Ever since the origin of VOICES FROM THE DARKSIDE there had been plans for a massive interview with the Gods of Grind, TERRORIZER… but unfortunately this never turned into reality, due to various different reasons beyond our control. This could luckily be changed now, since drummer Pete "Commando" Sandoval finally managed to take the time to answer Laurent’s intense catalogue of questions… Enjoy!
Pete, how’s your back at this point? Have you completely recovered from your disc prolapse surgery from 2010? Is there a risk that it can come back due to your job being a drummer later on?
There was talks about having an instructional DVD featuring your work coming out last year or so, are you still working on it or is it abandoned at this point? Have you signed a deal with some company to release it yet?
If it’s still in the works, can you reveal to us what will be on it exactly? Will you use some drum footage from the MORBID days considering very little exists – besides what my friends filmed at a Paris show back in 2006?
I understand you possibly live in Spain right now with your wife, if so does that mean you were kind of tired of living in Florida or you just feel maybe more at home in Spain due to your Spanish origins? How do you compare the European way of life with the U.S. one at this point?
"Well, Spain is too cold for me and very expensive too! I love the warm weather in Florida where I live. But I’ve been going back and forth to Spain for very long periods of times, I met my wife over there so it’s like I have 2 homes, but my actual home is here in the USA as you allknow. Soon I’ll bring my wife over here so that I won’t have to be going back and forth so much anymore."
Talking about this, do you recall when you moved from El Salvador to California I presume? When did it happen? Did your parents move to the U.S. because they could see a better future there than in your home country?
"Yeah you presume right my friend. I came to the States in early 1980 running away from the violence and repression going on at that time in El Salvador (and in many Central American countries). My mother’s main goal was to provide a better future for her kids (my sister and I)."
How was it like coming from a different country and going to school with U.S. citizens back in the day? Was it kinda easy to be integrated in the U.S; society back in the day? Easier than maybe now?
"It was actually very hard! As you could imagine it was a totally different world for me! Plus I spoke no English at all, and I didn’t know anybody other than my mom, sister and a few Mexican and central American friends that only spoke Spanish with me. I was a very shy, skinny and scared young teenager back in my early School days… It was very hard for me to adapt and adjust myself to this new and different life in America. My first couple of years in school were really hard for me, but somehow all that payed off good because it was in school where I discovered Metal! \m/And that’s what made me wanna jam on drums!!!!"
Did you ever come back to El Salvador before MORBID ANGEL did its first show there on June 21, 2009? How was it like on that day to play there for you after all those years? I suppose it was certainly emotional somehow for you… did you have relatives that came to that 2009 show to see you?
"That was the first time back since my 1980s departure, and it was a very bad show too.Terrible! Very late with the worst P.A. sound. Those were very badly planned rushed tours, not very well organized. It was very unprofessional and hard on me specially as a drummer.So, unfortunately it was not as I had expected it to be."
Mentioning relatives brings me to ask on how supportive your parents have been during the late 70s / early 80s when you started playing drums? Did they follow what you did as time went on and moved for bigger things?
"Well, first of all I only have a mom and a sister, I don’t have a father (a biological miracle ; -) – Frank). It was my mom that bought me my first 4 piece drum kit. At firstI couldn’t practice much therebecause I lived in an apartment complex and there was a lot of complaining by the tenants. But a few months later I managed to move my drums to a nicer and better place where I could play them and go off at anytime I wanted! And of course my mom and my sister are the only ones that have given me full support and helped me immensely with my career throughout all these years. I really wouldn’tknow how or where I would be if it wasn’t for them, and a few other best friends I have."
At which point did you decide to play drums? Were you mostly influenced by Thrash musicians as player or did Punk play a role as well with bands like DISCHARGE, G.B.H., D.R.I. – like it did in TERRORIZER music later on or even classic Hard Rock players like Bonham, Appice, Paice, Peart etc.?
"I decided to wanna play drums sometime during the early 80s, I was very much influenced by Heavy Metal, some Hardrock, underground Hardcore / Punk bands and soon after I got into Thrash and Speed Metal, then immediately loved to play fast!I will always play the skank beat and the one foot blast with tons of crazy fast rolls in between etc., yeah! Just like you’ve heard it and seen it!"
By the way how did you get into Heavy Metal in the first place and at which point did you find interest in its most extreme forms which was Thrash Metal back in the early 80s?
