After Death, ex-Acheron, ex-Nocturnus, ex-Incubus, ex-Morbid Angel, etc.
Interview by Luxi Lahtinen & Arto Lehtinen
Intro by Luxi Lahtinen
MEGA-thanks to Andy Osborn for the transcription
First off, please do note everybody this IS NOT any of the recent interviews made with Mike Browning (After Death, ex-Nocturnus, ex-Morbid Angel, etc.), but an interview that was conducted with him in 2003 already, 4 long yet tormenting years ago.
So, why was this interview with him published 4 years later may some of you rightfully ask? To make a long answer to short one: Due to a number of unexpected reasons; mainly because of some unfortunate circustances what happened to the interview discs right after they were sent to the transcription for the first time – and what happened after that (the dics getting lost, etc.). It would be very easy to make scapegoats for this enormous delay of getting this huge interview of Mike Browning out, but it wouldn´t serve anyone´s interest, or purpose anyway.
However, even if some of the information is obviously badly outdated in this interview (especially for After Death), we thought to publish it here in Metal-Rules.com without shortening it a bit, but put it out in its entirety the way it was meant to be published originally, back in 2003. Mike Browning provided a lot of in-depth information for this very interview that just never gets outdated – telling many very informative things about the past times with his other bands prior to After Death. Also, since Mike put so huge amounts of effort and time into answering the interview questions, we sincerely thought the only right thing to do, was to get this interview released some day, no matter what.
Now let Mike quide all of us through the early days of Morbid Angel to Incubus to Nocturnus, etc. In fact, this is more like a story about Mike Browning, and we can quarantee you it´s absolute a great read! Now enjoy this long ride under Mike´s very expert guidance…!
Good day Mr. Browning, what is it going on in Florida at the moment and what’s up in the After Death -camp nowadays?
It’s starting to get hot here now in Florida and After Death just finished our first show and now we’re just writing songs and coming up with new stuff and new ideas for songs.
First of all Mr. Browning, there is definitely a new generation of the extreme metal freaks who have and may have heard of your name linked to your past bands, so Mike, could you tell and introduce who is Mike Browning?
I started playing music in high school. My first band was actually Morbid Angel and that was around 1982. We recorded our first album called ABOMINATIONS OF DESOLATION in 1986. Went on to do a band called Incubus, a demo was released which turned into a 7”. I did a band called Nocturnus after that. That was from about 1987 to 1992. I did two CDs with that band, THE KEY and THRESHOLDS after that. I did a band called Acheron. I put out two CDs with that band and just did some various things here and there since then. Now, I have a new project called After Death.
You have been involved in the metal for about… three or (even four if listening to metal counts, too!) decades by now, but how did you get interested in the metal stuff in the late 70’s /early 80’s when the ´Punk´ -movement used to have a more dominating grip over the scene at that time and were you ever that much thrilled about the flourishing Punk -boom and what were the first metal bands that turned young Browning’s head upside down and made you digging them? I guess such bands as Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Motorhead, etc. – overall the whole NWOBHM –thing obviously had a huge impact on you when you were a little kid who probably just had started to expand his horizon toward Heavy Rock/Metal music at that age and at that time – correct?
Yeah, I’ve been listening to music since the 1970s and the first bands I really liked a lot were Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. And then of course I got turned on to Black Sabbath. And the first metal I liked other than Sabbath was Iron Maiden. I heard the Angel Witch album and that was one of the main things that showed me what I wanted to do. That kind of music, even Angel Witch back then through some keyboards in their songs which was really cool. I would have to say that they were one of the biggest impacts on what I wanted to do with music. Their song content was what I really wanted to do. Then I saw the first Mercyful Fate EP, NUNS HAVE NO FUN and that was it. That’s where I come from in music, those are my biggest influences. But I always and still listen to Sabbath and early Maiden, especially the first two albums, and especially Killers.
Then in the mid of the 80s’ new styles of the whole metal genre started gaining more and more attention; a lot of new bands marched out from their cellars and the first US bands representing that genre unleashed their first albums like Slayer, Metallica, Exodus, Megadeth, Hirax, Dark Angel, Possessed, etc. and whereas here in Europe many new bands started to smell the very same air, started by their fellow metalheads on the other side of the ocean, that brought metal into new extremes and gave it whole new meanings like Speed Metal and Thrash Metal as the most obvious examples. Bands like Kreator, Destruction, Hellhammer/Celtic Frost, Sodom, Running Wild, Cyclone, Exumer and such names put their debut albums out and everyone basically seemed to belong to one big and happy family due to similar interest for this new form of metal. Could you say that you were somewhat astonished and thrilled about all of it when getting a hold of some certain albums from some of these bands and hearing these bands for the first time? And did you prefer the US bands to the European ones or… was it more like vice versa?
That’s a very interesting question because it really was for me, I think I was much more interested in the European bands than US bands at that time. I remember when I heard the Hellhammer demos, before Celtic Frost, my friend had the Hellhammer demos and those were just amazing to me. It was some really different and cool stuff you know? But then again, I have to say that Slayer is another one of my favorite bands but they’re from the states, same as Possessed. Those two bands were really good but I think for the most part, there was more European bands that I was always waiting to get their albums because they just seemed like it was a harder thing to get. These type of albums. That was what was really cool about it.
When and how did you start to play the drums for the first time? Was playing the drums a logical choice for you in the beginning and did you possibly try out other instruments before the drums? Can you name the most important drummers that you could say, have had at least some impact on your playing style or otherwise influenced you in one way or the other?
I started playing drums in junior high, I guess I was about 14 or 15 at the time. I did some marching band stuff where I do half-time shows marching on the field and things like that. I did a little bit of that so I could read music and all that. But that wasn’t really where I was at with playing drums. I wanted to do something different than what most people were doing. I don’t know if it was a logical choice because the drummers probably have the most work in the band, and sweat the most and for sure have more equipment to carry around, and set up and worry about than anyone else in the band. If I could have thought ahead of time I probably would have picked something different [laughs]. And I also sing so I made the job much harder for myself then most people do. The combination of those things I really like and growing up you hardly ever saw a singing drummer and I thought why not? It’s not such a bad thing. If you’re lit up right then I think it’s kinda cool to have something different. I think the most important drummer, of course it was Led Zeppelin when I first started playing drums because there really was no heavy metal, they were considered heavy metal and every magazine Zeppelin appeared in said heavy metal. I would say for drums, I liked Zeppelin. I was more in that situation in that time until I started listening to other types of music. I had to say probably that Tommy Aldridge was the biggest influence for the type of drumming that I like to do but there’s a lot of great drummers out there, it’s like where do you start? The first drummer from Mercyful Fate and Mickey Dee I loved, those two guys were just amazing. Like I said, where do you start with drums… Slayer with Dave Lombardo, has an incredible style that he does on his own and you always know when it’s him playing. There’s just to many.
Hmm… you have always been heavily involved in the occult things since the early days up ´till now and have penned down a lot of interesting yet mystical lyrical matters in several bands. How did you get, let’s say, hooked up by the other side (dark side?) with all those mystical and occult elements that people generally think of those kinds of things? What made you interested in ´that side´ so strongly in the first place and how has it been changing your life through all these years even up ´til this very day?
Actually, when it comes to the occult, I’ve been interested in the occult longer than I have music. My mom was into witchcraft when she was young and my great grandmother was actually from Hungary and I guess it’s the old world thing that’s a little bit a part of me. I would have to say that it’s just seeing my mom into things like that and thinking it’s cool. I thought I should check it out and I did and for some reason I had my mom not in any way influence me in religion so this was a great thing because I could explore what I wanted to. And I think that’s how it should be for everyone. We should be able to explore whatever we want and choose. I mean, I’ve been reading these things and practicing and working on things and involving those experiences in my lyrics. Especially now, I mean I always have but it’s just gotten stronger and stronger. Now when I write lyrics I look at them and go, damn I’ve got like three to four levels of different understanding in just one song. You can take it this way or that way; there’s just so many different levels of what I’m talking about now compared to the way I used to write songs. I look back at that and now it just seems kinda silly. That’s what I was interested in at the time and I always see a band as an open book and whatever you’re doing that day is what you write down on that page. Life and bands, sometime they should change and I think it’s a pretty cool thing that you can work with different people and make totally different kinds of music. For some people that’s not possible so in a way it’s been good that I’ve played with different people because I’ve made different music with each one. But, as far as the occult I’ve been reading books and studying and working on things for years and years and it’s like I only know a drop in the bucket. The field and variety of things that you can endlessly work on and just always have the opportunity to write songs. When I write a song it’s usually from a mystical experience that I’ve gone through and I try not to write too many stories anymore, it’s more things that I’ve experienced in one way or another.
Then a very personal question to you (for which you don’t need to answer if you don´t want to?), do you belong or have ever you belonged to some occult group? And is there any chance to hear some of your own experiences about them as I believe many of us surely are very curious to hear a thing or two from a mouth of an expert?
This is a difficult question to answer actually. I can say yes, I was involved in a magical group for a good five years and I learned quite a bit. There were good things and bad things. When you’re in a group, you’re in a group and any group is as strong as its weakest link. So the bigger the group is the more weak links you’ll have especially when you’re working with magic, it becomes very political, I’ll say it that way. People that are a higher rank than others and supposedly hold higher secrets, they let you know that they may know this higher secret than you or that they’re better than you. But, what I really learned was that most of these people in these groups are fashioning themselves after somebody completely. They’re totally wrapped up in one person’s life and it’s not a good thing. What that one person was actually telling them was to do their own thing and take the little bit that I did and just expound on it from there. I think that’s one aspect of group magic that for the most part, these organizations are just following one person which is no different from any other religion that I see and I think, personally, that’s not the way to learn things. Most things that I’ve learned were in books already and most of these people were just very book-smart. So when I looked at their lives and I looked at my life and the things I’ve done and where they lived and where I lived, and what they did for a living and what I do for a living and the things I’ve accomplished in my life and what they’ve accomplished in their life because that’s where it’s all at is the action. What can you do with what you’ve learned, not what can you take from what you’ve learned? That’s what most people get wrong about magic and I think that’s the biggest reason why it fails for most people because they are looking to see what they can get out of it instead of what they can get out of it and discover for themselves. That’s one of the biggest thing’s I’ve learned. The biggest magician secret in the world, and I’m giving you this for free, is a sucker is born every minute.
Let’s talk about your current band After Death first, shall we? The band was basically founded back in ´99 with Richard Bateman, Gino Mario and Mike Walkowski still under the Nocturnus moniker, but the name was changed quite soon to Nocturnus A.D. because the remaining guys of the band had reformed the band again and decided to keep original name. Excuse me, but this sounds a relatively weird to my ears, but why you just simply didn´t change the whole Nocturnus A.D. name to something else instead of trying to stick to it?
