If you got to read the review that Stefan recently did on the new VITAL REMAINS album "Dechristianize" you will – in a way – already be aware of what to expect and how great this record has actually turned out (and that is not only because it features DEICIDE’s Glen Benton on vocals)! It is probably THE album that the band needed to come up with for many years, in order to finally join the first league of brutal Death Metal. The following interview with VITAL REMAINS’ creative mastermind Tony Lazaro originally appeared in the latest issue of the great Necromaniac Magazine, but as that is probably sold out pretty soon anyway and furthermore written in German, we figured it might be a good idea to present you the interview in its original form here (thanx Thomas!)…

Well first of all I want to know how did you come in contact with Glen Benton? Was it on your tour together with Deicide? He did the vocals for your new album, was it easy to convince him to do the job?
"It was on that tour that I asked him if he would do backing vocals, not all the vocals! When things didn’t work out with the singer we had Glen offered to do all the vocals on the new album. As soon as he heard the pre-production cd we had he said he liked it alot and at that point agreed to do it. The rest is history!"

Who had the idea to ask him?
"I did actually. I had the idea for Glen to sing on our second album "Into Cold Darkness". We even called him back in 94 but he was not able to do it so, it’s always been my idea to have one of my favorite singers sing on our album. And it finally happened, thank Satan!"

Was it easy to work with him?
"It was very easy to work with Glen. He is a total pro in the studio. He came in very prepared. It was amazing to see and hear him singing to our music. Pure Evil! The days he was there were the best days.The rest of the time was total stress for me and Dave. But we made thru the Blood War! ALIVE!!"

Who wrote the lyrics?
"Dave wrote all the lyrics and I wrote all the music."

I think it’s just a one-time thing for Glen? What said his band comrades about his unfaithful work (haha)?
"Well you can think what you want. I know they were not happy but I would like to think they understand that Glen was only trying to help us out. We did not force him to do it! And Eric and Bryan both wanted to help me out in the begining on this record. Until Glen did the record. They had both offered to play leads and produce it. I hope one day they understand it was all with good intentions."

Did you plan a tour with him? I think it’s not easy to rehearse for a tour?
"Glen has stated if the demand is there he would tour with us for this album. As for rehearsing, Glen knows the music and lyrics well. So it’s all up to the underground if they want to see it happen."

Your new album should be released very soon in USA on Olympic Records and Century Media will release "Dechristianize" in Europe. What is the main reason for the long delay?
"Because Century Media bought out Olympic. We will be under the Century Media family world wide. There was alot of bullshit and contracts that had to be taken care of before the deal was done. And that is why is why it’s taken so long. But I assure all the fans it will be worth the wait!"

You recorded it in legendary Morrisound Studio in Tampa. What can you tell me about your time in the studio? How long did you record it?
"I have to say it was not a good time in Morrissound. I would not advise anyone to work there. We were treated very unfairly and alot of mistakes were made by the assistant engineer (aka "The Button Pusher as he put it"). So we had to remix the album again up here in Providence at Studio 7 where it was done finally the right way!"

What can I expect from the new album? Hope a typical cold Vital Remains album with long songs! Please try to describe Glen vocals, are they in the typical Benton style?
"You can expect faster songs with alot of killer harmonies. Some shreding leads and Glen’s vocals are fucking evil! He sang our lyrics though his vocal patterns are very different. I think alot of people are going to be surprised. Think of the first two Deicide albums but in a Vital Remains way and you have the new album. Pure Cult!"

I am sure multitalent David played the most stuff on the new album? Drums and guitar?
"Yes, Dave played drums and played all the solos along with the bass. He did a great job! I played four rhythm guitar tracks and wrote all the music."

By the way I heard you met him first on your US tour (with Autopsy!!) in Las Vegas?
"Yes I met Dave on the Autopsy tour in 93. And then some time later I got to hear his demo that was produced by Mitch Harris of Napalm Death. And I was like, let’s get that guy out here for a tryout, hahaha. He came out and knew all the old songs perfectly."