"Well, it was sometime during 82-83 when I first got into Heavy Metal music. A good friend of mine in High School, introduced me to this kind of new, incredible, heavy, powerful and dark music I had never heard before in my life. Soon I started listening to early MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST, SCORPIONS, OZZY OSBOURNE, BLACK SABBATH, RUSH, DIO, AC/DC, PINK FLOYD, Carlos Santana, and the list goes on and on…But then I was totally blown away by METALLICA’s first LP "Kill ‘Em All" and SLAYER’s "Show No Mercy"!These guys were into something else. I loved all that stuff! And that was it for me! All I wanted to play and listen to was fast, extreme music with fast drummingand I started playing faster than whatever was going on back in those days (1984-85 and so on). These new Thrash / Black / Speed Metal bands were more extreme, evil and faster!!And then I was always looking for much faster, heavier bands which really motivated me to always practice very hard."
Did you manage to go to Thrash / Death Metal shows very early on like seeing DARK ANGEL, SLAYER when they were playing the Country Club or Radio City and stuff?
"Hell yeah! During the years of 84-87 I went to a lot of great shows and concerts.I saw SLAYER, DARK ANGEL, EXODUS, POSSESSED, D.R.I. C.O.C., CELTIC FROST, BLACK SABBATH,CRYPTIC SLAUGHTER, THE EXPLOITED, G.B.H., DESTRUCTION etc. etc. That’s the main reason why this music influenced me dramatically and encouraged me to play extreme Metal."
Were you aware of the L.A. underground Metal scene very early on when bands like NECRONOMICON, DECAPITATOR (both merged into DECAPITATION), FCDN TORMENTOR, ARCHENEMY, NECROPHAS(G)IA, CRYPTIC SLAUGHTER, SACRILEGIOUS DEATH, BLOODCUM… all helping forging a faster / heavier approach of what bands like SLAYER, HIRAX, DARK ANGEL mainly had started in this area?
"Oh yes! Of course! I was part of the underground scene 100%! And I was always on the look out for new extreme Metal bands everywhere such the ones you’re mentioning above! So of course I was aware of them and I even went to see many of those bands play live back in those days."
So Pete, was M.D.S. the very first band you played with? I guess it was in early 1986? How was that band formed exactly? The line-up was you on drums, Tony "Cabbage" Navarro (?), Oscar Perales (bass) and Ismael Velasquez (?) right?
"Ok, I formed my first band M.D.S. (Merciless Death Squad) sometime in the middle of 1985 with my former high school friend "Cabbage" Tony Navarro, who played the guitar and I was on the drums. We began jamming about 6 months after graduating from high school and there was nobody else in the band but the 2 of us."
What did you do as M.D.S. (MERCILESS DEATH SQUAD) ? Did you write some originals or was it mainly based on covers?
"We were both extremely into HELLHAMMER, early CELTIC FROST, BATHRORY, SODOM, VENON, early SLAYER, EXCITER, EXODUS, THE EXPLOITED, DISCHARGE, D.R.I, C.O.C. and also some Hardcore Punk as well. We used to rehearse in this basement of a building which belonged to a friend of mine and we practiced there for about 6 months or so, we wrote several songs and managed to make several bad sounding recordings of the rehearsals we did. In late 1985 I met Jesse Pintado ( R.I.P.) and Oscar Garcia, who I later joined their band called UNKNOWN DEATH."
How did that band sound like, if you recall? I understand you guys were playing real fast at the time, were you getting influenced by bands like CRYPTIC SLAUGHTER, GENOCIDE etc. or was it something you developed naturally without any external influences?
"It was something we developed naturally, and it was inside of both of us. Our music was a mixture of HELLHAMMER meets REPULSION but faster (that’s when I started using my one foot blast beat and the skank beat with lots of quick, fast rolls in between)."
Did you play some local shows eventually? How did M.D.S. end up? Because of musical differences?
"No! We split up because one day I met Jesse and Oscar (they liked my blast beats) who asked me to play for them, and I thought and realized that they were more experienced and professional musicians to play with than "Cabbage" was,so I had a better chance to move on with them and that’s what happened."
