brutal and had a lot more technical parts, it’s all sloppy as dog shit and harsh as mouth full of sand paper but I wanted to be the fastest, most evil, heaviest band on the planet. What people do not seem to understand is we already existed, we were already making music without much influence and it was like some huge relief we were not alone when we discovered POSSESSED, DEATH and lots of bands form that era. There were similarities that screamed RIP OFF but the truth was it was all coincidence and ALL the old bands were taking influence from the same shit. Horror films, War, Satanism etc… there was no internet… you had to BUY music to hear it! Still… SLAYER was already ruling the underground when we were trying to get involved so there’s no denying that. Especially on demo 1. You cannot explain to people how fast Metal became heavy… guys were rocking out dressing like fucking chicks one year and then it was rebellion and many of the people in US looked at it is war. You simply could no associate with people in that kind of music and even saying something like"so and so from RATT is a killer guitarist" was like asking to get punched in the face. For most of us in the mid 80s, we had SLAYER to show Metal was heavier. I will always respect them for that."
What about Hardcore? Most bands of the mid-eighties got a lot of inspiration from such bands, especially when the scenes were not as divided as it is today…
"Hardcore to me now… is total shit. I despise it and most of the people in the scene. Back in the day. You would see me at shows with the CRO MAGS (original line up only!) D.R.I., C.O.C., A.F., LETHAL AGGRESSION etc…. I loved it! SAVAGE DEATH was too young and stupid to realize we fell right into that trend with our 2 stupid songs… ‘Kill The Posers’ (not too bad) and ‘I Impaled Your Mother’ (pretty fucking stupid). You have to understand the scene fucking errupted back then. Heavy music lovers had a LOT to be into and it was amazing to be a part of it. I was not very inspired by Hardcore. Though old C.O.C. was brutally heavy for the time. They made some Metal bands sound weak. Other than bands like WEHRMACHT, Hardcore to me was too slow and groovy."
Can you tell me about the name of the band? Where did the idea for this band name come from? Was it important that the band had a strong image in both image and lyrical content?
"The other guys had the name when they asked me to join. The idea of the band they wanted to be was not far from what I wanted myself… I just was a lot crazier than them. Let’s put it this way… they never visited any cemeteries with me at night… but they liked that I was so extreme and let me do whatever I wanted in the beginning. I would never have joined if the band was not Satanic. Joe went soft first… then Tony joined the Army… and Eric was not into the satanic shit from the beginning. Knowing I left my mark… I moved on to something else… If SAVAGE DEATH never disbanded, we would have been huge when the second wave of Black Metal hit. Some expected me to get back into it. Not to be a dick… but I have been there and done that so nothing matters to me except NOKTURNEL."
Who drew the SAVAGE DEATH logo? Were there other designs?
"I cannot even remember his name… the other guys knew him… I think Tony did the first one which looked like a 7 year old retard did it…"
Do you remember the first rehearsals? Where did you rehearse and how often?
"Kind of… we rented a place and had practice once or twice a week for a while… so long ago, cannot even remember."
1985 and SAVAGE DEATH publishes the first demo"Mass Genocide", the demo contains 5 tracks. What do you rememberof this recording? What about Steve Hughes and Neil Kanderhoof?
"I don’t remember Steve at all, I do remember Neil… he thought we were nuts and that my sound was ridiculous. He did let me record demo 2 on his bad ass amazing B.C. Rich Mockingbird which was awesome. I just remember him being like"Are you sure? You really like that?" He had no idea what we were shooting for… most producers and engineers really didn’t back then… and that is putting it lightly. We were young which means we didn’t know what the fuck we were doing. Tony was so god damned cheap that we were on the tightest budget and to him everything was good enough, it was just a demo. I probably got stoned the entire time and it was all a big party, nothing wrong with that but today I have barely been satisfied with the amount of time I have spent in any studio for anything…"
Can you remember why they decided to call the demo"Mass Genocide"? Who is responsible for drawing the cover and how satisfied were you with the end result?
"I had nothing to do with it. The other guys handled it. I was OK with it but demo 2 was much more my demo… I designed the ideas that made the cover art fit the music."
