First and foremost, how was the band formed? I mean, Flo is originally from France before moving to Chicago and then to Canada. You and Randy are Canadian and John is originally from New Jersey and he is now living in Pennsylvania. Who had the idea of forming the band and putting this excellent bunch of musicians together?
“After I ended SOULSTORM in 2016, I jumped right into writing Death Metal. By the end of the year I had about fifteen songs. At that point, I really wanted to record the songs with competent musicians. So, I approached a good friend of mine who was helping me with PR at the time and he suggested Flo and John in the very first conversation. At that time, he was working with INCANTATION on shows, and was working PR on the first and second CRYPTOPSY EPs. He reached out to both, and they were immediately interested. We then started talking about solos, and he brought up Randy, who he had worked with many times in the past within various projects. I then went to see Randy to just go over some parts. When I first heard his rhythm playing, I knew immediately he needed to be a part of this band. The fact that everyone lives in different areas didn’t really seem to present any issues. Randy and I would head up to Montreal to record at the CRYPTOPSY studio, The Grid, where Flo lives. John sent us his parts from his studio where INCANTATION records their albums. It came together pretty easily. Everyone was on the same page and excited about it. I knew at that point that we were on the right track.”
Was TRIBE OF PAZUZU a band you had conceived since your OVERTHROW / SOULSTORM days or was this something that hit you somewhere along the way?
“When OVERTHROW ended in ’91, it would have made sense for me to start a Death Metal band. But, after leaving the situation with PESTILENCE, I was kinda interested in doing my own thing. I was digging a few different styles of music at the time which really influenced me and changed my direction. So, I started to mix a few different styles together and we created this hybrid beast known as SOULSTORM. I did that on and off for the next twenty-five years without really caring about anything else. Then, I really started thinking about my Metal legacy. I felt like I didn’t leave enough of a legacy behind to contribute to the landscape of the Canadian Death Metal scene, which kinda bummed me out. At some point in ’16, I decided to end SOULSTORM for good. I then started writing more straight up Death Metal, mixed with some of that Death Thrash style I used to write in OVERTHROW. I also started adding Black Metal / blackened type influences. The goal was to be relentless. Honestly, even I didn’t know how relentless it was going to be until we got Flo. Once he was in, all bets were off! I think having access to an incredible drummer like Flo pushed the envelope a bit in my writing. There was some comfort there knowing I had that kind of talent behind me to execute the songs I was writing. It became clear the type of legacy I wanted to leave behind.”
Did you consider TRIBE OF PAZUZU more as a solo project of yours or was it formed as a regular band?
“That’s a bit of a tricky question because it is me that is writing all the music and lyrics. I handle all the other stuff, as it relates to album titles, lyrics, artwork, etc. From the start, TRIBE has always been my vision. So, in that sense, yes, it is close to my heart and TRIBE. That said, I can’t do this without the immense talents of all the people / musicians involved. In that sense, it is definitely a band and not a project. John and Flo have their main bands that are constantly busy, and also have their own styles which most people are familiar with. John offered to help with writing and give any input he had to offer, but he got a little busy that summer with a couple tours. In the end, he just played the music I wrote. He did add a few guitar parts, such as some harmonies. The whole thing has been an amazing experience.”
Who came up with the band name and what is its meaning? Did you have any other possible names? What made you choose TRIBE OF PAZUZU?
“I came up with the name of the band. I’ve been a big fan of Pazuzu since I saw him in the Exorcist movies when I was young. I always wanted to do something with this idea but it was never the right time. So, with a new band, I had an avenue to explore that side more, the occult side. Also, the entity known as Pazuzu, in itself, is an unknown known. Many people have heard the name but don’t know much else. The name is a signal to those who understand and read about the occult. Just like the music, it’s not for the faint of heart. The logo was made in a specific style and those into Death Metal and Black Metal will understand. I liken it to how graffiti culture works; how those in the know can read the logos and understand the style and ideals behind it.”
Who comes up with the music and the lyrics? Is it a group effort that starts from zero or do you work on certain rough ideas and then build up from there? How hard has it been working with musicians that are constantly working with multiple bands? Especially when all of you live far from each other?