What happened was when I was talking to Richard and Gino about reforming the band, it would have been the actual first Nocturnus, as some people know the people who own the Nocturnus name now were not even in the first lineup of the band. At that point did not know that I couldn’t use the name that I came up with. So we were gonna call the band Nocturnus again. I came up with that name in 1987 and that name was not trademarked until I think 1992. You’re talking quite a while when the band had all these members before these three members basically took the name and trademarked it themselves. So, the first part was that I didn’t know that I couldn’t use MY name and I got a letter in the mail from Louis Panzer saying “You will be sued if I keep using me name”. Your name? I went on the website and looked and I guess it is your name now because you bought it out from under me. At first I was just mad, so I was gonna call the band Nocturnus A.D. to show people that it was still me doing this stuff that I always wanted to do with the band. That’s why I came up with a name and why it was something that I put together because I had certain ideas, lyrically, that I wanted to get across to people. Being a drummer and a singer at the same time is the only way I’m gonna get the things I want to write about across to the people is by writing it and having my own band. Since it was Nocturnus A.D. I just dropped the Nocturnus and called it After Death.
But after altering the name a little bit by adding A.D. to the end of the name, Gino Mario (was) dismissed from the rank and as far as I know was replaced by… Actually you could make an entire clear about these line-up changes ´coz I kind of am not able to keep the pace with it at all. As for Gino Mario, he has been with you since the mid of the ´80s thru Incubus and the beginning of Nocturnus, but eventually he left the band due to some personal problems. But I believe you are still you still friends each other at some level? Just correct me if I´m totally wrong…
Yes, there was a couple things going on in Gino’s situation. He lived like an hour and a half away and he didn’t have a driver’s license so he was trying to get to practice by driving illegally and he didn’t want to go back to jail and have any problems. He did have a problem with my lyrics. That was his situation, he writes great music and I do like to jam with him in that aspect but for us, I guess spiritually, there were certain things we don’t along with. It was just better for Gino and us to part ways. I don’t really have a problem with him. He can believe in whatever he wants to believe in because I’m able to believe in whatever I want to. That kind of thing, when you’re really serious about what you write, I does bother people [laughs] that’s all I’ll say! But to go on from there, we actually had Scott replace Gino because our other guitarist, Mike, really just played rhythm and we wanted a lead player in the band. Basically, we found Scott which was actually somebody I had known for a long time and had been in some bands that I knew. Actually, after Morbid Angel I jammed with these guys called Fatal Blessing but that was only about two months before I said I wante to put my own thing together so that’s how that came about. Actually we replaced Gino with Scott.
Due to the constantly changing line-up problems, to be honest with you Mike, have you ever thought of putting an end to the band’s existence and focus on other things? As a matter of fact, I was wondering whether you could be able to name some of the basic reasons for why the line-ups kept on changing that often in After Death? Could you claim that you are somewhat such a very demanding person who wants to have an absolute maximum devotion to the band and in general could you let us know a more specific way what you wanna carry out with your own musical views and standpoints?
Yeah, we have had a lot of lineup changes and a lot of changes in general. Like I said it goes back to what I was just talking about in the last question, a lot of people think it’s cool to jam together, and then they kinda go oh, you’re really into this stuff. It’s okay to talk about it but it’s weird that you’re into it. I don’t see it as being weird so people do come and go in the band. I don’t like people that are drunks or pill poppers who constantly do it. Everyone can have fun here or there but when it intrudes on every single practice and these people are constantly late, it seems like those kind of people have been mainly guitar players for us. I think it’s the fact that I like to do what I like to do and people don’t understand a lot of what I write for some reason. I don’t think they’re really reading what I’m writing, they’re just looking it over. I feel like why should I quit playing music? I really could care less if even one person out there likes it. Whatever I’m gonna do, I at least put something into it that I like. I know I’m not the best drummer in the world and I’m not gonna claim that I’m the fastest this or that. I’ve never looked at drums as a competition thing and I’ll say that every drummer that I know does look at it like that and I never played drums because I failed in sports or something like that and I was just trying to get back by beating these other drummers in some way. That’s not what I play drums for. What I do is very magical and it has always felt that way and it always will so there’s no reason for me to stop doing it. It’s a part of my magical work. It’s creating songs, I mean I’m creating something from nothing and that’s where you’re looking. There are so many bands out there now and so much music being put out that I’ll say 90% of the people that review anything that I do music-wise, they haven’t taken a look at the lyrics. I can tell you that because our demo that we just put out is two mixes of two songs. The two songs are linked together by a set of chimes and some noises and then the new lyrics start up. That’s why the song is twelve minutes because It’s actually two songs with two mixes. One has louder leads and the other had a rawer sound. Most people didn’t catch that. These are people who review the demo and I don’t see how somebody could have listened to it and did a review without noticing that there were two sets of the same two songs. To me, I think most people… The reason for that is they might have listened to the whole thing but they weren’t checking out the lyrics and didn’t even look at them. I play music because there are things I wanna tell people. There are experiences I don’t mind telling people and the music is just a cool way to create something out of nothing and every band still sounds different even if they sound pretty much the same in a certain style, each band has a little difference and each time you change a member you change the chemical mixture of that band and you are going to have different things. When somebody does something and it’s really good and people like it a lot, don’t expect it to happen the same way again because that’s the way life it. To keep comparing somebody with something they did in the past is not opening your mind to what they could do in the future. Or even right now or what they’re doing right now. People’s minds change and I think lyrically, my music hasn’t changed at all. It has progressed but I don’t think that it’s actually changed in terms of what I write about actually, I know for a fact that it hasn’t. The only difference is that the different people I have played with. For some reason I get faulted for playing with so many different people but sometimes you just have differences with people and you just don’t want to keep playing with them because it doesn’t become interesting anymore and you’re just doing it to make money, which I have never really done anyway. [laughs] I do this because I like to and when it ceases to be like that then I just do something else with somebody else. If it works, it’s cool, if not then I’ll move on. That’s the way things are in general and in bands. I don’t care how much money someone would offer me to get back together with the original members of Nocturnus, I mean I still talk to some of them but there’s a couple of them that I could care less if they die in a car wreck tomorrow.
The present After Death line-up consists of you and your better half Lisa Lombardo, Brian Hipp and then the new recruited face from Lisa’s own band named Tom Swain. When you chose him for the band, was Tom the most obvious choice to team up with the After Death when he was already a familiar dude to you and you already knew how to work with him due to his commitments with Divine Essence?
Actually, our last bass player Todd, he didn’t like keyboards in bands so he was more towards the straight Iron Maiden kind of sound. And the songwriting was something that he was doing, it was kinda complicated and cool but it really wasn’t something that fit with keyboards anyway. He always had something against there being keyboards in any band. We actually had to part ways with that situation and Tom had worked with Divine Essence, he was actually still with them. He is a great bass player and he was always on time and a very dependable person. One of the things we’ve really had a problem with is just people being dependable. ‘Cuz we support a free place to practice and we’re here all the time so we’re very dependable when it comes to playing. But other people can make you waste years of your life by just not being dependable. Tom Swain was just a choice that… I think he just had some things in his life where the band didn’t take up too much of his time, just a couple days a week, and we just didn’t ask him any earlier because we didn’t want to take up all of him time and have other people in his life get mad at him. Once we realized that it wasn’t gonna work with Todd we asked Tom if we could do it just one more day a week and see how it goes. Actually we ended up stopping doing Divine Essence for a little while just to concentrate on this After Death stuff so we could get enough material to record or play a show. That’s basically what happened and how Tom got in the band. He’s been doing a great job and now we can just flip back and forth between the two bands whenever we really feel like it. It’s kinda cool to be able to do that.
Working and playing together with your own girlfriend/wife probably is not the most idealistic situation from someone’s point of view. Have you ever had any type of conflicts about how for example some track should be carried out or how do you work together when writing/composing material for the band without facing any bigger problems during that process? Obviously some sort of democracy reigns inside the After Death –camp as well…
This is definitely a question that I never thought I would be answering. I never probably in my life figured I would meet someone that I would play in a band with. When I met Lisa, she’s my girlfriend actually, she did the things that I didn’t do. Which was very interesting, and I thought wow, this is pretty cool! She came up to me at an After Death show and said, “I play in my own band, too”. And I thought that was pretty cool, you know? She said we’re trying out a drummer this weekend so I went with her. This was two days after we met at our show and she had just moved here. There were many weird, weird incidences about that meeting actually. Our show was on a Friday the 13th in October in 2000. We were playing and she was there and she had just moved here. The person she moved here with was a friend of hers. She actually happened to have the same birthday as mine and I thought that was pretty strange. Both Lisa and I are Gemini’s and that’s another strange thing. You don’t really meet to people that are the same sign as you and end up in a relationship with them. Then, I come to find out that we also have the same rising sign which is Leo, so we are both very headstrong, Gemini Leo rising people. It’s kind of like we’re the male-female or like a yin-yang kinda thing. She does the instruments that I don’t do. I play drums and she plays keyboards and guitar. Between those two instruments, guitar and drums, you have a band! So we have several different situations at different levels of music that we play at. It’s kinda interesting, our life is pretty much we work and we do music. We actually really like it. Being the fact that we have three different project that we can work with, I think that makes a big difference because we don’t get stale in one thing and have arguments. It’s kind of like with Divine Essence, which is now gonna be called Lisa the Wolf because it’s a lot easier for people to remember. And also, a lot of people spell Divine wrong, they spell it Divine and we wanted it to be Devine so it’s like evil instead of good, devil instead of divine but no one seemed to get that, everyone spelled it wrong and no one could find the website. After we took this break and did this After Death stuff, we said let’s put this Devine Essence back together but call it Lisa the Wolf because everyone seems to be able to remember that. Then we’re gonna go back and rework some of the older music that was really heavy that she like and just kinda go from there and see what we’re doing with it. Actually, she has her outlet with her band and she obviously writes the words and does the vocals and that’s like what I have with my band. Except for backups of course, which I like other people to do. I don’t know, I think that with After Death the reason, or purpose I should say, is to get my experiences… Instead of writing say a book, I would rather put it into music and put it out for people to say. Books are in a way they’re unlimited because when you read a book, no two people read it the same. Say it’s a fiction book and you’re reading a story, everyone is going to have a different view of the landscape that’s being given in the book. Music kinda just puts it out there for you. With the lyrics, I figured if I’m saying words, I’m going to want to write those words because I don’t want to sing other people’s words. To me, I just don’t have the feeling and that’s what happened with Nocturnus and why I ended up not singing after the first album. Everybody wanted to dip into the one thing I was doing which was singing. This was something I was doing before any of those people were in the band and they all wanted to change what the band was supposed to be about. So, when I started After Death, that was the main thing in my mind, was that if I’m going to sing, which I wanted to play drums and sing because I like to do that, that’s why I started After Death. I like to do that not because it’s gonna sell records or this or that, I just like to do it. I don’t want to compare myself to anyone else or anything like that, for me it’s what I like to do and if other people understand it and like it then that’s a great thing. But if not, then I’m still doing what I want to do. Everybody should do what they want to do, and not what is going to make money or sell ´x´ amount of records because another band sells ´x´ amount of records. Well, we’ll do that because it’s safe. I like not being safe in music, I like people saying, “I don’t like it because it doesn’t sound like this”. Yeah, that’s the whole purpose. My band is not supposed to sound like anything else and that’s what I’m trying to do. So, it’s very hard to do that but I think I’ve done a pretty good job of trying to do that, if not anything else.
I remember having seen some ads in Hammerheart´s own site when announcing about some certain upcoming releases that After Death was supposed to release a mini-CD on the label, but obviously the plans for that mini-CD in question went up in smoke. What exactly happened? And the result was however released on your own as a traditional demo? While you were recording After Death´s first output, you managed to face other kinds of problems, an explicit content of your lyrics was one of those issues. Would you share some info about that one?