Talk about the issues and the lyrical concept behind it, please remember everything you can in relation to: ‘Evil Dead’, ‘Legions Of Doom’, ‘Bring Me The Guts Of The Priest’, ‘Satan’s Throne’ and the title track ‘Savage Death’…
"The other guys had the first 3 songs complete. I only added my solos. Those 1st 3 songs were very popular. But the last 2 songs were mine. I wrote all the music and lyrics. You know I recall the moment that ‘Bring Me The Guts Of The Priest’ came to me… and I was ranting to friends about making the most Satanic band in the world. I vomited out B.M.T.G.O.T.P. and we were all so shocked by it I wrote it down. Think about it… 25 years ago? That title was seriously shocking. I had to debate it within myself to even take on the responsibility of making such a statement. I went with it, and took it farther than a lot of bands… Back in the old days when your parents knew you were into the Devil they locked your ass up in a mental institution. Times were way different and believe me I had problems. I was legendary in my State of New Jersey, and I was barely 18 years old. The song ‘Savage Death’ was not so over the top. But it still had some fast picking and catchy riffs that took the band to a new level. One point that I felt was brutal was the simplicity of the line"See if God helps him now!" in B.M.T.G.O.T.P., the sarcasm and mockery of the uselessness of religion appealed to me more that typical blasphemy but then again desecration could have been my middle name back then, I demanded the band be what we referred to then, and what I will always refer to SAVAGE DEATH as… we were BLACK METAL. Thrash or not… times were different and no one is ever going to change my mind on that. FUCK YOU to any who say otherwise. ‘Evil Dead’ is a no brainer, it’s about the movie… ‘Satan’s Throne’ was just about devil worship… ‘Legion Of Doom’ was not very meaningful… My first songs were attempts to take it much farther…and I did…"
Every time I hear these tracks they remind me somewhat of the distorted and disordered single characteristic of SLAYER, also some of Joe Barrows shrieks are the style of the early Tom Araya. Was SLAYER an important band on the compositions of SAVAGE DEATH? What do you think of the voice of Joe Barrows? He had a special style?
"Most fans prefer the vocals on demo 1. My opinion is he was more like DESTRUCTION or KREATOR except for the high notes which were undoubtedly influenced by the master of the high scream Tom Araya. We went to tons of old SLAYER shows. They were a huge influence. However I was also a huge SODOM fan. I wanted deeper vocals on demo 2; I regret not doing them myself! Joe murdered my songs, turned them into piles of shit with his atrocious attempt to be more like Tom Angelripper. I pushed that on him and it shows. Demo 1 I think he sounds awesome, but to keep up with the ever evolving heavier than ever scene the style I wanted was mandatory. Unfortunately many people did say they were not crazy about the vocals on demo 2, but what’s done is done."
DESECRATION / POSSESSED also come to mind when I hear songs from SAVAGE DEATH. Were you in contact with them previously? What do you think of his return and that Becerra is playing with the boys from SADISTIC INTENT?
"I became friends with POSSESSED by the time demo 2 existed; I hung out with them on a few occasions, especially at Fests in Canada like World War 3 and No Speed Limit weekend. SAVAGE DEATH came very close to signing with Combat Records and though at a meeting with them they said they wanted us to tour with LUDICHRIST. I spoke up and said no… We are going with POSSESSED. Steve Sinclair called Debbie Abono right then and there and was surprised she knew who we were. I was lucky to have met her as well, what an awesome lady… she will be missed and there will never be another woman like here in this scene, but anyway. One disagreement with Combat was they never actually gave us that contract and offered another for their Bootcamp series. They wanted the demos as is to be pressed on LP format only. We were already so much better at playing those songs we refused… we knew we could do better but in the end we got nothing. I enjoyed partying with Larry a lot, Mike was cool to talk with and Jeff? He doesn’t seem to acknowledge it much but we let it rip a time or two. We really partied and had some good times and I was very tore up when he was struck with tragedy. I have mixed emotions about his return. On the one hand of course I think it is great that he is out and about being Metal, he should be, he deserves it. He and I are a lot alike in many ways. I didn’t get any evil vibes from anyone else in POSSESSED; that was ALL Jeff. He wrote some amazing lyrics and his voice remains one of my faves. Now, I am a HUGE SADISTIC INTENT fan. I love them, and I mean love that band. Emilio is one of my favorite drummers and I respect their wishes to not only help Jeff but also to give thousands of POSSESSED fans a chance to see their hero Jeff singing his classics. BUT. What