I understand you and Oscar Perales then formed EPILEPTIC REGRESSION after M.D.S.’s split, tell us more about this project that didn’t go far…
"Oh yeah, forgot about that! Right after I was no longer with M.D.S. I hooked up with Oscar Perales (SEIZURE) for a little while, and jammed in this other project he had called EPILEPTIC REGRESSION, which only consisted of Perales on the bass with lots of distortion on it and I was playing the drums. We rehearsed for a couple of months, wrote some stuff together, but then shortly I eventually met the guys from UNKNOWN DEATH, Jesse Pintado and Oscar Garcia, who I quickly joined and started rehearsing with as a band.And of course that was the beginning of the TERRORIZER days…"
So at one point in ’86 you joined DECOMPOSED which was a two piece band which also featured Oscar Garcia (ex – UNKNOWN DEATH)… How did you hook up with Oscar exactly? Had you heard him in UNKNOWN DEATH before?
"UNKNOWN DEATH was Oscar Garcia and Jesse Pintado’s band. I replaced a drummer that Jesse used to call "Fish" or "Phish" as a nickname (who didn’t play blast beats). Shortly after I joined the band we decided to come up with a new name for the band, so we called it DECOMPOSED and we used it for a couple of months, we recorded a one song demo called "Baphomet", then obviously later we changed our name to TERRORIZER."
Would you say DECOMPOSED fit much better to your vision than what you had done before?
"Yes! I knew it right away! The first time we started practicing together we connected with each other just perfect! Me with the desire and passion for the blast beat and skanks and them with their grinding heavy thick riffs! Together we made a perfect match!"
I suppose the band name had been inspired by the GENOCIDE song from the January 1986 demo, is that correct?
"Maybe there was some inspiration from GENOCIDE in their part but I don’t know and I don’t remember."
Also as a drummer, does that mean you were getting influenced by all those super fast / heavy bands from all over the place like GENOCIDE, DEATH, DEATH STRIKE, INSANITY, WEHRMACHT…, who were the first bands to push the speed like they did as Oscar was into tape trading at the time and aware of those new bands around so maybe he played some tapes to you?
"First off, it was Jesse Pintado who used to do the tape trading, not Oscar.Second, I taught myself to play fast, extreme and brutal back in the early 80s, and I learned and created the one and only infamous one foot blast beat which I always loved to play together with the skank.I was already playing this (blast / skank) combination during the M.D.S. days before I joined Jesse and Oscar.As a matter of fact it was me who brought that style of drumming to UNKNOWN DEATH / DECOMPOSED, their previous drummer didn’t play blast beats. But my main influences came from the early Black / Speed / Thrash / Heavy Metal andHardcore / Punk scene as well."
How would you describe the DECOMPOSED material considering little is known about them? What were the influences of that band?
"Well, Jesse and Oscar were very much influenced by DEATH, MASTER, REPULSION, GENOCIDE, Canada’s SLAUGHTER, to mention just a few of them. I was influenced by Speed / Thrash / Hardcore. And as far as our sound you can go back to 1986’s DECOMPOSED "Baphomet" demo. Here’s the link for it if you want to check it out: www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDw9gUMdKM8 and when you do, then you could get an idea of how fast, extreme and heavy we were playing and sounding back then inearly ’86."
A little while after you got rejoined by ex – M.D.S. bass player Oscar Perales, with whom you recorded a one song demo titled "Baphomet", which was I believe a song captured during a rehearsal session, what do you recall from this?
"I said earlier that Oscar Pereles was never in M.D.S. and as far as the song you’re talking about, I only know of this one I told you about on the previous answer. And if it was recorded during practice then so be it. We always had fun at practice.And during that time we didn’t have a bass player yet, so we asked Oscar Perales if he was interested in doing it, he was more than happy to go for it."
Hearing that one song demo, I can’t help but be already impressed by the speed injected in that short lived band and we’re talking of ’86 when very few bands were playing this fast…. Any comments?
"Well, that’s exactly what I was explaining early on that particular song, and how I mentioned the fact that we were already blasting the hell out of everything! I was playing the one foot blast beat in different times and the riffs were sick and crushing!"
I know DECOMPOSED played at least one show with SACRILEGIOUS DEATH and NECROPHILIA back in August ’86, was it still as a three piece with Oscar Perales ? Did you play quite a few?
"Yeah, perhaps we did during those days, now I even remember flyers for the show. Yes, that was the only show we did under the DECOMPOSED name, but Oscar Perales was not with us anymore."
So what happened around the fall of 1986 when TERRORIZER was launched? I understand Oscar knew Jesse Pintado already, what happened that led to the DECOMPOSED split?