Yes, Hammerheart had expressed interested in us doing a mini-CD and we said cool so they gave us a certain amount for us to go into the studio. We checked out this one studio in Tampa called The Springs. This was where the Florida Orchestra practices, it’s a huge old theatre. Actually at one time it was a sex theatre. Anyway it was just this huge empty room and the guy just had mega amount of cool equipment in there. Guido from Hammerheart was in town and we all went into the studio and we looked at the place and he said this is pretty cool you should be able to do some good stuff in here. The guy said yeah so we booked the dates to record and we came in and Guido had paid the money up front. We started working on the music, it was going pretty good and the night I did my lyrics I did them with candlelight and some incense to get into the mood of singing. The guy at the studio, was just like this is some strange stuff. So we recorded and then I think we had like two days until we come back to finish with the leads and mix everything. The guitar player got there that day and Scott and myself got there and the guy takes us into the office and says he needs to talk to us before we do anything else. We ask him what the problem is and he says I can’t finish the project. Why not? We’ve already paid for it. He said well, I was gonna give you guys a deal but the time you’ve spent in here recording is already paid for and I was gonna give you the extra time, the mix down time as an extra deal. Basically, the money we gave him was already spent. Then he said, “I don’t want to finish your project because of the lyrics and the message your getting across to people”. The guy’s wife happened to be there because this is a big old theatre and they actually live upstairs. She started just going off on me like a crazed Christian woman would. She said, “What kind of a person are you, writing lyrics like ‘you are the maggot that infests the brains of Christ’?” So I said, “Hey, we paid you to record the music and you knew the band was called After Death and you knew it was an ‘evil’ metal band”. They admitted these things but they just completely freaked out. They had all of our equipment packed up by the front tour and they had every track we had recorded, no matter what song or what take, they had it all dumped onto like 10 CDs worth of tracks with no names. The guy said, “There’s three studios in Tampa where you can finish this”. I started getting kinda upset saying “Hey, we finish this here, I already paid you!”. He said no way and threatened to call the police and kick us out. So we just took our stuff and left. We went into another studio that pretty much just raped us with money. We spent days and days what bass drums track was for which song and which take each one was. We had literally hundreds of tracks, every track was on there. We had to put them all back together and figure which take was which. We did a couple takes of each song. It took us forever, we should have just gone into a different studio and re-recorded it, we would’ve spent much less money that way but we wanted to keep the original recordings. But by the time we figured everything out the computer kept crashing because the music was on a different system and they were trying to convert things. We ended up spending like $2000 just to finish the project and they was twice as much as Hammerheart said they would give us. They didn’t want to spend that much on an EP. They said, just don’t worry about our end and you can just have the recording. So our guitar player actually ended up playing for that and soon after that he left the band. At that point we decided that anything that he had written we would abandon and we would give the recording away but we wouldn’t sell it. We did put it up on www.mp3.com for a little while longer and the whole thing was just a disaster from the beginning. It just didn’t work out with Hammerheart and putting the CD out didn’t work. Then we got rid of that guitar player and that was pretty much it for that band situation. That’s when the band changed a lot of members and that kind of thing can ruin a band.
Personally speaking, I managed accidentally to find one of your older songs from www.mp3.com site called “Temple Of Cthulhu” and learnt it was damn good, but according to your official website this release hasn’t been named there for some reason or the other? Did you decide to abandon that particular song because you basically thought it didn´t represent well enough the style you were heading toward at that time?
The one song that we did put on mp3.com, “Temple of Cthulhu” it was the best of the three songs… Actually one of the other two songs was a Nocturnus song that Bateman and I had written and as Nocturnus went on we never ended up recording it. It was kind of funny we ended up doing it as parody kind of thing. It was written in 1987 and it’s called “Nocturnus” and the first actually version, was when Gino was in the band so Richard, Gino and I were the ones that recorded that song. We said, why not? “Temple of Cthulhu” came out the best and we decided that it would be the best one to throw up on mp3.com so people could hear something that we had done. It’s funny, you said it was a good song and when we were sending it out as a demo we sent out the whole thing which included all three songs with a bunch of intros. It was just like nobody seemed to like it. Now, we took it off www.mp3.com and now everyone is asking about it! It’s funny cuz when something doesn’t become available anymore is when people seem to like it. We took it off the site when we got the new demo finished. The plan was just to have something for people to hear a little bit of and the band really did change a little between the two demos. It changed basically every single member and it had a whole different feel to it. That’s why we took off the old song is because we never wanted to sell it. We just wanted to replace it with the new stuff.
You got a new 2-song demo out a while ago and it definitely differs a helluva lot from the previous material what I managed to hear, but how come the running time of two tracks altogether rises up to 25 minutes? Was your main intention to gain length for those two particular songs, trying to make them sound ´epic´ and all that – or would you rather like to say both of the songs just turned out that way without giving too much time for thinking whether they might reach a couple of ´extra´ minutes at the final stage of making as far as the length of both of them is concerned?
Actually, it was two mixes of two songs and the two songs themselves had a total of twelve minutes. One song was like five and a half and another was like six and a half, so they are a little bit long. The songs really aren’t that long but what happened with the demo was I bought this new recorder what I’m actually doing this recording on. It’s limited in a lot of ways but you can get 16 tracks with 8 inputs. The demo that we did put out was just done on this little box with only two available effects. It was very limited but we just wanted to put something new out to show people what it was like and if they were interested we could go into a real studio and do something 10 times better than this. This is just kinda what the music sounds like. When we recorded the stuff it was actually just a practice rehearsal that we were recording. The drums came out pretty good so I said why don’t we just save this? It was 8 tracks of drums with a little bit of everyone else bleed over so we just added some guitar tracks and some keyboard tracks then through out the vocals. It came out with this kind of live sound with a little bit of studio sound. It was a weird mix, it sounded like you were right there in the room with it instead of some well-produced studio thing. It really captured the sound of the band but that’s basically what happened. It was just a practice and we were kinda happy with the end result of it so we just said hey, let’s make this our demo. We didn’t want to overthink it too much, it was just a raw, real, barely any dub-overs just to make it a little more clear. That’s basically what it was, just a glorified practice tape.
What could you say, is the hardest part when composing a new song for the band? Is it trying to come up with those 2-3 main catchy riffs that really could stand out in a song on every possible level, or trying to figure out the most suitable vocal parts for a song, or trying to make some space for some guitar solos for songs or what then? I bet it isn´t always that easy at all as some somehow may mistakenly think…
Really, in most of the situations in my bands, the other people in the bands come up with sometimes maybe the full four or five guitar parts all at once or sometimes it’s just here’s a couple rhythms so let’s work on these. Most of the time they bring in a couple parts and we just start working on them. Play this rhythm, play that rhythm, try this bridge, etc. We put the song together and then I sit back and see what kind of ideas come to me from the music itself.
I assume that writing songs for your own band(-s) must be very rewarding and uplifting from time to time; especially when people around you are the ones that give you heart-warming feedback about your songs and basically tell you to keep on writing similar caliber songs compared to a song or songs they have become mostly pleased with. Can you think of anything else that you pretty much consider yourself as ´a rewarding thing´ as far as your own song writing is concerned?
I think that it’s strange sometimes when I write songs, as far as the music goes I just do the drums and so the music has always been up to the different people I have been playing with. I do like when I finish a song because we usually write the music and then we’ll sit back and then I’ll ask what is this song saying to me? What does it want me to convey lyrically? I get this idea and a lot of times it will come from a personal experience or something I have read that I can really understand. It’s strange a song just sort of comes out of me in sometimes just 15 or 20 minutes. I never really just sit there and work on the words for a song. It just sort of comes to me at different times. A lot of times it’s right in the morning when I first wake up and I’ll just start going crazy and I have literally run to get a piece of paper and a pencil so I can write these things down as they’re coming to me. Then I look back and sometimes I’ll be like, “Damn it didn’t even feel like I just wrote that”. It’s cool though, sometimes the songs just kind of come out of me. It’s rewarding in itself to sit back and listen to it. I have to go and memorize them because it’s like me not writing me sometimes they just sort of pop out of nowhere.
The lyrical side of the newer material is based on your views on some certain occult issues and has a lot of issues dealing with the Egyptian mythology, too. Could you politely shed some light on your lyrics on the demo and where do you basically ladle all the lyrical inspirations from? By reading (occult) books, studying, from your past experiences with occultism, surroundings around you in general and so on…?
There’s two songs on the demo. One is sort of about Egyptian mythology. It’s about the cycle of procession which is when the Earth wobbles on its axis and for the Earth to make a complete wobble and come back around to where it was, it takes 26,000 years. Basically the night that the pharaoh’s soul went through the shaft in the pyramid and went to the stars or a particular star, that was on a particular night. That particular night will happen again in 26,000 years and it basically has that a the outer lying fact of the song and it’s got more inter lying things like about regeneration of the soul. The song actually talks about quite a few different things going at the same time in these different planes of existence. Some of them are astral, some of them are actual physical and some of them are just mental. The song kind of takes place on three or four different planes of existence. The second song has the same kind of situation to it. Although it’s not Egyptian, it’s about alchemy and how that works. In the inner and the outer because a lot of people still think alchemy was strictly making gold out of other chemicals. That was an outer veil you could say. The inner, concealment of the song is how to turn yourself into gold; how to make everything about you change to make a better person out of yourself. I don’t mean a more evil vs. good make yourself a good person, I’m just saying a more efficient and better person. It’s sort of like burning off the things that are bad that you want to change about yourself and actually making that change happen and perfecting those things that you want to perfect in your life. That’s basically what the song is about. It has a couple levels of understanding but the first one was many and it goes from there and some of the other songs we have have the same type of inner and outer meaning.
The newest demo was carried out at your own ´home studio´; how long it took from you to get the material recorded there and how it was to record it at your own home instead of using any highly modern studio equipments for the recording?
It was on a little Boss deck, a 16-track. The machine is probably no bigger than a small kitchen sink. It could probably fit inside… It’s basically a glorified digital 4-tRack. It’s a decent machine and we didn’t pay too much for it. We paid less for it than we would have paid to go into a studio and record a demo probably. Now we can record anything we want anytime we want. It’s kinda cool because we have a practice place at our house and it’s very convenient to work at the house and do anything. Whether they are just demos or something for us to listen to, I can literally record a practice and burn the CD that same day. Throw some effects on it and it’s really a cool thing to just own this. It doesn’t make incredible recordings. It probably could if I was running you know like all keyboards or something like that. For live recordings, it’s good for us to record things and we can multi-track and add little things in and just play around with it. It’s a blast to have this thing here. I’m doing this interview on it.
If you got a chance to choose one studio in the whole world and record a debut After Death full-length album there, then what studio would it be? And who would you like to take the production helm for it? Are you having any worth mentioning candidates in your head right at the very moment why they indeed could be ideal guys to produce After Death´s music?