I really do not like (putting it lightly) is how the scene seems to hate the other guys. I… for one… do not… I don’t care if Larry said this and Mike said that. Wrong as it may be, most people refuse to see POSSESSED was a GUITAR players kind of band too… not just a lyrical or one dimensional entity made POSSESSED for me, it was a group effort… way too many people do not speak up about this… The rhythms and overall sound is fine. It is KILLER. No doubt. Emilio is the superior drummer but the guitar solos are lacking. I don’t think they come close to the authenticity of the leads like on record. So yes… I approve of it. And I love Jeff, love the guy… always did… but I really miss Mike and Larry…. I think that Mike Torrao basically got shit on… and I do NOT approve of that in any way shape or form. I came close to playing for Larry one night at CBGBs when he injured his hand right before the show… Now that would have been something! I think I am just a bit spoiled I guess… being able to say I saw the POSSESSED that made the records and seeing the new version of it is not at all the same for me. I don’t know how many can understand… I enjoy seeing it, and it brings me down a bit at the same time."
In 1986 the band released the second demo"Crucified In Hell", 8 tracks recorded and it could have been an album, why was it a demo at last?
"It was just too much in the way we rushed it. I was happy with the songs, but not with the shit versions we pounded through in that recording session. After all, it was a demo. A test run of the music we were working on… and though demos can be killer, and often cherished by real fans… it is just a sample of what we could have done. If I had a decent budget and more time I could have made the songs a lot better in every way."
I think these songs are heavier than the first demo, sound more Death Metal so to speak, but there are 2 very short tracks that sound totally like Hardcore Punk as in the case of ‘I Impaled Your Mother’ and ‘Kill The Posers’, ha ha ha… What do you think of this demo and these new songs? Why choose to make these short tracks that sound different from the rest of the demo tracks?
"We were young, stupid and trendy… it was what everyone was doing so like stoned sheep we did it too. It was all for fun, playing fast as fuck and acting like retards… good times ha ha! I think we did each song during each session, not both during the recording of demo 2… Demo 2 was my"way ahead of its time" demo for sure. I was taking the heaviness to a new level and Eric Young played double bass drums when it was coming into style with the higher speeds. Dave Marks couldn’t play double bass at all! Throw in the tech parts and you can see I was well on my way to spawning the more precise and even faster and more teched out NOKTURNEL. My favorite song is ‘Spit On The Cross’… not that we were Black Metal (sarcasm…) HAHAHA! I am glad to know some people see where I was going, and that they do mention I was making the heaviest music… Death and Black Metal long before most…"
The word"Poser" is widely used until the present day, I remember the demo of SADUS"Death To Posers", many fanzines of the time who used it as one word and you also continue to"Kill The Posers". Why do they do this with this name? What was a poser for you?
"A poser in the truest sense, in the 80s… meant styled hair like glam fags, flashy cheezy clothes and basically parading around like a woman while you insist you are Metal… It could also mean what we see today. Total imposters… fake ass losers who want to impress people with thier evil personas… people who wear Satanic pendants, show evil tattoos… and yet they believe in the words from the Bible or whatever… I never understood this. It is not uncommon to have someone say they love a Satanic band but only for the music… if that is the case I have NO problems. I am not here to make you think like me… I could care less. Do not be false, do not be fake, just accept the fact you are into the music for reasons different than a lot of others and all will be fine. Way too many Metal heads these days are influenced by everything BUT Metal and I have no idea why they want to play it then? By all means… leave, and go do something else! Poser bashing was very trendy in 80s… we had to make it clear we wanted nothing to do with any of them and I swear that there were NONE to be seen at any shows period. If you were seen wearing bands who were not up to par with the heaviness of the underground you were asking to be called out on it. ‘Kill The Posers’ actually attempted to hit the old school blast beats that were so freaking slow to match with today’s modern music but it had to begin somewhere and it was just a way to throw something into the mix way too many bands are assholes about….and that is FUN. Somewhere along the contests of extremities it seemed you could only be a miserable drunk… laughing wasted and having fun became something to be ashamed of… it was not like that back in the day and those songs are proof of it."