Over one year ago I already saw the coverartwork for "Dechristianize" which was done by the Czech artist called Deather. How did you come in contact with him? About his mag called "In Deed Hell"?
"Yeah he’s an amazing artist and I was told about him thru Zion from a band called Disinter. His mag looks killer, I only wish I knew what it said, hahaha."

Let’s talk about some old band members please! What was the reason that Joseph Lewis left Vital Remains?
"I had to let Joe go because… let’s just say he had some problems and we were sick of carrying him. So it was time for him to leave. From what I have heard he’s doing alot better and I’m happy for him on that note."

On the "Dawn Of The Apocalypse" album you had for a very short time a member called Thorn. What was the reason for his short guest play?
"Thorn’s real name is TJ and he was not into the music for the same reasons as myself and Dave. We had musical differences. He also didn’t want to work for a common goal. And so we moved on without him."

Was he same guy who played the bass guitar on your European tour with Malevolent Creation and Infernal Majesty? I think not but I am not sure…
"No, Joe sang and played bass on that tour, hahaha. Thorns never toured with us. He only did a couple of shows."

A real important member was your first vocalist Jeff Gruslin. He did most of the correspondence at that time for Vital Remains. Do you know what happened to him? What was his reason to leave the band (I know it’s all long time gone now, haha)?
"Yeah, Jeff did alot in the begining for the band. But he just got sick of all the bullshit in this buisness. He’s doing good! He went to school and now he is a plumber. He still listen’s to Metal and will till he dies."

After Jeff left the band Joseph did the vocals (before he only played bass)… Was it easy for him to handle both first? I mean he was also a good vocalist, but first he only played bass…
"I think it was very hard for Joe to play bass and sing, so after we toured Europe it was decided that we find a singer and he would just play bass."

In the early days of your band you all used corpsepaint and spikes, later only Jeff used corpse paint. Why didn’t you use corpsepaint any longer? Were you pissed off in the middle of the nineties about the big Black Metal trend where all pussy bands looked like fucking panda bears?
"Well, Jeff thought it was getting a bit stupid and that he didn’t want us being thrown in with all the rest of the bands back then. And he really wanted the music to be heard but people back then would not even take a second to hear the music before yelling out stupid shit like "King Diamond" and "Kiss". So when I look back now it was funny, but stupid, HAHAHA… Anyway I still miss the corpsepaint myself. We actually put the corpse paint back on at one show in FL with Deicide on Halloween 2000 and we did it because it was Devil’s Night and some people still didn’t get it. Some Jackoff actually screamed out "you would be better if you didn’t wear corpsepaint!" Hahaha, what a dumb fuck!"

You released two great albums on Osmose Productions and I think they are a good label and they got the possibility to do a lot for their bands (if they want)… What was the reason for the split with them? Did you make a contract about two albums and they didn’t wanna continue the cooperation or was it your choice?
"Actually Herve wanted to sign us for three more records. But the way he did was very unfair to us and I told him I didn’t want to do business with him like that. No one black males me! And because we didn’t sign, he held all of our royalties and lies and says we owe him. After all the money he made off of our fans. That is why what comes around goes around. And now he lost alot of the bands that were making him money, I wonder why?? Everyone I know doesn’t support Osmose at all! Herve made his bed now he must lay in it!"

By the way, I think the song ‘ I Am God’ is a Death Metal hymn like ‘Immortal Rites’ from Morbid Angel or like ‘Corpsegrinder’ from Massacre. A real killer song! I think I am not the only one who has this opinion!?
"Thanks alot, I like that song too! The soloing in that song is awsome."

Your demo "Excruciating Pain" (from 1989) was re-released a few years ago by Wild Rags Records. Did you ever get any money from Richard Campos?
"Actually it was the 1990 demo. The deal we did was fair with Richard. We got a bunch of CDs for ourselves and we sold them all out and made a little money. I did hear how he ripped alot of bands off but never us."