That’s a very tough question nowadays. Now that we’re getting into digital recording it really could be any studio. They are all starting to sound really good and producer-wise there are just so many different people who do different things, I wouldn’t even know where to start thinking about that. It’s something I kinda know what I want out of the music but then in some ways it’s cool to have someone come in and put their touch on it and on your stuff. It can be good and it can be bad in some ways. If the producer is too good, he’ll make your band sound like everyone else he’s done. And if he’s not good enough then the can ruin the originality they your band has. Right now I kinda know what I want to do with my music and if I had better equipment I could get it across to any engineer. So I wouldn’t mind recording our own stuff and then sending it to a producer but I guess it would be cool to find somebody that has done something that you really do like and tell them to put their touch on it and see what it sounds like. There’s no one particular studio or person that I had in mind. There used to be quite a few less studios around and everybody used to pick this one or that one. Nowadays you can get a great sound at a lot of different places. It’s pretty much impossible for anyone, unless they wanna sound like somebody else, to say where they want to record at and this person will produce me. So I would like to do the producing part myself in a good studio with a really good engineer and I think that’s all it really takes.
Back to the label issues a little bit more with this question. As the deal with Hammerheart went up in smoke, have you tried to draw the attention from other labels, and have some potential record labels been interested in signing you? But when After Death is signed by some label, don’t you think it is a little bit ´risky (!)´ thing they will put stickers to the front cover advertising After Death as a new band of ex-band of this and that band? But since you have a strong reputation with all your previous bands, I can clearly understand why labels might do it…
As far as label interest, it’s been strange for us because we do something so different than most people. If we sounded like somebody else, we would have already been signed. I think that’s a problem because some labels are comfortable with putting out music that will actually for sure sell because they sound exactly like someone else. It happens a lot with bands like Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth. Everybody for a while wanted to sound like them and when you opened up a magazine and read reviews it would say that it sounds like so and so and all of the sudden you hear that band is signed. I think a lot of labels sounding like somebody else is a good thing. The different you are, the less likely you are to be signed, they look at you as more of a risk because they aren’t sure if people are going to like it or not. For most regular people that are just listeners have really liked our stuff but the labels just haven’t been interested. It’s like… If you just listen to what the label wants you to do, it will ruin the band. I look at the fact that labels think we’re a risk as just exactly what somebody should take the chance on. With advertising you can just about sell anything these days. I think people should be interested and taking a little bit more risks with something different and just seeing what happens. But some people like to play it safe and I think that with the ways things are these days, especially with the economy, the labels would much rather play it safe and make it to their next release; taking their money and putting it all in one band. If a label already has one big band, pretty much you can consider the other bands on that label are going to get not much at all and I don’t want to settle for that. I would rather sit at home and just play my music for myself rather than get something that would make us sound different.
As most of people know your long and impressive background in other bands since the mid 80’s, and you´ve been involved with several other projects as well, you have gained some sort of cult name in the extreme metal scene, but instead you have kept quite a low profile with your current band as, to be honest, tracking down some After Death material has been quite, let’s say, sort of ”Mission Impossible”, but how come you haven’t arranged a tremendous promotion campaign for After Death in order to spread the band’s name for a wider mass of people and becoming more known amongst metalheads that way?
Yeah, I’ve done some projects for other people and if I do something like that, I leave it up to them to do what they want with it. There’s been a couple bands I’ve played in just as a temporary drummer because I really wasn’t doing anything else at the time. Ever since I got After Death together, I’ve pretty much just been working on that and Lisa’s band. What happened was when the first After Death demo was done and the things we went through to get it done, it ended up breaking up the band. There was really no reason to put out something that was already gone at that point. With the newer After Death lineup, we started from zero. We got Brian and we tried learning the old songs, but we realized that’s not what we wanted to do so we just dropped everything and started over. I would rather each time someone in the band changes, for the most part not force the new members to play these other people’s songs. I wouldn’t want to play somebody else’s songs. Basically, once a project has changed members I like to move on and not stick with the old stuff. Forget what I did a year ago, this is what I’m doing now. I haven’t really had a really good band that I would want to put a lot of money into and promote until…it’s just been evolving so much and as soon as I feel that it’s going to settle down and I know that it’s going to be what I want it to be, I’ll say hey, this is it. That may happen but it may not, but I play music because I like it and not because I worry about how many people are going to buy it. The best lineup I have may just be practicing in our house for nobody else to hear. But as long as I’m interested, that’s all that matters to me. If other people end up liking it then cool, that’s just another page in a book.
I believe that After Death have done some gigs at some local clubs in Florida thus far, am I right? What kind of audience do you usually play for? I mean, what type of people does usually come to see your shows? As far as I have understood, most of your local ´rock´ -orientated clubs down there in Florida are closed or some of them have totally changed their ´Rock´ -imago to some dance club –orientated things and such things in order to get more people in so that the owners could make a bit better profit as well?
We did have our first show recently and that ended up being okay, as musicians we played pretty good but the sound man wasn’t the place’s regular, so they had this punk rock kid in there and he had three microphones, none of my drums were miked, the drum monitor was blown and it was just making this terrible cracking sound the whole show which was actually louder than anything else on stage, I couldn’t even hear my vocals. We ended up playing last out of four bands so that was like at 1:30 in the morning on a Friday so most people in that bar had probably got up at 6:30 that morning. There was a good crowd there earlier but before we even came on two thirds of the people had already left. We ended up not playing to a lot of people but we did pretty decent considering all the complications that we had. Basically that’s the one and only show we’ve had so far. Some of our friends were definitely there and that was cool and I’m glad they did but if you aren’t a well-known band in Tampa, then people aren’t all that interested in coming to see you.
Playing your newer material in a live situation might probably be a little bit complicated thing to carry things out due to your lengthy songs (I´m referring to such songs as “Consumed by Fire” and “Mercury-Sulphur-Salt” with this question!). I was just wondering whether you may have re-arranged (read: shortened!) some of these very lengthy tracks in order to make them stand out a bit less complicated way in the live situation or will you just carry out them as they are right now as in their original formats?
Actually, as far as this particular situation, those two songs are really only 7 and a half minutes or whatever so it’s really not that long. Again it was four songs on the demo, not just two and people didn’t realize it was the same two songs. No, most After Death songs are six to seven minutes long, we really don’t have anything under five minutes. It’s not really anything over the top but the songs are a good length. In Devine Essence, which will become Lisa the Wolf, there was a song that we called “The Piece”. We could either play it all together or play it as eight separate songs. Occasionally we will play it altogether and that is actually thirty minutes long. We have done that live, so we have played this eight song epic, I guess you can call it and it’s thirty minutes worth of straight music. It does go through many different changes and stops and starts and rhythm changes and it comes back to certain parts; it’s kinda like a roller coaster ride to play. It was kind of difficult at times and it can be hard for people to sit there and watch a thirty minute song, but we like to do it every once in a while to change things up. Bands don’t usually do it so we say let’s do it. We are looking to do things that nobody else does and that’s the whole point behind that.
Besides After Death, you and Lisa have created an acoustic duet called Wolf And Hawk. How do these Wolf And Hawk characters symbolize and identify your own personality?
When I met Lisa, she was self-titled and called herself Lisa the Wolf so she always fashioned herself after a wolf. I have always been interested in Horus, the Egyptian god who looks like a hawk. We kind of realized that Wolf and Hawk were a pretty cool situation, it’s something that actually means something to us. She feels like a wolf in life, you know, if you get near me I’ll bet your head off sort of things. And I feel like a hawk at times, just soaring above pyramids and just looking at things from a hawk’s perspective. So these two animals seem to make a cool name for a band that’s just her and I.
Speaking of the musical direction of Wolf And Hawk as stated above it is acoustic, but how did you come up with that concept to carry out an entire opposite style what you have done previously? This just crossed my mind that Richie Blackmore has his own acoustic duet with his wife called Blackmore’s Night, too. Have you possibly checked it, too?
It is an acoustic style and I have heard a little bit of Blackmore’s Night. It’s pretty good stuff; it’s weird and different. What happened was when Lisa and I met, I found out she was in a metal band and she also has an acoustic guitar. One day we were sitting around, and she pulled it out and started playing some stuff, and I told her that was pretty good. She has tons of stuff like that and she said the first stuff she ever wrote was when she first picked up an acoustic guitar. She had like ten or fifteen songs that she had written a long time ago. I have a collection of these weird hand drums from all over the world and I figured I could throw some stuff on there and we wanted to make a little project. It’s just her and I, it involves nobody else, and it’s something that we can just sit in the living room and do. We can go anywhere and set up in 10 seconds and play, which is pretty cool. Like I said, it’s just stuff she had already written and we just sort of revived it and gave it a newer sound. So we came up with the Wolf and Hawk thing and it just kinda stuck. So we’ve done some strange things with that band that I couldn’t do with any other band. Sometimes I bring one drum, some time I bring a few different things and we just sit there and play. It’s just straightforward, simple stuff. It’s a nice break from all the hard stuff and just letting it come out as it does.
Do you just play on your own, or do you also play some accoustic gigs with Wolf And Hawk for an audience?
We have done some small gigs here and there, even a big one at DragonCon, which is a comic book convention in Atlanta. Yeah it’s kind of fun and rewarding, it’s a completely different crowd that would never like the other stuff we do. It is kind of cool to put on a different kind of show. It does have an Egyptian type feel especially with some of the drum stuff I do but it’s mainly just a straightforward, acoustic guitar thing. It has this weirdness to it and it’s cool to do it for people because it’s cool and it’s different and just about anybody can listen to this stuff; in fact it’s geared toward anyone to just tape their foot to it. It’s her and I creating something, doing something with different chemicals and we get different results with the same two people. Not too many people can do too many different things. A lot of people specialize in one thing and we just like to branch out and do a little bit of everything. It breaks the monotony of doing the same thing over and over again.
And then Divine Essence, as far as I know it is completely Lisa’s brainchild?
Yes, it is her brainchild; she had that 30-minute piece which I had talked about earlier already written when I met her. We wrote two songs from the demo, so those were newer songs. They came from a bit of a newer attitude than the older stuff. It was something we were kind of experimenting with, the more power metal side of things. It was pretty good for what it was at the time but then we kind of realized after we took a break that we liked playing the older, heavier stuff more and she had just gotten away from that. We just recently recorded that thirty minute piece and we did the drums, bass and guitar not too long ago. We’re going to add all the other stuff to it, maybe add some keyboards and just let people have that to…none of this stuff is for sale, it’s for people to enjoy and if they don’t enjoy then they haven’t wasted any money on it. That’s the way we look at it but Devine Essence is totally her thing and I would never want to stop somebody from being creative in their own right. She asked me if I personally liked the stuff, and yeah it has that old Celtic Frost/Hellhammer kind of feel to it and I enjoy playing it. It’s different, it gives me a break from what I like to do just like the Wolf and Hawk thing. There are different avenues for us to explore and not call it all the same thing. It’s good to have different stuff to do; we like to stay busy and we do stay very busy and Lisa’s always working on the websites, I’m always doing things and working on occult projects and things like that. We wouldn’t have it any other way. This is our lives and this is what we enjoy; we enjoy working like this but we don’t really consider it work, this is great work because we’re exploring what we love and creating something from it.
DEACON SCREECH, ASH & HELL ON EARTH
Before creating the current band you had a side project called Deacon Screech. Could you shed a little bit light on this project; what you exactly put out and who were involved in the project? As far as I´m informed it was some kind of industrial project thing?