I like the cover of this new demo, it’s direct and I’m sure my mother would be offended if I will show it to her, ja, ja, ja… Can you tell me about this idea and if it caused any kind of controversy to some people?
"I am unsure if you mean the reissue or the demo but the demo depicts the song ‘Crucified In Hell’. It was my design. Crucified and being torn apart and eaten by demons in Hell… suitable…"
Were you all involved in occult, anti-Christian themes? Do you think the dark image, satanic or anti-Christian is something that goes hand in hand with Metal?
"I believe it should go hand in hand. However I do not only listen to"evil" bands. I love TANKARD for example, ASSASSIN, and other thrashy bands. I don’t feel anyone needs to know what I was involved in. Some things are personal. Most who have to keep telling the world about their abundance of evil deeds and thoughts are fools who probably don’t know or ever do a damn thing. They make me laugh…"
How is the distribution of demos for SAVAGE DEATH? Do you remember the people who have helped the band at that time?
"We were broke ass kids…it was always hard and I really didn’t have much to do with it."
What fanzines do you remember having SAVAGE DEATH interviews? Did you do many of them at this period?
"I didn’t really do them; Tony did back in the day. I just wanted to write music and only play guitar. I should have been more involved."
What about record labels? Did they contact and have interest in publishing material from the band?
"We had the Combat offer and a few others we chose to blow off… I regret that too but the budgets were worthless…"
And about the gigs, which were the best you ever played? With which bands did you play? Are you aware of any live footage taken from a SAVAGE DEATH gig?
"SAVAGE DEATH only played a few shows. Our best by far was with LETHAL AGGRESSION and some Punk bands in Baltimore. We had another one with WHIPLASH and an old NJ band called HATRED. Live footage only exists in audio and there’s barely any photos of us…"
Any funny anecdote that you remember from any show, rehearsal or drinking session with the band?
"I was a smoker, I did not begin to like alcohol till later years… and I always partied. I smoked with the guitar player for LETHAL… he was a little older and really a crazy guy back in the day. They begged us to sell them 4 dollars worth of pot… and chain smoked cigarettes throughout the entire show. We thought we were nuts when we were kids but compared to them… we weren’t. As I mentioned when you were nuts back in the old days it was not well received by the general public, you could easily get arrested or put in an institution… being at that show which was mostly Punks was like a wake up call that as far as extremities go we were just kids and had a long way to go haha!"
When did the band come to an end and why did you decide to stop going with SAVAGE DEATH? Do you think the band would have become big if you had not split up? Is there anything you could have solved in a better way?
"Truthfully I saw it coming and all I cared about was keeping drummer Eric Young. He really stopped SAVAGE DEATH because he was never comfortable with being in a Satanic band. At the time the first wave of satanic Metal had become stale and was being shit on by new trends… though I did not want to stop SAVAGE DEATH I did want to take the speed and technical playing much farther so I agreed to let SAVAGE DEATH die… I ALWAYS think of SAVAGE DEATH first before anything when I hear the term Black Metal. Inside I laugh hysterically when people (especially younger people) carry on explainging to me what Black Metal is. Are you serious? Are you fucking kidding me? I was doing this before some of these new bands were born. I do intend to include a SAVAGE DEATH song or two in NOKTURNEL’s live set, and may even record a song or two, but I think it would be wrong to make another SAVAGE DEATH record. Yes, I should have been acknowledged when the second wave of Black Metal came, but I refused to carry on about things I have done… I have left my mark… many people have discovered this and many have known about me all along. SAVAGE DEATH was doomed, once I got Eric, we knew it became our band… although the other 2 guys actually started it, it was theirs, and it ended up becoming my own. Same with NOKTURNEL… Tony got fed up when we didn’t sign with Combat and Joe became a glam fag… leopard spotted spandex and whatnot…"
What are the former members of SAVAGE DEATH up to these days? Are you in touch with them? Is any of you still playing music or in a band?