"Redused To Ashes", your first demo was re-released in 1999 through Cryonics Records. Unfortunately I never had the chance to buy it. What can you tell me about the re-release? Good sound? Nice booklet? Any special songs on it?
"1989, hahaha. Very raw sounding but you get to hear where it all started. It’s a classic and it shows how far we have traveled to get to this level of playing.The booklet is ok, some old pics with corpsepaint. My favorite is everything but ‘More Brains’. I didn’t play on that track in the studio because it wasn’t my song and I hated it! Sounded punk or something. I wrote all the other songs and played on them."

Your first album "Let Us Pray" (a fucking classic!!) was released in 1992 through Deaf Records / Peaceville, also your second full length "Into Cold Darkness" and the split Ep with Morta Skuld. How did you come in contact with that label?
"Well, we had recorded our 7 inch "The Black Mass" with Thrash Records from France. And they sold like 2500 copies in two weeks so that gained the interest of Deaf / Peaceville and they signed us right away."

Tony, what are you doing apart from Vital Remains? What is your serious job? Are you repairing cars together with Glen or do you work in an office? Let me know please! And what is David doing?
"Hahaha, no I don’t do repairs with Glen. I was welding trucks but now I am repairing apartments so they can rent them out to crazy people. Dave is working for a printing company. But this is until we have to tour then we say "Fuck You!" to our bosses and we leave, hahaha!"

When you look back oo the tour in 1995 (?) with Malevolent Creation, Vader, Infernal Majesty here in Europe, what was most impressive for you? The Metalheads, the "old" culture, the old buildings?
"You mean 1997, hahaha. It was just a great sence of acomplishment. I mean I always dreamed one day I would like to tour Europe and here we were 15 years later. It was worth it all to me. Meeting all our fans and meeting cool people in the underground.Traveling to all different cities and seeing things we never saw before was awesome!"

How important is religion for you? I mean if you acknowledge the existence of Satan, you have automatically acknowledge Christianity. Is the whole "religious" concept behind Vital Remains more than an image?
"Yes it is. For me there would be no one without the other but: I believe in Satan in a metaphorical, not in a physical way. And I also see what Christianity has done to alot of cultures. Pure holy genocide in the name of this so called God. For me its been a personal battle. One that won’t stop until it is removed and we can all live the way we want without religious persecution. I have dreamed of a world without god and it looked alot better than this world."

Can we expect you on tour together with Glen this or next year in Europe?
"That’s up to the underground,if the demand is there Glen will be there…"

I heard Kelly Conlon (Death, Monstrosity) is playing bass for Vital Remains, but I didn’t see him on the new bandpics. What can you tell me about this?
"Kelly played with us for a little while but then he moved back to FL. Now he moved back to Mass and from what I heard is playing in a Power Metal band."

On your last tour you got Zion from Disinter on bass, right? Disinter are from Chicago and you are from Rhode Island. How did you come in contact with him?
"We asked around for a bass player and Shawn from the old band Broken Hope sent him our way. He did a great job on tour. Zion is a cool guy and we thank him for helping us out with alot."

By the way I think HP Lovecraft was born in Rhode Island. Is there something like a museum about him?
"Yes he is from Providence, RI. He is also buried here. I have often gone to his grave for inspiration, sometime’s getting locked in the cemetery, hahaha. The guard had to unlock the gates to let me out. There is a very strong presence there. There is alot of history on HP Lovecraft here."

Tony what are your Death Metal faves at the moment?
"Wow… well I would have to say Hate Eternal, Behemoth, Krisiun, Vader, Malevolent Creation, Nile… shit to many to name, hahaha."

Thanx alot for your time Tony. Hope it was not too boring! Feel free to end this interview with a nice story about your mum (hope she is doing fine, haha). Bye!!
"My Mom is dead, but thanks anyway for the interveiw! Best of luck to you Thomas and your zine. Hails to all the German fans! Look for our album on Century Media. "Dechristianize"!!! For more info check out www.VitalRemains.cjb.net. Hail Satanas!"

Interview: Thomas Westphal
Live pics: Christopher Wright

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