“From the beginning, I felt I needed something to prove. A return to my roots. So, based on that, I decided that I would write everything. I have no problem writing with other people. In the past, I made an effort to work with people I could collaborate with. In the end, it was up to them if they could handle it. With that in mind, there are reasons I am where I am at this point. I had a specific vision for TRIBE. In order to shape and mold that vision, it was important that I be in control of the creative aspects.”
Both of your EPs, “Heretical Uprising” and “King Of All Demons”, were released one year apart. How were they received in the underground? Did you have all the material ready for both of them or did you come up with new songs for “King…”?
“So, back in 2017 when I began writing, I had about fifteen songs in various states of completion. As a result, when we put TRIBE together, the first EP came together quite quickly. It was received extremely well in the underground. People were very excited to hear it and support us. We got many killer reviews. We were very happy with how the underground embraced us. As soon as we came out of the studio for the first EP, I immediately started writing. I remember writing the title track ‘King Of All Demons’ right after the first single, ‘Heretical Uprising’, dropped. Everyone fell in love with it right. I knew right then we were onto something. The reception for “King Of All Demons” was even better than expected. In fact, we ended up on quite a few ‘Best Of 2020’ year-end lists. We were very excited and appreciative that people were recognizing our hard work bringing them relentless Death Metal.”
The first release of “Heretical Uprising” was totally independent, then came Vic Records and took care of that re-release and your second EP. Did the label approach you first or did you contact them? Do you think they have been doing their job when it comes down to all around promotion and getting the band known?
“Yes, this was the case. We went ahead with our plans to record regardless of any label support and we were pretty quiet about it until the day of release. I was already working with Vic Records for the OVERTHROW CD reissue but at the time it didn’t cross our minds to ask Vic Records about TRIBE because he mainly releases older classics from the underground. So, we were pleasantly surprised when he approached us with the offer to release the first TRIBE EP on CD. When we went in to record the second EP it was still kept quiet. That’s how I prefer to work; too many bands announce for a year out from heading into the studio and then you never hear from them again, or a year later they just post a pic of their dinner. It’s easy to post statements of things you intend to do, but it means nothing without following though. Anyway, after finishing up recording of “King Of All Demons”, we offered it up to Vic Records for release. Roel (owner of Vic Records) was more than happy to release it based on the sales and interest of the first EP. We had done some of our own promo through Black Element Productions and Vic Records have their way of marketing. It’s been a great experience so far in through these beginning stages of TRIBE.”
How do you compare both, “Heretical Uprising’ to “King Of All Demons”? And in retrospect do you like one more than the other?
“Musically and lyrically I love them both. I have no preference in that aspect. We intentionally kept most things the same on the two EPs, such as the line-up, cover artist (Bahrull Marta), studio (The Grid), right down to the label (Vic Records). I wanted to keep a consistency in the level of product we were releasing, not half ass it as some may do. I believe that consistency of quality and writing is very important. Of course, I do understand musician’s need to progress and satisfy themselves with their output but sometimes this thought doesn’t consider the fan and is generally shrugged off. I believe this type of thought is detrimental to a career. I’m not suggesting that some changes or progression do not work, but to change just for the sake of it is ridiculous. In the end, the fans are the ones that pay the price, wasting their time and money on something that really has no focus. If a fan buys your album because you sound a certain way, they want you to keep sounding that way. That’s not unreasonable. So, in that sense, I aim to keep TRIBE OF PAZUZU focused and true to the sound we have created, and just keep releasing killer Death Metal for our fans.”
Do you see a full length in the future or are you happy releasing your material in EP format?