"I still speak to Eric regularly, I saw Tony for the first time in 20 years a few years ago and we had an awesome time talking about the band. Apparently he hates Joe and I haven’t heard from Joe since the 80s."
Do you remember how many photo sessions you had with SAVAGE DEATH? Did you release any merchandising? Any t-shirts?
"One photo session, the 2 demos and 1 shirt… which there were barely any made of…"
Did you take a break after SAVAGE DEATH split up? I know you played later in NOKTURNEL and that you released your first demo. Can you tell us about this period?
"Not really. I mean Eric and I knew how to play HUNDREDS of covers from many great old bands and we would speed them up and crank them out. We would still play SAVAGE DEATH songs too. When he introduced me to Martin and we saw each other play we saw outrageous potential in each other and NOKTURNELwas up and running extremly fast. The time in between was annoying, I had begun to attend tons of Metal shows around 85 and by 1990 Metal had become so heavy and fast that SAVAGE DEATH got lost in the mix for a while… NOKTURNEL recorded 4 songs in either 89 or 90 and those guys wanted nothing to do with SAVAGE DEATH. I do not go around claiming to be a Satanist… this is my own business, but back in the day I was more in your face about it and when it became uncool to like the devil I was a target… people would mock it (even friends more jokingly of course) and I stood my ground. I always have and always will… but there’s some video footage out there for sure of me in the not so evil NOKTURNEL days with me wearing my pentagram shirt… I know that doesn’t mean much but for those who knew me from earlier years… it meant something to them…"
Which do you think are the main differences among what you did in SAVAGE DEATH and what you did later in NOKTURNEL?
"The fact is I could barely write a song in the 80s and now I am able to compose them entirely on my own… For both bands during both eras… I wanted to be fast as hell, and technical. I did not want just play a few chords. I also insisted on guitar solos which were seemingly uncool for many years… When I wrote lyrics for early NOKTURNEL I had difficulty coming up with ideas that were not so generic… satanic lyrics are very easy, give a Black Metal guy rhyming lyrics that are blasphemous and its Metal boners for all… but seriously I regret this. Especially the humorous approach. My later material with evil back in the message is much more appreciated. Both bands are raw and uncompromising musically. NOKTURNEL is unforgiving… I almost never get a chance to slow my picking hand down… it is full on speed or difficult precise patterns… SAVAGE DEATH was heading to this style but was more simplistic back then…"
Hahaha… Welcome to New Jersey? Why did you choose this name for the demo? Do you think the bands from this area had a special sound or style?
"You know it just goes to highlight the humor of the band. The demo cover was a drawn sketch of all this crap like smokestacks from refineries, oil barrels and all this garbage. I wanted that for the"Nothing But Hatred" cover with us in the picture and like retards we listened to the 2 artist morons that convinced to do something otherwise. The song is semi auto biographical, part of my typical young life spilled out in a song about how crazy and shitty it was to grow up there. It had little to do with anything else. NJ bands definitely had our own thing going on.HUMAN REMAINS, RIPPING CORPSE, REVENANT… We sounded nothing like New York bands or Florida Death Metal…"
NOKTURNEL’s first album"Nothing But Hatred" was released in the year 1993. Can you tell us the most relevant things from this period of your life and everything behind this record?
"My life had no meaning back then. Nothing mattered except waking up the next morning instead of being dead; having enough money to get by and music was all I cared about. In a sense it was a dark lonely time for me but I wrote a lot of music that is still appreciated and respected by people now in 2011, not to mention things changed a lot for me since then so it all worked out for me. The entire reason we made NOKTURNEL what it was, was to offer the underground something different. We saw the attack of the fucking clones back then… one band would appear and then 20-50 copy cats… other than the name of the band… not many tried to copy us. We were too insane for that so we went out of our way to make music that was simply not like everyone else’s. We followed NO trends, had no mosh, and went totally against the grain… That is so obvious when looking back at that material now."
Were you a part of MORPHEUS DESCENDS by this time? I don’t want to ask more things about MORPHEUS DESCENDS to you, because it is a band that I like a lot and I’d like to interview you and some of the other members in a future issue, but… How did you get to be a part of MORPHEUS DESCENDS and what is the thing you liked the most about playing with them?