"Jesse and Oscar knew each other before I met them both. Like I told you earlier they were the band UNKNOWN DEATH. And then when I joined them we came up with the name DECOMPOSED which eventually became the legendary TERRORIZER."
Jesse told me back in the day that he was playing in RESISTANT MILITIA before you guys hooked up together to form TERRORIZER, is that correct because very few people know this?
"Yes, indeed! Before Jesse ever played with anybody, he used to be into tape-trading and also ran an underground fanzine. One day he came to one of RESISTANT MILITIA’s shows and stayed afterwards to do an interview for his fanzine with Anthony "Wolf" (vocalist of the band) and that’s how they met early on those years… Jesse ended up liking his band so much that he even asked him if he could play with them. I believe RESISTANT MILITIA were missing a guitar player too, so they agreed and soon Jesse started jamming with them, the only problem was that they lived very far apart from each other, approximately 45 minutes (driving) from each other, and since they were very young to drive, Jesse’s father had to drive him back and forth from rehearsal.Unfortunately it became too difficult for them to jam because of the distance, and that’s when Jesse and Oscar made the band UNKNOWN DEATH, so that was it for Jesse and RESISTANT MILITIA I guess, and a little bit later I ended up meeting the guys too. :)"
If I’m correct, you Pete didn’t join TERRORIZER at first during late ’86 and they had a different drummer originally called Jimmi or Jimmy something, is that correct ? Why didn’t you join at that point?
"I already said the whole story!I joined Jesse and Oscar’s band UNKNOWN DEATH early ’86 and there was no Jimmy anywhere! Phish was the drummer I replaced. I was there when we came up with the name TERRORIZER! No more Jimmy ghost please."
What about the bass position as Oscar Perales wasn’t involved (he went on to join SEIZURE) but you had Alfredo "Garvey" Estrada in TERRORIZER right ? Was it Alfredo’s first band?
"I don’t really know if this was Garvey’s first band or not, the only thing I know is that he became the bass player from there on until the "World Downfall" album when we had David Vincent fill in as a studio bass player."
Then came the first six tracks rehearsal / demo titled "Nightmares" on 1/24/87, I’m not entirely certain but I think you had rejoined the band in between right ? How did the transition between this Jimmi guy and you Pete happen?
"Again, get this Jimmy Shimmi out of your mind once and for all, ’cause there was never any Jimmy. I’m not gonna answer that one again. No Jimmi ever existed in our lives. You probably heard wrong my friend."
What sort of equipment did you use to capture those rehearsals / demos but also I guess the split demo from December 1987 was done this way, as the result was really incredible for the time?
"Well, I will say they all had good amps and speakers, and great guitars too! The drums were a little old but in good shape and it was a small set, but we managed to get a few microphones, one for the one kick drum, one for the snare of course, and one or two for above my kit in order to catch my whole huge 5 piece drum set I had, hahaha… we had a 4 or 8track recorder and a small mixer and that’s what we used to record it with in this jammed out home garage.But we didn’t really care at that time! We were having a great time! 🙂 That’s why I will say that when you put your soul into what you love, that’s when magic happens. And that’s why these special and classic TERRORIZER demo recordings turned up to be extreme magical."
Did you quickly understand the importance of spreading around those recordings in the underground or was it only a bit after notably with the 2nd reherarsal / demo that you knew how important it was to have stuff massively traded around to establish a name on a scene that was getting more and more saturated?
"Since Jesse was a tape trader and actually ran an underground fanzine, he met and became friends with so many other tape traders and underground bands all over the world, either by writing a band review, doing interviews, reading and sending back mail, whatever it took.He was super busy back in those days working and supporting the underground. Personally I think that it was Jesse joining NAPALM DEATH and me joining MORBID ANGEL that unearthed all those demos and made people interested in TERRORIZER, etc."
The speed and heaviness on that recording was already very prominent but one could notice also how deadly and fat the guitar sound was getting, something rarely heard before and that would expand on the next recordings… Was it something Oscar deliberately worked on with Jesse or did it come just natural because of the material you were using?
"Well, it was like that because there is no doubt that we were really into the Grindcore Heavy Metal sound. And it had to be heavy, thick, grinding and super fast of course!! I’m sure like any other guitar player, they went through and experimented with all different kinds of sounds until they found their ideal one. So it all came naturally! And it surely worked out perfectly."