Yeah, Deacon Screech was a band some friends of mine, Blake and Pat, they were really into heavy industrial/wild noise music and things like that. Blake played bass and guitar and sang. I played drums and Pat did all the keyboards and synthesizers and weird samples and things like that. We ended up doing a split EP with another band called the Vampire Circus which was a two person project. They had the keyboard player who played on one of the Acheron albums, I think it was on ANTI-GOD, ANTI-CHRIST, possibly. Actually it was this guy’s side project, he sang on it also and this girl sang on it too. It was think kind of Christian Death thing and so anyway we ended up doing this EP with them. We did four songs with them in the studio, it was actually the same studio I did my Acheron stuff which was funny. It was pretty different to do something like that. It was very industrial sounding and the lyrics were very anti-religious which I much enjoyed. It was kind of like a weird Skinny Puppy meets Ministry kind of thing. We went into the studio and recorded these songs and there were two drum machines going so we recorded those and they were playing some weird parts and I just kind of miked my kit up and played over that. And that’s how we did shows too; we had these two drum machines going with all these sequences and everybody would dress in weird outfits, it was just like a Skinny Puppy dark/industrial thing. I enjoyed it, we did some pretty decent shows. It was fun and it was something to do at the time but I really wanted to get back into what I normally liked doing but until the right people come along I don’t want to stop playing drums especially if I can help somebody and have some fun at the same time. I enjoy doing side projects for people if I have the time to do them.
Just out of my ´burning´ curiosity, was the Deacon Screech album put by Lee Harrison’s label Conquest Music? How many copies did they press from that album and how well it was circulated around the world? I haven´t been able to hunt it down from any stores from Finland, tho…?
The Deacon Screech album was on label called Conquest but it wasn’t Lee Harrison’s Conquest, it was another guy who used to be big in the punk and hardcore scene. He wanted to do a split CD so he found boh of us and it was done on like a $500 budget. We went in and did four songs basically. So it wasn’t Lee Harrison’s label, I think it was actually before Lee Harrison had started his Conquest label. Yeah it was a different one. I think there were only 1000 CDs printed total and those are probably long gone. It is difficult to find. Like I said, Blake and Pat wrote pretty much all the music, I just played drums as a project and to help them out. Like I said, it was fun, it was dark, evil stuff so I was interested in it. I just thought it would be cool to play with some drum machines and to do something with that. I was happy with the way it came out, the sound was really and it had a lot of substance. People thought it was really good and different and it was cool that I could add my touch to it.
And then a couple of previously unknown bands at least for us, namely ASH and Hell On Earth; could share some info about those bands as well?
That was another couple of projects; Ash was just mostly a spoken word thing. It was a friend of mine, Bob White, who was in a band called Painteater played bass and messed around with keyboards so he had some weird, weird keyboard music. The girl he was dating at the time was an opera singer type of person. So what we did was I rewrote about a third of the stanzas from Dante’s Inferno and transformed it into two songs and we ended up recording those and one other song that had a weird drum beat to it that was about the fall of Adam and Eve. That was the Ash thing. We went into the studio, recorded it and never really doing anything with it. It ended up on a compilation album so that was pretty cool. So you can find at least one of the three tracks on the TRIBUTE TO HELL: SATANIC RITES compilation from Full Moon Records.
Hell on Earth was a band that was a crazy, just insanity band doing crazy stuff like lighting people on fire on stage and they needed a drummer. They already had a CD out which I thought was really weird, it was strange music. I said sure, why not so I played a couple of shows with them and it was interesting to be in something like that. It wasn’t my kind of thing so I didn’t stick with it for very long and I didn’t record anything with the band. I played some shows which always had tons of naked girls, and people getting caught on fire, it was a weird show. It was interesting but I wasn’t my thing so I just said, “See you later”.
THE KEY will surely be remembered as one of the finest pieces of Death Metal of its time and old-school Thrash/Death Metal people like me actually consider it as one of the greatest Death Metal works of all times ever. How pleased did you be with that album as wholeness anyway? Do you think the songs on it basically spoke for their own clear language for all that what kind of things pleased you mostly musically back in the day and what type of things put you ´moving´ as far as the content on THE KEY is concerned?
That album was definitely for most people… They said they really like it but it’s something that could have been done better. My drum set was really shitty back then and I didn’t even have bottom heads on my drums, they were like the old style concert drums. When I went into Morrisound, Tom Morris told me it was the worst sounding drum set he had ever heard. Our bass player was always drunk and he couldn’t record the bass tracks. Mike Davis actually ended up playing most of the bass tracks for The Key, for the first time in his life right there in the studio. We were boobs basically when we went into the studio and did this thing. It’s weird though, the honesty in the music… It’s not musically the most incredible album from all of our points of view but a lot of people like the originality that it had and just the truth of what we were doing at the time just came out and it made it sound different than everything else at that time. It was a weird thing that was caught in that period of time. Even if the same people came together now, it wouldn’t be the same band. When a band puts something out, it’s how they are at that time and everyone changes their mind just like music changes. It was just what was happening with those certain people I was playing with at that time, and that’s how the album came out. I think it was a little too fast. Personally, I think the demo we did before that… The speed of the songs was much better but at the time we were at that, let’s play as fast and as technical as possible and let’s see what we can do with it. We got in the studio and it sped up more and we just… It was kind of a weird thing to happen that way. It gave it it’s own sound, that’s what most people is that it sounded like nothing else that had ever come out of Morrisound. That was kind of cool in that sense, maybe us having bad equipment and weird playing styles made the album sound different. I guess in some ways it was a good thing and in some ways it was a bad thing. It was a page in time and that page has been turned and a new page is always written.
Have your standpoints and opinions about THE KEY been changing during all these past years; I mean, do you see the whole album in a whole different perspective nowadays than you did the day when it came out in 1990?
Sometimes I go back and say damn, I was just playing way too fast. That’s why it sounds kind of loose here and there is because the songs had just lost some of the feeling and we were just going for speed in that time. I looked at the lyrics and some of them are kind of juvenile to me but that’s where was my head was at the time. But it was over ten years ago. I look at some things as good and some things as bad, it just depends on what aspects your talking about.
For me personally that particular album represents the best and most creative era of the whole existence of the mighty Nocturnus. Every single song on it stands out on its own and unquestionably it´s got best penned Nocturnus songs ever in my honest opinion. It simply reeks of an unmatched talent, creativeness and a true passion for making some ultimate stuff that people are going to remember for the rest of their life. Do you pretty much share same kind of thoughts about it with me and say it´s your fave Nocturnus album as well?
As far as the albums, yeah I think THE KEY is much better than anything ever put out by Nocturnus but now that they are broken up again it will probably stay that way. I did like the demo quite a bit though, there was definitely songs that were more involving and better on THE KEY and of course the recording was better. I think THRESHOLDS had a better sound but not better songs. We did have a lot of… When we put out THE KEY we had songs in there that were four and five years old that I had worked on with other people and were re-worked completely and they didn’t sound much like the original version anymore. In any case, I always tried to write the lyrics so I could go on and use the songs if I wanted to. Nobody ever said anything bad about Ozzy playing Black Sabbath songs even though he didn’t even write the music, he just wrote the lyrics. So if it happens that way and we end up redoing an old song it’s because I wrote the lyrics and I do have a part in the song and I’m still able to play it. I don’t see why anybody can tell me I can’t play it. I consider The Key to be the best thing Nocturnus ever did and to have the most originality, especially the lyrics. As far as lyrics, it’s probably the best Nocturnus thing because it has a lot more than the demo had. I would probably say it’s my favorite thing.
When you quit Nocturnus after the THRESHOLDS album in order to join Acheron, the remaining guys decided to continue under the Nocturnus –moniker and in 1993, a small underground label called Moribund Records put out a 7” EP from them, containing two songs, “Possess the Priest” and “Mummified”. Assumable you have also heard those songs, so I was wondering whether you liked the style the guys had adopted for themselves those days that those two songs in question represented?
Actually, “Mummified” was a song we were still working on when I was in the band and “Possess the Priest” was actually a song Richard Bateman and I had written in 1987 that we had discussed re-doing. Then all of a sudden, I’m out of the band and they’re working on a song that none of them had even come up with. They recorded these two songs for Earache Records without telling them they were gonna get rid of me. So they call up Earache and tell them, “Well, we got rid of Browning and we have a new drummer so we’re ready to go”. Earache said they wanted to hear what the new band sounded like so they recorded those two songs and Earache dropped them! Then the band split up. Later on they released it on Moribund Records just to make some money on the side. But as for those two songs, we actually played those and “Possess the Priest” was actually written by Bateman and myself.
“Possess the Priest” is one of the earliest Nocturnus songs that was penned by both Bateman and you back in 1987 already, but I was just wondering if there´s even earlier material that was left undone and finished completely for some reason or the other – and that you might probably use some bits and pieces from for After Death in the future?
Yes, it was written in 1987 and it was just reused by people who didn’t write it, I guess you could say it was their cover song. [laughs] Actually there were quite a few songs when it was Bateman, myself, Gino and Vince in the band. We had a lot of songs. All of the songs that Vince had written, which was almost a third to half of the songs actually ended up on the LEX TALIONIS record when I was in Acheron. A lot of people don’t know that that record, like 75% of that record is old songs that we did in Nocturnus and then there was the song “Nocturnus” which we redid as far as when we got back together. We redid that because we wrote it. The situation with that is probably…Now that none of those members are playing in the band, I want to keep newer stuff and I don’t want to keep playing stuff that other people wrote. I want to move on and keep up with the new ideas that I have.
Many people, without a doubt, have requested from you, obviously countless of many times that it would be absolutely awesome if your cult underground demo THE SCIENCE OF HORROR was released as a CD –format some day ´coz that´s the one that brought you a deal with Earache. So Mike, is that day coming already so that we who have mostly made all these requests about it to you, could finally get that true underground gem as a CD –format as well?
That would be very interesting to have it released but now that there is a definite legal battle between who owns the name and who owns the music that was done by other people than those who own the name. The first Nocturnus demo was four completely different people than the three people who now own the name. I would like to have these things released and I think it would be cool as far as friends of mine, I have just given them a copy. I’m not trying to stop anybody from doing what they want with the demo, I mean it’s in your collection and you have the ability to put it on a CD if you want. But the other people who own the name might say something and might be angry about it, even though they didn’t play on it. To me, it’s just a huge legal mess and that’s the only reason that it’s not out is because of the mess it would cause just coming out. I would like to see it released, it would be interesting, but most people that like it already have it and I can’t really do anything besides that. It’s kind of past the point of me having a say in that. It’s kind of like the Incubus demos too. I don’t own the music, I don’t own the name, so I can’t really say I’ll put it out because I don’t have the ability, legally, to do that.
When you were in the Nocturnus, did you have some sort of ´leading roles´ in the band? I mean the way some of you were the main lyric writers for the band and some of you were more responsible for coming up with the music for Nocturnus? At least I did notice from the credits of your two first albums that both you and Louis Panzer (the keyboardist in the band) were mainly responsible for the all the lyrics whereas all the music was composed by the whole band. And could you also say everything, as far as your music was concerned, was worked out in a somewhat democratic way in the band when you guys made some decisions whether this and that song was good enough to be recorded for the album or not?