"I joined them when the"Nothing But Hatred" line-up disbanded. I was friends with them and we partied a lot. I liked it for many reasons but that was my first fuck you directed back to the shit talkers who used to shun NOKTURNEL. My voice in NOKTURNEL is the voice of a maniac. It is uncontrolled anger and unrelenting screaming. I don’t care if my voice cracks… if I fuck up a verse… it was just insanity and I am proud of that. For MORPHEUS DESCENDS it was all gutteral. Even Doomy… and I can hold my own against any growler. A lot of people didn’t realize that, and some were shocked as if I didn’t like Death Metal. Yet here I am in 2011 with the release of the SAVAGE DEATH being hailed as a pioneer of Death Metal. I really enjoyed the vocals… I can deliver an emotional growl… not a gurbling pile of shit. My voice is felt, and will cut right into you, and I had a chance to show people what I was made of in a traditional Death Metal band."
The"Antigrunge" EP was released in the year 1994… Great title, hahaha!!! Your words and memories about it?
"Well, by then our record label had fallen apart. We were entering a new realm. I had incorporated new elements into our 2 new tracks and it drove us nuts that we had no means to give it to people other than cassette. Rage Records was run by friends of ours who agreed to make the 7 inch. Grunge was killing Metal at the time. It was annoying as hell and like many of my nutty ideas we came up with the cover art idea of Seattle’s Space Needle being destroyed with a mushroom cloud in the back while partying and we stuck with that concept. People do not seem to understand that even though it seems I deserved the right to have something like a pentagram on my bands art… that that was the LAST thing we wanted for NOKTURNEL."Welcome To New Jersey" demo,"Anti Grunge" 7 inch and"Nothing But Hatred" all featured what would be considered untypical art to say the least. For us, our music was all that mattered. Being as fast and sick as we were we felt no need to justify why we chose this path."
After this EP, NOKTURNEL became silent for quite a long time, before releasing the"Fury Unleashed" record in 2001… What happened during this period? Was this the time you were playing with INCANTATION?
"Not yet no. I was in MORPHEUS first… I can never get the years straight… I think NOKTURNEL disbanded in 94 or 95 and I worked with MORPHEUS in 95-96? Then INCANTATION was more 97 or 98?"
Memories of your visit to Chile with INCANTATION?
"By far the greatest show of my life to date! Loved every second of it. Hangin with DORSO was a lot of fun; of course I remember hanging a bit with my old friend Corpsegrinder too. Believe it or not during all those early years of Metal I never met Chuck from DEATH until that weekend. It was cool to speak with him for a while… the people in Chile were incredible. It is rumored that we purposely missed our flight home to stay an extra day… and that we never wanted to leave. It is true we were stuck for one extra day but nothing more… it is a dream of mine to return with NOKTURNEL. That show there were around 6000 people. That was the largest stage I have ever performed on."
Let’s get back to SAVAGE DEATH… Tell us about this re-release with the demos and live recordings. How was the idea of releasing this stuff born and how has the response been on it nowadays?
"Many have wanted to do this, but after a bootleg or two the new versions from Area Death and F.O.A.D are a big hit. They’re selling like crazy and many new young fans have discovered the band. The response has been crazy. Lately I talk about SAVAGE DEATH almost as much as NOKTURNEL."
How many copies are available and where can we get them? Can you give us an address for anyone who’s interested?
"I have had NOKTURNEL ECLIPSE, my mailorder company since 1999. I have all SAVAGE DEATH and NOKTURNEL merch, plus SPIKED LEATHER and many other Metal, satanic, and adult items at www.sinfulnightwear.com."
Have you seen SAVAGE DEATH bootlegs? I have your 2 demos as bootleg tapes, hahahha… I’ve even seen shirts being printed in my country
"I have not, but I do know they’re out there. I have never stopped getting mail from SAVAGE DEATH since 1990. It is not much… but there’s always someone interested in the band and I think there is not much that has not been bootlegged."
What do you feel when you realize that SAVAGE DEATH is a band that is remembered and that still keeps the interest in many people who are into Metal?