On March 21st 1987 TERRORIZER played its first show at the Hoover Recration Center, the one of a small bunch in fact and you had covers from DEATH (‘Evil Dead’) and from MASTER (‘Funeral Bitch’) included and as far as I recall it was the last time you performed covers in a live situation, how did that first show go considering the kinda unusual nature of your material – for the time?
"Well, one more life experience to go thru. And yes that was the last and only time we played those cover songs. It went real good, there was a good crowd, and there were other good local bands that were playing too.But I don’t recall much since that was my first show ever, just imagine how nervous and scared I must’ve felt.I remember that I made quite a few mistakes on that show though, but it was fun afterwards. My first live learning experience."
Most of the TERRORIZER shows took place at Hoover, a place where bands like FCDN TORMENTOR, BLOODCUM also started to play at that point (when before they would play like in the Balboa Theater and stuff), also CRYPTIC SLAUGHTER and to outsiders Hoover was really the place to be when it came to talk about the L.A. scene, what can you tell us about that place and those shows?
"Yes it was fun for a long time before they closed it down due to fights and gang activities after the shows. But Hoover Park had it’s long history of pretty good shows. As you mentioned all those bands that played there not just once but a couple of times, we did it like twice as well."
Fenders Ballroom was also the big place for Hardcore / Metal, were you offered one time to eventually open for some band but it didn’t take place?
"Yeah! I actually remember that… I remember seeing flyers for that show with our name on it, but I guess we did not end up playing for some reason or another? Can’t quite remember why…"
On April 25th 1987 you released your second mixer rehearsal / demo , a 9 song affair which remains along with the next one as two the heaviest / fastest recordings ever along with the GENOCIDE / REPULSION, DEATH STRIKE demo and and a few others, the speed has increased a great deal on newer songs like ‘Strategic Warheads’ or ‘Ripped To Shreds’ but also on newer versions of ‘Death Shall Rise’ or ‘Crematorium’, does that mean you wanted to push your limits here or what?
"Yes! I have always pushed my body and mind to the limit on my drums. I played the songs very fast, faster than on previous recordings, and I also proved that on "Darker Days Ahead"’s new version of ‘Death Shall Rise’, ‘Crematorium’ and a few other songs. Those who know our music and its history are able to notice it."
At that point Oscar had another side band called MAJESTY who got started with Eric Castro and Cosmo – and it merged a few months later into NAUSEA – did you check what they did or did you show no interest in this?
"Not really, I did my thing with TERRORIZER and I would walk away. But I did know about them.Obviously they changed their name to NAUSEA after all."
How much of a hand did you have in the TERRORIZER material exactly?
"Like I said before, I brought the blast beat to TERRORIZER which changed the whole music style, I was for them the foundation where we all built the grind machine TERRORIZER! We always practiced and wrote all the songs together! I had my speed and they had their heavy, grind / sickening riffs! And that’s how we wrote all the old material for "World Downfall" and all the old songs, working together! We all contributed with something and combined all these elements thus created this legendary monster of Grind."
Not only Jesse / Oscar were extremely great songwriters but you were also very productives ones as you quickly came up with more stuff and on August 22nd 1987 you captured a new mixer rehearsal / demo featuring a bunch of newer stuff going from incredibly fast stuff like ‘Nuclear Fallout’ to immensely heavy mid paced stuff like ‘Nuclear Dismemberment’, do you recall how you were putting the songs together considering you couldn’t rehearse very often?
"Well, I can remember that we were young and very energetic, we had a dream which was playing Grindeathcore Extreme Metal, period! We loved it! It fit us. I played real fast, brutal and they came up with all these crazy, extreme heavy riffs to write lots of cool stuff with, so every time we got together to rehearse not only we played what we knew already but always worked on a several new songs at a time and that’s how we came up with lots of material around those years, and of course we were getting wilder and faster too!"
One thing that always impressed me with TERRORIZER was the incredible ability you had to come up with songs that had hooks, a driving feel if you know what I mean unlike later on when most of the extreme bands were just able to put a bunch of riffs together with no feeling or soul, there’s a great deal of melody in each of your songs, was it something very important to write the song with this in mind or was it just coming naturally?
"Well, we definitely knew what we wanted to play, and it all came out naturally!We loved doing that. Every time we got together we worked like a perfect team! My drumming with their riffs worked out exceptionally well together! The accents, quick rolls and all the hooks, worked so well and also the fact that back then all of this was still very fresh and new. It was coming from within us! Our souls, bodies and minds!"