Some people have wanted to write lyrics in the band but I always wanted to write lyrics and that’s why I sang. But as the band changed and had different people in it, those people came in with their ideas and wanted to do not only what they were doing in the band, but also what I was doing. That eventually led to other people writing lyrics and even threatening me and saying they won’t play unless they could write some lyrics. That changed what the band was about, it changed the image of the band and it ended up with me not singing on the second Nocturnus record. I didn’t want to sing about army men jumping out of planes, to me that’s not an interesting subject to write a song about. The music is one thing but when it comes to lyrics, I’m big into looking into lyrics and seeing what people have to say. Some people put out records because they have something to say, not just because they like the music. I have a lot, and always have, a huge want to have these lyrics be read and to me it’s a big thing. Actually the problem with… Actually Davis and I wrote all the lyrics on THE KEY. I wrote most of them and Davis had most of the futuristic ideas that were thrown in. Lewis actually came in and demanded write lyrics so he did, then we all did and it just because a mash of all these different ideas on this record and it just didn’t have a central theme anymore. To me, that is when the band lost its originality. As far as the music, we tried to be democratic because I don’t write music, I write my drum parts but I don’t write guitar stuff. There has never been a person that has come in with every single piece of a song written so we would always start with a couple riffs and just work hard on it. So everybody gets credit for it, we say the music was written by Nocturnus. You had members coming and going so to make it fair we just said whoever is in Nocturnus at the time is who is writing the music and that was the truth. It was always, even if we did older songs, they were re-written and changed to fit the way the new people wanted it. I never told people how to play or what to play, it was always just let me do my lyrics and play drums, and I’ll let you do what you want to do. But obviously they all wanted to tell me what to do and that was what happened with that incident.
After that 2-song 7” offering from Nocturnus in 1993, the band split up again for a while ´til the guys re-grouped again sometime in 1997-98 (I cannot remember any longer, sorry…) and a deal with a French label Season of Mist was signed. ETHEREAL TOMB was put out through the label in 1999 and it pretty much followed the musical vision of the previous THRESHOLDS album, being a much heavier and slower than any of its predecessors and a bit more Death Metal –orientated album probably mainly due to Ewo Mowery´s deep Death grunts on it. Well, what do you honestly think of that album? Do you think it they should have left that album undone under the Nocturnus –moniker and use some other band for that album instead because of striving for other venues musically what Nocturnus used to be on THE KEY album which was a very fast, heavy and brutal album all in all?
Yes, I did hear that album. I think musically, that album was quite a bit like THRESHOLDS just with the heavier vocals. Like you said, the death grunts which most people do are in there. I thought it was pretty cool but I didn’t like the mix, it could have been a lot better, especially for the time and money they spent on it. I thought it would come out a lot better. I think that’s what hurt them on that record, I think it might have sold better for them. As far as should they have used the name, Nocturnus, that’s obviously why they got a record deal is because they bought that name. If you notice on that CD, nobody’s name is mentioned and the drummer always has a gas mask on. You never see his face and he’s never named. I don’t know why it was done that way, maybe to trick people into thinking I was still in the band, you would just have to ask them. That’s my opinion of it.
Then Acheron; Acheron was the brainchild of Vincent Crowley who had founded the band after dismissing Nocturnus already at the demo stage and you teamed up with him in order to continue playing more brutal Death Metal stuff than you were used to playing before. Were you approached by Mr.Crowley to team up with him or was it just an expected continuation to play in Acheron as the band seemed to be a relatively productive back in the day?
What happened was, when we were in the studio recording THRESHOLDS, Vince was also in the studio remixes RITES OF THE BLACK MASS, the first Acheron album. It ended up with me jumping in there and singing some backups on it. I thought it was pretty cool stuff, I liked what I did back then. Nocturnus had changed simply because the members had changed. Vince said hey, “If you would like to play drums for me…”. I told him to wait and if I can do it then I’ll do it. So we finished THRESHOLDS and went on a tour right away. Right when we got back from the tour I got fired from the band. So I literally just moved my drums out of our warehouse about five doors down to the Acheron warehouse. I was in Acheron the next day pretty much after I was out of Nocturnus. It’s not something I planned on, I just walked in and they told me I was fired. I didn’t know it was going to happen, I didn’t see it coming. It was really weird, I was able to move my drums straight into the Acheron warehouse and started jamming with them. I was like wow, these are actually cooler people and more along the lines mentally of what I want to do lyrically. I enjoyed playing in Acheron.
How did you dig more straight forward and a little bit standard oriented Death Metal style which Acheron used to present back in those days?
I did enjoy playing that type of music. It was really cool, I wouldn’t say it was exactly like Obituary but it had a kind of Celtic Frost feel to it. I really like that type of music, I didn’t really want to get too technical in Nocturnus, it just happened to get that way. If you listen to THE SCIENCE OF HORROR you’ll see it’s not that technical, it’s more creepy. If anything, Acheron had a creepy sound in a way and it was just plain heavy. It was cool to just take a break and sit back and play some heavy drumming which is more what I’m interested in anyway. I can play fast stuff as you see on THE KEY but it’s not what I like to do all the time. I like playing weird, slower beats here and there. Not necessarily real slow but anyway, it was a totally different style of music and I like doing different things.
Just checking out Acheron’s line-up which has been, let´s just say, a bit …. ´changing´ over the years if I can use this particular word… Let’s see, Tony Blakk was a member of Acheron for quite some time ´til he formed his own band Equinox; then Jonathan Lee who has obviously played with you in a band called Hell On Earth; Vincent Breeding being in the band at the same time as you did and now involved in the White Power Group; Troy Heffern who… well, never mind – guys basically kept coming and going in Acheron. It´s no denying that Acheron have had quite a few known names in the rank, but the line-up hasn’t been that stabile at all in comparison with some other Death Metal bands. And you didn’t make an exception either ´coz you were in the band approximately one year, and then pulled out. Didn’t you get along with Crowley or did you face other types of problems more on personal level causing your departure and how come in general the Acheron line-up usually keep changing that often? As far as I know the band has been on hiatus more than a couple of times?
I think it’s kind of like my situation where Vince has a definite idea and that’s the way he likes it is to have his idea. I never had a problem being in Acheron. The reason I left was because after we recorded those two CDs, a small record label was taking us to do a three or four week tour. I had just gotten my old job back which I had quit earlier to be in Nocturnus. It’s a great job and it’s the same thing I’m doing today. At that time I wasn’t interested in leaving my job for a three week tour. It’s a really good thing that I didn’t because the tour ended up not happening anyway. They got a new drummer, some guy that just hopped in to go on tour with them and the whole thing fell through anyway. If I quit my job, it would have been for nothing. I had a talk with Vince and I told him I like playing in the band but I just can’t tour. It just wasn’t feasible. I left the band on good terms. I didn’t want to, but for that matter I didn’t want to be just a studio drummer. He’s always wanted a steady band but Vince has the same problem that I do. He’s really into what he’s doing and all these people come in and try to change your band. It’s your band, it’s your brainchild. It’s fantastic that other people contribute to that but sometimes they just take the work you’ve done and take it over and do selfish things with it because they haven’t been able to do it on their own. I don’t really respect people that do that; people that try to come in and change a group and overpower the original members. It’s kind of disgusting because if they really were strong people they would be able to start a group themselves instead of coming in and sabotaging a group.
How did you take your ´new situation´ not having an opportunity of singing in Acheron, just playing the drums? Or would you rather like to say you instead enjoyed playing the drums without singing in the band at that time? Did you find it more or less a bit strange to you as you had always done both at the same time? Didn´t you miss chanting blasphemies to a mic while playing drums in Acheron at all?
It’s something that I kind of feel I can naturally do, playing drums and singing at the same time. I look at it as chanting, I don’t see myself as a singer. When I do these things I feel like I’m not really sitting on a drum throne playing drum, I feel like I go into these worlds that I am singing about. If I like a band and I want to play drums for them, if I’m not singing what I want to sing, then I would rather just sit back and play drums. I liked what Vince was singing and I would have gladly sung those same words, but they didn’t come from me. He’s very good at expressing what he writes like I am and that would be the same purpose behind not doing it, is that I’m not writing the words and I would not like to put my singing energy into somebody else’s words. Because words are very powerful, just the tone you give out and having vibrations that are very magical.
Time to reveal your history with Incubus a bit. First off, it was a semi- legendary Floridian Death Metal band that featured you, Sterling and Gino Marino in the line-up. Would you tell us how Incubus actually got started in the very first place and why you decided to pick up the name ´Incubus´ for the name of your band anyway? Did you kind of want to give people a clear enough picture about a relentless and aggressive Death Metal band by picking up that name for the name of the band so that when they could have come across with the Incubus name for the very first time, they would have guessed right away without even hearing the band, Incubus must have something to do with some extreme sides of metal music?
When I was in Morbid Angel we recorded an album for this record label owned by David Vincent. We had David Vincent convince us that our bass player wasn’t very good so we got rid of the bass player. David told us he knows this guy from Atlanta who would be perfect for us. So Sterling joined Morbid Angel but he already had started a band in Atlanta called Incubus that had a guitarist named Skeletor who played in Hallow’s Eve. Anyway he already had these songs when he joined Morbid Angel. We actually ended up doing one of them as Morbid Angel with me singing it. Sterling is just like I am with my lyrics, you know why should somebody else write something that I wrote? Basically, when Morbid Angel did split up, Sterling wanted to just grab another guitar player and do some Incubus songs. Definitely the name and the logo that Sterling already had was great. We got us a place when Morbid Angel broke up and went write in and started playing his stuff.
You only managed to record one demo with Incubus, but supposedly Sterling had enough material ready for a full-length Incubus album back in the day? Besides those demo songs, what other songs did you have completely finished and could you reveal some of those working titles for some songs you possibly may have had at that time when you played with your two ex-playing mates?
The band only lasted less than a year so Sterling did have more songs that we didn’t even learn yet. I think we had about five songs that we did before going in and recording three of them. Those were actually the first three songs that we learned. We started learning more but we didn’t have a PA so whenever we practiced it was just instrumental. We didn’t even hear Sterling sing until we went into the studio to record! We didn’t have may songs because the band didn’t last that long. It was about seven or eight months and most of the time we weren’t practicing.
The now legendary Incubus demo was recorded in April ´87, containing three totally raging and twisted old-school Death Metal songs; “God Died on His Knees”, “Reanimator´s Mutilations” and “Enfulged in Unspeakable Horror”. Gore Records from Germany issued the demo originally in the early ´90s and released it as a limited 7” EP; but also soon Slatko (R.I.P.) from Nuclear Blast Records saw the same opportunity and re-issued it and put out a cheapier looking version of it. After all these years, could you say that you are somewhat happy that it was released on the 7” vinyls ´coz not everyone had got a good enough opportunity to get a decent sounding version out of your demo. Have you, by the way, ever thought of re-recording those songs again with the original line-up and give the songs a modern studio treatment that they lacked since they were recorded?
It was cool that the 7” came out because the demo might have gotten lost and who knows how it would have sounded? That one was as close as we came to sounding like the original thing. It was good for what it was and I’m glad it did come out. Slatko had asked me about putting it out and I said, “I don’t own it, you can do what you want with it”. So he ended up putting it out and he sent me a box of fifty albums and that’s really the only thing I got out of it, was this box of albums. It was a limited edition and I never sold them, I just gave them away. It got circulated but it wasn’t ever really officially released by the band so that’s the way it was released. As far as re-recording, that will probably never happen because the feelings just aren’t there with the same people and if the three of us got back together it would only be for money and it’s not worth it for that.