"PRIDE! Also… I get to say I told you so… some bands came and left SAVAGE DEATH and NOKTURNEL in the dust. At that time it was frustrating. But who is laughing now that all the years have passed and my old music has stood the test of time and those bands are not as remembered? I AM LAUGHING… and so is the devil…"
You’ve always been involved with obscure bands; can you tell us what you think about Christianity nowadays? What does Satan mean to you? Do you believe in eternal life and the spiritual world?
"I will try to keep this short. I do not like religeon period, I do not trust it or anyone involved in it. I do NOT have a problem with anyone who seems to get something out what they believe in… even if I personally find thier beliefs to be fucking stupid. Satan is far more complex and I refuse to debate about Lavey and new sects of Satanism. I always liked the Satanic Bible. I live for myself; I love what I love and hate what I hate. I am a father and a husband and an emotional person. I do not know what to think about the consequences of life and any of life’s so called rules but I do believe in an afterlife. I do believe in some spiritual things, and that some people are receptive to it and some are not. That includes paranormal…"
Which are the best lyrics from a Metal band you’ve ever read? Are lyrics important for a band?
"Lyrics are extremely important but let’s just say a really killer song had lyrics about something I cannot stand… I may still enjoy the music for what it is… SLAYER was always impressive on the early records. VOIVOD were in a realm of thier own. KREATOR had some quality, SACRIFICE too. VENOM, BATHORY, SODOM, all wrote cool memorable songs. Old MERCYFUL FATE was really incredible. King Fowley of DECEASED is another master. For me, the greatest honor you can give me is to sing along when I am performing with NOKTURNEL."
Which bands can you compare, in music and history, SAVAGE DEATH to? How important has this band been for you?
"POSSESSED, DEATH, SLAYER and DESTRUCTION were the bands people compared us to the most. There have been years when many people I’d meet did not know anything about SAVAGE DEATH. They’d look at me like I was nuts if I started saying we were compared to the bands I mentioned. Now… a billion years later it is common for me to hear these same bands mentioned again. All those bands were and will always be important to me."
What do you think about the book"Glorious Times"? Do you like that there are things being done these days related to the past? How would you call it? Sentimentalism, romanticism, nostalgia, tradition, trend? How would you define the people making these efforts to remember the past?
"I worship the book! It is the most important book of Death Metal history. If you had to put one book in a time capsule to be opened 100 years from now it would make sense if read after literature on the previous ear of Rock and Glam Metal. The pics are rare. The stories are told from us guys in the bands, not as seen from another persons eyes. There are friends in that back that I love like brothers and it blows me away to see the pics of these people and I fucking know them personally! Half of them I still talk too all the freaking time and it still blows me away. So for anyone else, how could you not find this book interesting?! Many of us were skinnier and had more hair back then… the clothes and hair… man that is worth the cost alone! The guys who made this happen should be worshipped. Brian Pattison and Alan Moses rule!"
Do you answer many interviews these days, Tom? Do you like to be able to talk in these bands?
"Not too many, but many are epic with tons of questions. I am my own boss working from home so I do enjoy doing them. I think it is important for young Metal heads to read bitter words from people who have seen it and done it all… way too many guys being interviewed who are in Metal bands want to talk about all this other types of music. I am not really into that. I live for Metal, and all I want to do is talk about METAL."
What do you like the most about the current scene and what’s the best it had back in the 80s and 90s? Is there anything you miss from the past?