“Absolutely! There is a full length in the making. When we were putting TRIBE together, I figured it would be quicker to do an EP to test the waters out. It’s a fun format and many of my favorite recordings are EPs. My thinking was just to get out into the Death Metal world and start the band instead of being quiet for two years writing a full-length album when nobody even has a clue who we are. The idea was to just get out there and, with the momentum and interest from the first EP, we could ride that almost immediately into another release. It paid off. The one draw-back with the EP format was ‘year end / best of’ lists mainly focused on full-length albums. As a result, we didn’t make many lists with the first EP. We were actually pleasantly surprised when the second EP made over twenty ‘year-end lists’ in 2020. That was the icing on the cake for us after so many killer reviews. After the release of “King Of All Demons”, we talked about it and agreed that now is the time to do a full-length. So, that’s where we are right now. We have about ten or eleven songs at the time of this writing. I am thinking about eight songs for the album. We also have plans for two split 7”es in the future, one with ZEALOT CULT and the other with ABYSS OF PERDITION. So, we’ll save some exclusive songs for that. Both are killer bands and awesome guys.”
Have you had any line-up changes so far? Did you have any other musicians in mind when you started the band? How good do you guys get along when demoing new material?
“We have not had any line-up changes and there are no plans to get other people. Everyone is into the TRIBE, and everyone has expressed interest in recording again, as well as some possible gigging / touring. It’s awesome to be working with these dedicated professionals. It has honestly changed my life working with people who care about the output of the craft and are ready to commit to it. I’ve had too many experiences with past projects where excuses run rampant from various members as to why they couldn’t get it together. At some point, you realize the problem comes down to the quality of people. There are no issues if everyone is striving for the same goal. Phrases like ‘benefit of the doubt’ are detrimental to productiveness, especially at the sake of sparing one’s feelings. At the end of the day, it was my name on these projects, not theirs. I alone paid the price as a result of these half-assed attempts.”
How important is the internet in general for TRIBE OF PAZUZU and more specifically, for you? Would you say it has helped bands in general, despise the saturation of markets nowadays? Do you miss the 80s / 90s logistics and scene? (yeah, I am an old fart haha)
“To be honest I’m not so nostalgic as to constantly look backwards or live in the past. I believe that to be truly counter productive. There is no point in dwelling on the old days. Of course, those days still exist in our memories. Every forward-movement will eventually become memories. Personally, there is so much benefit from the internet, if you remain focused on what it is you want to achieve. Every aspect of TRIBE was aided by the internet. From those first chats with Black Element, communicating with all the members, finding the studio, finding the artist, finding all the different outlets who have helped us make all the incredible merch we have on offer. Everything. This also includes our relationship with Vic Records. The way it came about was helped by social media / internet. To me, personally, this just seems like a more hyper-connected version of the tape-trading days, but with instant access and a huge network of information at your fingers. In fact, it’s never been so easy connecting with like-minded people, and sharing new and old music with people at the snap of a finger.”
Who comes up with the lyrics and what meaning do they have to you and the other guys in the band? Do you think there has to be coherence between the music, the band concept and the lyrics? Do you see music as a “universal language” or is it a specific output for certain moods and feelings, especially in the Metal genre?
“I write all the lyrics. I believe it is important to have some level of consistency and coherence. The lyrics say a lot about how you want people to understand your ideas and how you want people to see the band. I spend a lot of time on the lyrics to visualize our concepts. It’s mostly anti-religion, occult, war, disease… all the fun stuff you want from your Metal. The music is deadly serious, so I want the lyrics to reflect that as well. The way a band portrays itself to the public is through image, which is essentially the lyrics, cover art, album title, music. Ensuring this is consistent and controlled will only serve to make your art stand out while effectively telling your story. Every choice you make in those areas impacts the type of fans you will attract. So, it’s very calculated. Yes, I do believe music is a universal language. I listen to lots of music, some of it is not even in English. Of course, there are different styles for different moods, and this is the beautiful thing about music. We are not limited in our choices. We can only limit ourselves in what we choose to expose ourselves to.”
Which musicians and bands influence you and your band’s music? Have these influences changed over time? Do you listen to any of the newer bands or newer styles of Metal or music in general?