That Incubus demo has also been included a comp. CD titled HARMONY DIES – Vol.1. along with Necrovore´s legendary demo and Morbid Angel´s cult demo titled THY KINGDOM COME as you probably know by now…?! Do you have any idea what way that particular Incubus demo ended up being a part of that comp. CD? My guess is that comp. CD was more or less a bootleg thing and none of you in the original Incubus line-up had anything to do with, correct?
I just actually found out about that CD just a couple months ago. Somebody told me they liked our track from that album and I had never heard about it. I never even knew it came out or saw it or anything. A friend of mine actually found a copy in Europe so apparently you can still find them here and there. I don’t think that’s something Sterling put together, I think it was just a fan who liked the bands so much that he thought it would be cool to put them on a CD. I’m not worried about it, I think it’s cool that people just listen to my music I don’t care about making a living out of it.
Tape trading thing back in those days was a real topic in the underground metal scene and many took it very seriously and determinedly all in all. How much did you be into it and could you also say the amount of Incubus demos that you copied for the requests, was more than people could imagine first?
I actually never really traded too many of the Incubus demos. Like I said all I had was a box of fifty but that’s really nothing when you have 20 friends, that’s like a third of the box gone. I never did any tape trading in that particular band because Sterling was in charge of the mail so as far as any tape trading with Incubus that was all Sterling. He was pretty much the band, it was his brainchild. But when I got into Nocturnus there was some tape trading going on. I still have a lot of old demos from people. I used to like to not really sell the stuff but just trade my demo for someone else’s. It’s the people that want to make money off of it that ruin the situation.
Also, media people gave it very flattering and praiseful reviews all around the world, basically stating that you were the new conquerors of the extreme metal scene because you indeed sounded exceptionally brutal and devastating back in the day. Hmm… are you still able the remember even one review about the demo that kind of stuck in your mind indelibly due to some things that were said about it? What indeed was the name of that particular media that went nuts after hearing the demo, metaphorically speaking naturally?
I know most people that heard it really did like the demo; it was very hateful and insane. It was what it was at that time and we were all sort of in the rebelling mood. Sterling and I from the Morbid Angel thing and Gino just from his life in general. We sort of just lashed out at the world in that demo, it really came out when we were in the studio. That’s why it’s so brutal.
Incubus´s promising started career as an extreme underground metal act was unfortunately short-lived and basically was destined to stay as ´an underground thing´ as the original line-up was together like 6-7 months or so. Sterling, whom ego, as far as I have read, was probably getting ´a bit out of the line´ at that time, had literally a physical fight with Gino – and that´s where all ´the fun´ got started and you might go on from this…?
Yeah, well Sterling and Gino weren’t working so they used to just hang out together and party quite a bit. That was a pretty big part era of my days, probably more than any other band. One day I went to work and I came back and Sterling was at the house we lived at. Gino didn’t live in the house with us. So Sterling told me that him and Gino were at the beach drinking, they got into a physical fight and I guess Gino hit Sterling a couple times and took off running. Basically the band was broke up. We were thinking maybe we would work it out eventually…But to me, there was just a lot of fighting going on. They would just pick fights for no reason. I didn’t want any part of that, I just wanted to play my music. The band was very crazy, it was an all-on assault of everybody and everything. It was just too much chaos for me, I like things to be a little bit more… In a particular order at least.
Would you have wished more years to the band´s existence? Or could you just say you are kind of happy that Incubus ended the way it did eventually?
It was probably better it ended the way it did. The chaos the band constantly had around it probably would have ended up with somebody dying sooner or later. [laughs] No, but it’s good that the band did what it did. It spoke, it had a voice and no matter how many incarnation or reincarnations of Incubus or Morbid Angel or Nocturnus or any band really, it’s never going to sound the same as it did with those particular people.
Morbid Angel… the band was basically started by Trey Azathoth and you in a high school in 1983, under the Ice –moniker when you were like 16-17 years old. It seemed like both of you had a common interest to play a very brutal and fast metal at that time. What bands were your main inspirations back in the day when you decided to start your own band?
Actually I think it might have been 1981 when we started because I graduated in 1982 and Trey is a year younger than me. I met him and high school when I was seventeen and he was sixteen. We had to get our moms to drop us off at places for us to jam. Yeah we called the band Ice and we had a couple of members who weren’t in our high school, our other members were a little bit older. We were doing like Judas Priest covers and things like that back then. Back then, Judas Priest was a big thing for us and maybe some Sabbath as far as influences go. Bands like Venom and Angel Witch came along and when we heard those we were like, “Holy Shit! Listen to this!”. So we did some Angel Witch covers and we were just doing whatever was big at the time. Back then we were basically an instrumental band for our own songs.
Dallas Ward joined the band a bit later when your band was called Heretic. He took the vocalist´s place in this line-up and you became a three piece band. Was he one of your friends in the same high school or how did you meet the guy anyway? Was it Trey or you who asked him to join your band?
After high school, Trey had moved to way on the other side of town so the band was kind of no more just because it was hard for us to find a place to practice. So Trey found Dallas and some other guy, I can’t remember his name and they had a drummer who was quite a bit older. We were all 18 or 19 and they had some guy that was almost 30. He called me up and we’re getting back together and they weren’t happy with this older guy. I started going over to Trey’s mom’s apartment and would jam in this little clubhouse by the pool. We were jamming in there just as a three-piece and then we got some money and were able to set up a PA. We were just having fun back then.
Before Dallas joined the band, you were an instrumental band for some time. How much did you play your own songs and what kind of role cover songs played in your rehearsal set? Do you still have any of those tapes available when you only played instrumental tracks and what you think of the songs nowadays? I bet it must be fun to listen to those songs nowadays, let´s say, in the name of some sort of nostalgia and old times, whatever – hahah!!
Yeah, we used to make a lot of jam tapes and I think we even played some stuff from the first MÖtley Crue record just because they were weird sounding back then. You gotta understand, this is before Iron Maiden and stuff like that. We weren’t really aware of those kind of bands here in the states. Dallas was really big into Venom and I think that’s what really changed Morbid Angel; from the Ice days to Heretic days. When the band kinda broke up after high school we heard of another band called Ice so Dallas came up with the name Heretic. We started calling ourselves Heretic but then we found there was already another Heretic so we changed out name to Morbid Angel. Trey called me and we got back together and we would just jam on whatever we liked at the time. We weren’t even thinking about anything beyond that, we were just having fun.
Did you have a chance to play your songs in some high school parties? Wonder how your class mates may have reacted when getting a chance to hear a set of your ´high-octane brutal metal extravaganza…
We did actually play a talent show at our high school auditorium. I think we played probably four or five songs. We played Judas Priest and whatever else was popular at the time. We jammed out some songs and probably did one or two originals which were just crazy. In the high school days we mainly played cover songs. I think we had a singer… Yeah, we had a singer back then. He was singing Priest type stuff and that was pretty much what happened with that. Yeah it was funny to play a show like that. It was really weird and we had this reputation of being weird people kind of like the Columbine students of 1982.
They after a little while, you started hunting down a front man for the band and after several singers for that position were auditioned, you found Kenny Bamber from some local metal band who had this ´kingdiamondish´ kind of falsetto in his voice. Then finally in 1985 you recorded a 5-song demo with this line-up where vocals were shared between Kenny and Dallas. When you listen to that particular demo these days, what kind of memories does it actually come to your mind? Can you still remember what kind of equipments you used for the recording?
Basically we had done a couple of shows as an instrumental band. We played in a parking lot one time even. So we were approached by this guy who had a huge PA system and lights and all that stuff. He was really into King Diamond and kinda looked like Ted Nugent. He told us he could sing like King Diamond and he had all these effects and stuff. He wanted us to put us in the studio real quick, he was older so we were like kids to him. So he had lots of money and he wanted us to go into the studio right away. We have like four or five songs so we went in there with not even too much practice and just kind of played the songs. Dallas did backup vocals because he knew the songs quite well. We sat back and listened to it and we realized it was not right and it’s not what we wanted to do so after that we just went back to having Dallas sing.
Did you be aware of the fact it´s been released as a bootleg CD, too? It´s being titled as THE BEGINNING and contains three nostalgic pics from your band in the layout of the CD as you may probably know by now… By the way, there´s also some acoustic song on the CD + some other strange, rehearsal standard ´noise´ in the end of that CD, too. If you have the CD, could you at least tell us who played that acoustic guitar there – and what ´bout the rest of the stuff on it in the very end? I heard someone of you screaming on that CD: “We tune you in to the most metal fuckin´ band in the world… CCHAOSS!!!´ …or something alike, he-he!!
Yeah, I have heard that CD. What happened was Dallas starting playing with this guy after he left the band. So he was in this band called Chaos, and as some people know Dallas ended up going to prison for quite a few years. As a matter of fact, he still may be in jail. I know last year he still was. He had like ten years that he had got and he had to serve every bit of it. So this guy was playing drums in this band and that’s what you hear at the end of that Morbid Angel CD. This guy had a tape of that stuff and he started giving it to people and next thing you know it’s out on CD. So there were so many copies and it just sort of appeared of a CD. Basically that’s how it got out, I never even had a copy of it or else I would have been giving it away. I don’t care, I’m not going to pursue any lawsuits for people putting out my music. I think it’s cool that people are actually listening to it and once again, I’m not in this for money. That’s basically what came out and what you hear at the end there is this guy’s stint with Dallas after he left Morbid Angel. He knew Morbid Angel would get around to a lot of people so he figured his stuff also would so that’s what happened.
Kenny´s voice didn´t fit your style too well and he just had to go and Dallas continued signing in the line-up. Honestly, did you like – or did you not like his voice when he was a part of your line-up? Do you have any idea what´s Ken up to nowadays? Singing in a King Diamond type of tribute band possibly, hahah…
Like I said, when we sat back and listened to the finished product we knew that it really didn’t fit what we were doing. Of course we were doing some King Diamond covers back then, I guess I should say Mercyful Fate. We listened to it and just decided that it’s not what any of us wanted so we parted ways on a good note. We went our way, he went his way and Dallas started singing again.
Richard Brunelle joined the band as a guitarist next. Was he a friend of both Trey´s and yours from your high school times or how did you get used to know him in the first place?
Actually he didn’t go to our high school. We met him at a party that we were at. He was with Scott at the time who was actually in After Death for a little while. So Richard and Scott were friends and they were at a party where a band called Power Surge played, a power metal band who was actually on Roadrunner Records. They were at this house where they used to have these huge parties and they would play and people would come jam with them. Trey and I were at this party one night and Richard and Scott were there. We were talking and we ended up saying hey, we could use a second guitar player. So we tried Richard out and we then became a four piece.
After a while, it was Dallas turn to leave Morbid Angel and because of his departure from the band, your role in the band was ´doubled´ instrumental-wise as you took over lead vocals in the line-up, too. If you take a glance at some of those earliest times when you started to concentrate on signing, did you have to practice relatively hard in order to be able to both at the very same time, I mean, playing drums and signing?