So with this new demo, did you try to approach some labels even if it wasn’t easy at the time because there was very few Death Metal albums released yet POSSESSED first one and DEATH “Scream Bloody Gore” were like the only albums released featuring what I call pure Death metal, it wasn’t yet the ‘in’ thing that it would become two years later? What kind of response did you get with so much material to submit at this point?
"I know that the tapes spread all over the underground, but I doubt we ever tried to reach out for a label, if they did I was not aware of it. All I know is that soon after I joined MORBID ANGEL and moved to Florida."
Was it somewhat kind of discouraging with that new demo from August 87 that were getting rave reviews in fanzines all over the world yet you weren’t moving to the next step by releasing an album and even playing bigger shows in the L.A. area?
"Yes of course it was! The underground scene was yet to get bigger! There were not many good shows to play, most of them were done on back yard houses! Just imagine that… there was nowhere to play then, not many options."
Did you consider going in a studio at one point in 87 and record a studio demo by the way or was it just impossible because of limited money?
"I remember that we only did rehearsal room recordings. I guess we could not afford a studio just yet, or we must have been waiting from a label to approach us or something."
Still by December 1987 it was decided to release a split demo with NAUSEA, something very uncommon for the time, NAUSEA had 9 songs newer songs and TERRORIZER had 6 songs mostly taken in the most recent material, how do you see that last demo effort for TERRORIZER? Would you say this one is the one you’re the most pleased with when it comes to the demo material?
"I remember that particular split demo, but I’m not sure if I was totally satisfied with this one.I believe I still prefer the August 1987 TERRORIZER demo."
Was it captured in a studio this time or was it done in your rehearsal room by the way?
"Everything was done in the rehearsal room, garage something like that."
How come the song ‘Fallout’ which was originally captured on that session didn’t make it on the final split demo? Was it because you wanted to give the same length for each band?
"I don’t remember why, sorry :("
By late ’87 / early ‘88, just like the other scenes around the world, the L.A. extreme one was growing at a fast pace with new bands like DARKNESS, NOCTURNAL FEAR, BELIAL, CRIMSON DEATH etc. appearing, but just like I always stated it for the 3rd wave of Metal bands from S.F., this new wave from L.A. in my opinion simply didn’t carry the quality and power the previous bands like TORMENTOR, ARCHENEMY, TERRORIZER etc. had, what were your views on this? Surprisingly enough a band like DEMOLITION for that wave stayed around for a long while and I even believe they’ve reformed…
"I didn’t really think much about all of these other bands back then. We did what we loved, and I didn’t pay much attention to what was going on with others.But I do agree with you on the fact that some of these newer bands didn’t possess the same feeling, extremity or power as the previous bands did."
It was also by early ’88 that you announced at the time that you had finally interest coming from Earache Records, Godly Records (a label co-ran by Borivoj from Violent Noize ‘zine), and Filthcore (apparently a U.K. / L.A. label???), how come nothing came out of this announcement in the end?
"My understanding is that Digby Pearson wasn’t that interested back in ’88, it’s true Death Metal was yet to become a trendy thing! Lol… Yeap! That was exactly what happened.I remember Digby did not answer us back anymore… so I guess all that hype was for nothing!"
Also you guys were huge NAPALM DEATH worshippers at the time, but I recall drummer Mick Harris was also a big fan, not forgetting Shane Embury and both guys were covering TERRORIZER material during UNSEEN TERROR rehearsals from ’88, were you aware of this?
"No, not really. I wasn’t aware of that. Yeah, we were very heavy into NAPALM DEATH!Especially the early stuff with Mick Harris! Hell yeah! It was a whirlwind of a heavy dose of Grindnoise!"
Back in ’88, ex – DECOMPOSED bassist, Oscar Perales, had resurfaced in SEIZURE, another local L.A. act and you joined SEIZURE to help ‘em out as they had drummer problems so you were playing in two bands, do you recall this?
"Yes I do! I was in TERRORIZER first, then like after a year I also joined Oscar Perales band SEIZURE, but I never left TERRORIZER either. I was pretty much with both, but TERRORIZER was kind of inactive at the time and not doing much, so I had plenty of time to jam with SEIZURE as well."