"I don’t have much to say about the current scene. It pretty much sucks now. Posers are rampant. The fans are cheaper and cheaper. There’s cliques, weak competitve edges holding things back. Bands barely promoting their own shows, bands who only go their own shows and guys in bands playing the same show as you who chose to walk around away from the stage paying no attention to other bands… I could go on but… In the 80s it was AWESOME. People were outgoing if you were Metal. I would see hundreds of people at the same shows over and over and though we never spoke, there was a comfortable familiararity in the room. If you showed up with a MÖTLEY CRÜE shirt on to a SLAYER show you were called out on it. That actually happend once as some nerd approached the line to get in the crowd erupted and we tormented this poor guy, who… immediately went inside and BOUGHT a SLAYER shirt. Tom Araya even mentioned this during the show, they HEARD the crowd freaking on the kid even though they were inside. The point is, the scene was real. DIE HARDS, man it was amazing to go to shows with this"you are one of us" feeling. Now, there ain’t no fucking feelings. The nineties had a lot of great amazing shows too but the scene seemed to change too often… I was not crazy about the second wave of Black Metal. The music and bands were fine, I love many of them but the wanna be mentality it created was pathetic. Imagine how I felt, even after the blasphemy of INCANTATION and SAVAGE DEATH …well you know, I was not knowledgeable in Scandinavian this n that and up to date on bands who names I could not pronounce. By all means enjoy the Metal, understand it and appreciate it, but I am not into any contests of who knows the most shit. I preferred when they kept it simple… SATAN!!!!!!!!!!!! That was my take on it. The nineties was leading up the contest of elite wannabes who explain to you what Metal is and why no one knows what they mean except some other some group of elitists… I have no time for this kind of shit. I would rather just listen to old records and go bang my head at shows. I know my comrades. I have many and we are in the same mind set. Many of us are outcasts… so be it I guess."
Are you still looking for new bands and records? Are you currently into collecting CDs, LPs, fanzines or demos?
"Believe it or not I barely own my own music. I did not have any master tapes or anything for SAVAGE DEATH which made it so awesome the labels did everything. They tracked down my old music and did it all… awesome! I do not collect anything, which is why I barely own my own music. I gave most of it away to serious fans. I do not buy many new records, I am not trying to be a hater… but honestly I have not heard many new records I wanted to own."
Which are the new bands spinning in your stereo nowadays? What must a band have for you to like it?
"Bands I listen to frequently are AUTOPSY, ENTOMBED, KREATOR, MANOWAR, IMMORTAL, MARDUK, DESTROYER 666, GRAVEHILL, EXHUMED, and lately IMPIETY. I like many bands of different reasons. Killer sound, fast playing, amazing lyrics… MANOWAR covers everything. Rocking oldies, classic true Metal, Speed Metal with modern drumming at high speeds with killer evil Metal lyrics all the way back to flat out cheeze. That is why they are the true Kings of Metal… I am a sucker for a killer drummer and fast guitars. Not really into bands who strum chords at half time with drummers blazing at light speed… kind of bums me out."
I’m a fan of fishing; after Metal, it is my second passion. I know you used to go fishing in the days of the old NY Metal scene; in particular, with Henry and Tim from REVENANT and Brandon from RIPPING CORPSE…any memories you’d like to share? Do you have other hobbies?
"Haha! Fuckin A, Metal guys floating around in a boat. Probably all stoned… talking shit haha! I took Henry to a place that closed at sunset knowing the cops would eventually come but when it got dark we started catching fish like fucking crazy. The cops were driving around shining their lights on the water looking for us until finally at like 5 in the morning they came back and used a speaker to announce if they had to get their boat in the water we were gonna be arrested. So then, like retards… I come driving my boat out from the bushes on the island we were hiding behind! The were pissed! But fuck… the fish were biting and I was not about to leave! We went to sleep for one hour till the sun came up and it was legal to fish again… one hour after sunrise the fish stopped biting when the other fisherman were just getting there. I lost count of how many Bass we caught, but it was legendary for us. I have not fished in years but I have a kid now and I know I will start again. When I moved here to Texas I began breeding snakes… which is a serious passion of mine. It is now a full time business and I sell baby snakes online, mostly in the US but I have sold to collectors world wide."
Ok Tom, thank you very much for your answers and the time you dedicated to my questions. There’s no doubts that SAVAGE DEATH is a band we must feature and even more joining this band with a part of your life and what you’ve done in other bands. It’s great to know you’re still active and you’re still devoted to Metal. Thanks again and you can finish this interview telling us your next plans and what will NOKTURNELdeliver to us in the near future
"NOKTURNEL is going to play Mayland Death Fest 2011. This is a great honor for any band but for us being independent it means everything. This is the biggest show in NOKTURNEL’s history. It is going to be something to see I can promise you that! We are playing with MASTER in San Antonio, Texas in late March and currently working on new material. At least one new song should be posted online in the next few weeks. I encourage all Metalheads to contact me on Facebook, ReverbNation and Myspace. Thanks for the interview!"
Gabriel "The Exhumator" Gatica