Richard and Dallas both started singing and Richard had a problem playing and singing at the same time. It was cool because we had two guitar players now and if he wanted to sing he could just stop playing. We decided it wasn’t that good and we ended up just staying with Dallas singing but Dallas got into some trouble and he left the band. We needed to get a bass player and we need to have somebody singing. Just from getting sick of all these different things happening I said, “Fuck it, I’ll try it”. I never really thought about it too much I just said I’ll do it and I started doing it. I could not actually sing, it came out like chants. But at that particular time we were studying the Necronomicon and practicing rituals and it requires a lot of chanting. I think those two things together… When you talk about chanting, it’s very rhythmic. That’s the purpose of chanting is to put you in a certain frame of mind to be able to either leave this existence or throw out energy. As far as that goes, I started looking at that as a I could starting throwing out magical energy through chants while I’m playing drums. When you see a ritual in a horror movie the only thing you usually hear is drums and chanting. I thought wow, what two perfect things to be doing together. What’s great about the Morbid Angel situation was that we were working with Necronomicon chants in particular and it just seemed to go along with the beat. That’s why my singing it so different is because it goes along with the beat instead of the melody. That’s probably why people say I chant more than I sing, because I chant along with the drums and that’s where that energy comes from.
You also did the vocals on the classic ABOMINATIONS OF DESOLATION album that you recorded in 1986, but it was never released officially before Earache Records put it out in 1991. Before its official release, it was bootlegged several times and in several different formats. Out of all those ABOMINATIONS OF DESOLATION bootlegs that I have managed to collect for myself during all these years, I could pick up and mention the one that was released on Spanish Dickache Records as a very official looking cassette and also some other bootleg of it that came out on Japanese Satanic Records as a vinyl. Are you aware of those copies?
I have heard some of the bootleg copies and it was cool that that happened. I know for a fact that John Ortega who played bass on ABOMINATIONS OF DESOLATION, he was so mad that we got rid of him – we were told to get rid of him or the album wouldn’t be put out – that he just took his copy and started giving it to everybody. “Well, if I’m not in the band anymore then I’m gonna try and ruin their record sales”. So he gave the record to everybody he could think of but the band didn’t last very long after that anyway. But he was just very angry and decided to try and do that. I haven’t seen too many of the bootlegs but a friend of mine came up to me and showed me this CD. He told me he just bought it and I was like what? He said it was from Earache Records and I was like how did this happen without me knowing about this? I was on Earache with Nocturnus so how could I not know about a record being put out where I play drums and sing. There was guitar, drums, bass and vocals. So I’m doing half the work on this album and I have no idea that it’s being released. I called up Earache and they told me they bought the recordings from David and Trey. I called their manager up and he was like well, we should have told you. We came to a little bit of a deal but it was paled in comparison to what other people got out of the deal.
Was it originally supposed to come out through David Vincent´s Goreque Records? Why didn´t David ever put it out then? Did he go through some financial problems at that time and that´s basically the main reason for all that why it never got released?
Yes, it was recorded for David Vincent and on his label we had a contract. Actually, Bill from Metal Blade who worked on Slayer and quite a few other bands… But it was supposed to be put out on Goreque and David didn’t like the bass player. He kept Trey up there after we recorded it to mix it. When Trey came back he said we gotta get rid of John and we gotta do this and that. We were like why do we have to do all this? Because David Vincent said we have to or else the record won’t be released. So he and I had some back and forth and it ended up with David wanting to be in the band and he already had another drummer lined up. He wanted his drummer to play and Morbid Angel was going to become his band because he had money. It was because he had some financial backing that he ended up being in the band and the rest of us were kicked out.
Would you tell us something about the recording sessions for that album; how was it to record the album in the first place and what kind of budget did you have for the recordings? Are you proud of both your vocal – and drum parts on that particular album if you listen to them even nowadays?
That was the Morbid Angel thing was the first real studio we went into and recorded a full length. It’s different when you concentrate on a couple songs and can just knock them out. When you have a full record of material it gets more tedious, there’s more stress and everything starts to sound the same. I think that album… We were in a strange place, it was recorded in South Carolina and that was the first time any of us had left our town before. Here we were in a strange town recording on strange equipment. We did the best we could and I listen to it now and it’s almost funny. It does have a certain feeling to it that was never there after that. It’s like I said before, the band’s name can stay the same but if you change even one member, it will, or should at least, change the sound of the band. If it doesn’t, then you have a pretty generic sounding band. But if you come in and make it sound exactly like it did, I don’t think that’s a very good thing. If a member changes then so should the writing. It’s also hard to play someone else’s music, wouldn’t you want to start fresh with these people and say this is our creation, not me doing someone else’s creation. That’s the way I look at but every song on Abominations of Desolation was redone and I’ve heard old Morbid Angel songs that I used to play up until about the fourth or fifth record. A lot of that stuff was just old stuff from different people that was redone.
Do you believe that you still might be able to play some of those songs off ABOMINATIONS if you wanted to? Or have you already forgotten totally how to play them?
I think I might have some trouble with stuff of off THE KEY just because of the difficulty of it and the speed we were playing at and the amount of practice we were putting in. We were practicing at least four days week 3 hours a time on that stuff. Listening to ABOMINATIONS, I think my style is pretty much the same now as it was back then. I think that I could play those songs exactly like I played them back then but it would probably take some work for some songs more than others. But I don’t think that there’s anything that I’ve done that I couldn’t go back and redo, that’s for sure. The feeling would not be there so that’s the main difference.
It´s 2003… What do you think of your ex-band mates, i.e. Trey Azathoth, Dallas Ward, Kenny Bamber, Richard Brunelle and John Ortega nowadays when they used to be in the very same band with you in the beginning? Would you describe some of your current thoughts and feelings about those guys to the readers of Metal-Rules.com? Are you still in touch with some of these persons?
As far as Trey, he doesn’t even talk to me anymore. Trey is Trey Azagthoth now, he’s not the Trey that I played with in Morbid Angel. He’s on a much higher cloud than me, we’ll say. He doesn’t feel that he needs to talk to me. I’ve gone up to him a many times, well maybe not many times because he doesn’t leave his house, but when he does come out I’ve gone up to him and tried to shake his hand and he doesn’t even want to have anything to do with me. He can have good luck with anything he’s doing now.
Dallas Ward, as far as I know he’s still in jail and it’s been over 10 years now. I haven’t said anything to him because he’s upstate.
Kenny, same situation. I saw him a couple times right after the whole and situation back then and then he got married and had a family and kind of just disappeared.
Richard, I still see him occasionally. He’s been in a couple bands that I like to go see. I still like him as a friend and he’s kind of in his world and occasionally our universes bump into each other.
John Ortega, probably a few years back he became an x-ray technician. I like the Matricide stuff that he did. He was mostly doing that on his own. He was in a small town outside of Tampa so he never really wanted to put a whole band together with a bunch of people. I don’t have any problem with John. I saw him in town recently and we talked. I run into him here and there and we talk.
The only one I really talk to consistently would be Richard.
AND BACK TO AGAIN…
So, what can we expect from After Death in 2003?
More working on new songs, this is a new band and we only have…when we played our first show a few we ago we had six songs. We just have to keep working on new songs, coming up with new things. Maybe somebody will like it or maybe somebody won’t. That’s really obsolete though because we just want to play music that we enjoy, I don’t want it to be compared to anything I have done or whatever.
It’s another page in grimoire of songs that I’ve come up with with different people. It’s an always changing chemical process and if it possibly wasn’t it would be stagnated and I think possibly because I have done so many projects and worked with so many people that it’s kept my life interesting. It hasn’t stagnated ever. I won’t let that happen to my life. There’s always change and change has to occur to progress. I’m sure there will be changes again because my career seems to be an ever-page-turning book. But I’m glad because I don’t want to keep reading the same page over and over again.
Both me (Luxi) and Arto want to thank you Mike on behalf of Metal-Rules.com for sacrificing your precious time for this somewhat megalomaniac interview and we wanna wish you very best of luck with After Death in the future, too. Let the closing words be yours now…
Well, Luxi and Arto I wanna thank you too for this. You probably put tons of time into this interview looking at the detailed questions. I know I’ve been emailing you guys back and forth and I just want to thank everybody that for some reason or another has followed my career. I don’t know why you would want to but I guess you understand things the way you do.
I’m glad that I could put something out that may have possibly had some sort of affect in people’s lives. At the same time I’m enjoying being able to do that and I think with After Death and things like that, I just want people to be interested in bettering their lives through the occult and that’s the important word; occult. Because I believe in it so strongly and I believe that it’s the effective changing thing that can bring you to different heightened senses and bring you out of this mundane world for a little while. Hopefully any recording I do, no matter what moniker it’s under or what people it’s with, I want people to be able to put on their headphones and get into an altered state of mind and just escape from all the trash. Hopefully if I can help people do that, I consider my mission accomplished because that is what I can do with this music. I can put it to use and I think that’s what I’m trying to do and what I’ve always tried to do. I would really like for everybody out there when they do hear our stuff to pay a little bit of attention to the lyrics. Not just scan them over and actually look into them and see what’s really there, take those words and think about them for a while. Take the music away sometimes and just listen to the words and try to put yourself in a perspective of where those words come from and what they mean because obviously they are going to mean something different for someone else. Basically, that’s what I would like to have happen, I want people to pay attention when people are listening to our stuff. If they take time out of their day and forget about everything else and wrap themselves into what we’re doing, I think they will get taken away into another astral plane. Then the music can do the magical work that I intended it to do.
And I want to thank everybody for sure that… And I hate to use the word fans because I don’t consider myself above anybody else in that aspect. I consider myself different from everybody else and I don’t want to be like everybody and I don’t want everybody to be like me. I want people to be themselves and to open up an make something of themselves, not just sit back and take from others. I think with my lyrics you are going to see a lot of that; making yourself stronger type of thing but in an occult way to where you build yourself up and you take control of your life and do the things you want to do. Not doing what other people want you to do but do the things you want to do and hopefully by doing those things I can come in contact with people who say, “That’s what I want to do with my life”. And hopefully they can take what I do and do their own thing. They can take that as a stance, seeing what this person did and doing it in my own way. If that happens, and if people like what I do, I will get to meet these people who listen to what I do and get to have conversations with people like I have been with you guys. I really like and enjoy speaking with people and trying to figure out what possible would make them the best they can be. That’s what After Death is about, destroying the old to bring forth the new. That’s why I don’t want to get caught up in old band’s, it has to be something new. I think that’s something that people are missing out of their lives, is newness. They get stuck in repetitive things and it has to be this way every day but it doesn’t have to be that way every day. It takes more courage to try new things than it does to do the same old thing every day.
If people like what I do, then possibly I’ll be able to tour again one day, maybe be on a record label one day and all those great things. Being able to put this out to people who understand what I’m trying to get across and make them feel good about themselves again, basically. Doing it through an occult way that heightens your senses at the same time; not just change but a heightened sense of change. That’s what the whole magical thing is all about and I want to do it with music no matter who it’s with. Hopefully one of my reincarnations of my bands will make it to where I can actually get in touch with people on tour and convey these things through live shows and then meeting them. Let’s see what happens with the future. I want to thank you guys a lot for this killer interview. Thanks a lot, Luxi and Arto (No, thank YOU Mike for your incredible, in-depth answers to our questions – Luxi).
I would also like to add in that we have three websites, one for each band. Each website is done by Lisa on her own and she does a lot of work on them. She’s always constantly throwing in little things here and there. Our websites don’t stagnate either. I would like everybody to check out these websites and just keep checking because there is always something new. Here are the websites:
I just want to thank you guys for this interview again and hopefully we can meet in person someday when my band is on tour. Thanks to everyone!