During the first half of ‘88 you continued writing new stuff but this time the approach was changing (as the vocals had already kind of did with the late ’87 demo) as there was a more Punkish / Hardcore approach given to new songs like ‘Need To Live’, ‘Enslaved By Propaganda’, ‘Injustice’ etc. Was it a mutual agreement for going more into that direction than keeping the original total deathly sound – ‘And We Suffer’ (later re-titled ‘World Downfall’) being an exception?
"No matter what the vocals were doing, the drumming and the riffs were totally extreme, crushing, heavy, fast and memorable! But lyricaly I can’t tell you much, Oscar was the one who handled the lyrics, and I never felt bad about anything either! We were just having fun and learning. But I do agree with you on the fact that his lyrics were moving towards the punkish / Hardcore style, as you mentioned it."
Did you kinda more attract Punks at your shows than Metallers in fact?
"I believe there were both."
Not sure at all but didn’t you split with TERRORIZER a bit before you left MORBID ANGEL around June / July 1988 because if I’m correct TERRORIZER did a show at the Normandie Recreation Center in June 88 and I believe it was Eric Castro on drums, please clear up things here… maybe I’m all wrong…
"You might be thinking of NAUSEA, maybe they played some TERRORIZER songs too, I don’t really know."
You also had a second vocalist at that show, doing the high screams – and things were looking more and more like ENT, does that mean you had recruited a second vocalist at that point? Who was that guy?
"It could’ve been Garvey but I’m not too sure."
So in mid ’88 comes the offer to join MORBID ANGEL as I recall myself staying with the MORBID guys back in the summer ’87 and they were huge fans of TERRORIZER so it was no surprise when I heard about this move, but how did the other TERRORIZER guys react exactly about this because they were still expecting to move with TERRORIZER at this point even if things were going on a slow pace due to a lack of real rehearsal space etc.? Did they understand your choice easily?
"Yes of course! We all knew that nothing was going on with TERRORIZER at that time, and it was actually Jesse who gave Trey my phone number for him to contact me about me joining MORBID ANGEL."
From what Jesse told me at the time, TERRORIZER still tried to continue and maybe it’s at this point that Eric Castro joined on drums to replace you… correct?
"We all knew each other very well and also shared Eric’s father house garage for practice.NAUSEA practiced there too (Oscar and Eric’s band) and maybe they had the idea for trying to learn the TERRORIZER songs with him, I have no recollection of that ever happening. All I remember is that Jesse and I kept in touch for a possible continuation of the band."
Did you remain in touch quite closely with Jesse, Oscar, Garvey after your move?
"I kept in touch with Jesse only. I never heard back from either Oscar or Garvey. I guess they were angry or not very happy with what was going on with me."
So what exactly made you reform TERRORIZER for an album back in the spring of 1989? Was it because all of a sudden an offer from Digby was coming out of the blue now he had signed MORBID ANGEL when a year before he hadn’t signed TERRORIZER? Who received the offer in the first place, Jesse maybe?
"I believe that my involvement with MORBID ANGEL and the fact that we had just recorded the MORBID ANGEL LP, made Dig interested in my other band, I think he knew right then that there was a good chance for TERRORIZER to be successful too.So he gave it a shot, it turned out to be a legendary album."
Was it quite easy to ‘reform’ the band as I think Oscar wasn’t doing anything – NAUSEA were on hold as stated before I think – Jesse wasn’t doing anything at this point, and Garvey was apparently in jail – possibly since 1988 as I don’t think he played the Normandie show…
"Yes of course it was easy! Jesse and Oscar flew from L.A., California to Tampa, Florida, we rehearsed in Tampa for about 2 weeks to get ready and then we just went into the studio and did it."
Did David offer his services straight away to handle bass duties?
"I guess yeah, he saw an opportunity there to play bass for a band that he already loved, and since we didn’t have a bass player, it was obvious to ask David if he wanted to handle the duties for the bass, to which he accepted."
So you did a couple of rehearsals to prepare the recording during April 1989 and surprisingly enough you did not just choose TERRORIZER songs but a couple of NAUSEA ones like ‘Condemned System’ or ‘Whirwind Struggle’ for example were added, how come considering you had a bunch of TERRORIZER songs like ‘Nuclear Dismemberment’, ‘Fallout’, ‘Barely Alive’ that didn’t make it? How come? Not to forget older tunes like ‘Mayhem’, ‘Reanimator’ as well…
"All those songs were written by TERRORIZER for TERRORIZER and we got together a couple of weeks before we went in the studio to rehearse the songs. One on the reasons why we didn’t record some of the other songs was because we wanted to put out another album whenever the opportunity raised. Unfortunately as some of you may know the following record wasn’t released until in 2006 "Darker Days Ahead" in which we released some of the other classics."