“I have many influences for myself – as a bass player, as a singer, as a lyricist and even as a guitarist. Of course, I listen to bands from every era. I’m a huge fan of discovering new music. Anyone that follows my social accounts, specifically on Twitter or Facebook, can see that I love to support and expose bands. New bands are the lifeblood and keep things fresh and interesting. My earliest influences are PINK FLOYD, RUSH, KISS and AC/DC. From there, my tastes got a bit heavier, discovering IRON MAIDEN and JUDAS PRIEST. Many of these bands were important to me as a fledgling bass player, as many of these guys wrote a lot of the music and lyrics and were also singers. Obviously, Steve Harris wasn’t a singer, but his playing, songwriting and lyrics were the beginning of me picking up a bass and the start of my journey into songwriting. As time passed, I discovered EXCITER, CELTIC FROST and POSSESSED, and the beginnings of Thrash. Albums like DESTRUCTION’s “Eternal Devastation”, DARK ANGEL’s “Darkness Descends”, KREATOR’s “Pleasure To Kill”, all helped shape my Death / Thrash writing style when I was in OVERTHROW. Then, at the end of the ’80s, albums such as MORBID ANGEL’s “Altars Of Madness”, OBITUARY’s “Slowly We Rot” really cemented my love for Death Metal. This was the beginning of me writing in a Death Metal style. More recently, within the last couple of decades, bands such as BEHEMOTH and BELPHEGOR have taken extreme Metal into some very cool realms, yet retain that heaviness of Death Metal that I enjoy.”
How serious do you take your band? And as a band (and despite the current pandemic), do you have touring plans?
“Deadly serious. I put a lot of effort into the whole package so that it comes out exactly how I want to represent my contributions to Death Metal. Obviously, at this strange juncture in history we have been forced to do nothing and say nothing. The virus, while real, has definitely impacted many lives in many ways. It has changed the course of society as we know it. Not only does it impact bands, but it also impacts the fans who use live music as an escape from the monotony of everyday life, socializing and being part of something bigger. The live atmosphere is very important to people and is represented as a synergy between fans and a band. That feeling you get when you witness a high energy show with a participating audience is a mind-blowing and an unequaled experience, in my opinion. Think of the feeling that washes over you when you leave the venue with a huge grin on your face and a full feeling in your heart and soul. This is what we live for, these beautiful moments. We had plans to play live but the lockdown hit about a week after our second EP was released. We were prepared to go out in full force. Hopefully things can get back to normal. I see the US has begun to relax with the restrictions now and many states have begun enjoying shows again. I hope this is the case all over the world, so that we can all get back to doing what we love.”
Can you give us a quick mention of future plans for TRIBE OF PAZUZU?
“We’ll continue working on the full-length album, which will hopefully be recorded by the end of this year. We have been working with Brazil’s Eat My Records to release the first two EPs on one 12” vinyl. If all goes as planned, this will be at some point in the next few months. As I mentioned before, we have a couple of split releases planned with our friends in ABYSS OF PERDITION and ZEALOT CULT. These likely won’t see the light of day until next year, as we will be recording all tracks in the same session as the full-length album.”
Well, I think that is it from me. Thank you in advance and this space is yours to use it as you please.
“I do want to clarify something I mentioned earlier, when discussing ‘focus is the key, not diversity’. What I mean by this is that many bands try to be too different and miss the mark. Words like ‘unique’, ‘diverse’, ‘experimental’ are not words I’m looking for when discovering new Death Metal bands. As an example, in the early ’90s there was a huge ground-swell of Death Metal and some people thought it was too saturated or that it all sounded the same. In reality, it was actually a good thing, and a sign that Death Metal was on the right track as more and more people fell in love with it. At some point in the late ’90s, it almost felt like there was a forced change, with labels looking down on the Death Metal explosion and actively moving away from signing straight up Death Metal bands. I remember in the late ’90s the magazines also tried to change the label of Metal to ‘hard music’, like they were ashamed of their roots. So, it’s no wonder that it was forced underground again. Here we are thirty years later with a similar type of resurgence. This proves that no matter how hard they try, they can’t kill Death Metal. It will only continue to get stronger, as long as bands continue to reject mainstream attitudes and views. Thank you so much for the opportunity to speak my mind about TRIBE OF PAZUZU and my thoughts on music. Stay Metal!”