How was it like recording this first ever album for you, considering Oscar and Jesse had no studio experience at that point? I understand it wasn’t easy for Oscar…
"All I can say is that I was pretty much ready except that I got ill on the day of the recording, so unbelievably I had to play and record all the songs in one day, and I did,but I believe that I could’ve done much better on several songs… but, oh well, it’s what came out after what mattered. Oscar did have some problems recording, I believe that David was coaching him, and that he was very nervous and uncomfortable, I guess…"
How come Oscar didn’t do any guitars on this which is kinda strange as TERRORIZER were based on that fat guitar wall in the first place? I’ve always been surprised by this as I expected Oscar to play a bigger ‘role’ in that recording… At times I was honestly wondering if he (Oscar) was happy doing this and he simply was just not reluctant with the whole extreme Metal scene at that point…
"I don’t really know what to tell you, other than I recorded my drums right, so I did my part. As I mentioned before I was sick, so I wasn’t at the studio when Jesse recorded guitars.But again, "World Downfall" was more of a Jesse and me thing (again, it was my involvement with MORBID ANGEL that attracted the label interest), so all we needed from Oscar was to sing, and as you may know in the studio you can fatten up guitars (one guitarist) as much as you want."
How was it like working with Scott Burns who was starting to really make a name for himself at that point? Would you say it really gave to TERRORIZER the sound you deserved or is there some aspects you would have wished to be different?
"The only thing I wish was different in that album is the bad timing and tempo changes in some of the songs.But I believe Scott Burns did a phenomenal job!"
How come no TERRORIZER show in the Florida area had been organized at the time? Was it envisaged at one point or was it simply never mentioned?
"I’m not really sure, sorry :("
The album was released in September 1989 and took the extreme music scene by storm because all the right elements were reunited to make of it a winner, a classic album, did you check the type of response it was getting at this point or were you simply just too busy with MORBID ANGEL?
"Well, I was very busy with MORBID ANGEL during that time, remember that "Altars Of Madness" also took the extreme Death Metal scene by storm!So at first we were very busy doing so many tours all over the world. But it was impossible for me not to hear people comment good about it, or to see all kinds of great and positive reviews and articles about "World Downfall" becoming a favorite Grind album for the Grind / Death fans."
So after the recording of the TERRORIZER album in April / May ’89 Oscar and Jesse were back in L.A and by the summer of 89 Jesse got contacted by Shane and Mick to join NAPALM DEATH, how did you feel about this for Jesse as I know you were staying in touch with each other?
"Oh, I thought it was fantastic for Jesse to join NAPALM DEATH since I knew the fact that TERRORIZER wasn’t really doing much back in those days, and him knowing that I was gone to MORBID ANGEL made it easier for him to move forward."
Surprisingly you somewhat shared the stage with Oscar once again on November 30th 1990 when MORBID ANGEL and NAUSEA played at the Country Club in Reseda. Was it considered for Oscar to possibly go on stage with MORBID and jam ‘Dead Shall Rise’ as MORBID had incorporated that song in their set that same year?
"No, not really, it was never considered or even mentioned, but again we didn’t really keep in touch with him or him with us after the recording of "World Downfall". I think his band might’ve played that show but left early (since they were one of the earlier opening bands) to be honest I didn’t even see him at the show."
How about Danny Herrera, who was recruited in the spring of 1991 to replace Mick Harris in NAPALM DEATH, I guess this guy was a close person of your circle of friends?
"Hell yeah! He is another lucky one to have left the L.A. scene and joined a much bigger band afterwards. Yeah, I know Danny since the old TERRORIZER days, we are still very good friends and keep in touch from time to time."
I recall Jesse and you Pete jammed together old TERRORIZER stuff back in ’94 as you played me some rehearsal session you had recorded when I visited him in Florida with Ken Karnig… Do you recall if there was plans back in ’94 to possibly do a new TERRORIZER album?
"Yes I remember that very well, he came up to stay with us in Tampa for a few weeks, then one day we decided to jam together, and by doing so we made a rehearsal tape from those practices. And we were hoping to record another album back in ’94, which never happened since we were both very busy with our bands MORBID ANGEL and NAPALM DEATH."
To be continued…
Interview: Laurent Ramadier