Tom Stevens of NOKTURNEL
Interview by Luxi Lahtinen
Tom Stevens, originally from East Rutherford, New Jersey, is a true warrior for oldschool thrash/death metal. He formed his first band Savage Death in 1985, did two kinda cult-ish underground demos (MASS GENOCIDE in 1985 and CRUCIFIED IN HELL in 1986) before the band called it quits. After that, it was the time for his second band, Nokturnel, which he formed together with Erik Young and Martin O´Connor in 1989. Two demos (YOU DON´T HAVE A CHANCE in 1990 and WELCOME TO NEW JERSEY in 1991) , one album (NOTHING BUT HATRED in 1993) and one 7-inch EP (ANTI GRUNGE in 1994) later, the band went on hiatus. Steve, however, kept moving on, and was recruited to Incantation for almost 2 years, plus also had some other temporary band activities going on for quite some time (live session slots in both Ripping Corpse and Morpheus Descends – not to forget Brimstone/Exile either, which he recorded BLACKENED REWARDS OF BLASPHEMY demo in 1997 with).
Tom decided to pull Nokturnel out from its icy grave in 1999, having Tophetarath from Fog/Hordes of the Lunar Eclipse handling the drums and Lee Ribera (Death of Millions ) n bass. The band´s second album, titled FURY UNLEASHED, was released through Tom´s own label, Nocturnal Eclipse in 2001, and was relatively well received amongst the fans of true underground thrash/death metal.
Tom and Chad Walls (on drums) are currently working with new material for Nokturnal – and this is where I leave further talking to Tom about the whole history from Savage Death up to the current activities of Nokturnel.
Be sure to read the interview as Tom´s skills as a real storyteller are unquestionable after you have read this lenghty and in-depth interview about him, and about all his bands he has been involved with for in the past years.
Good day, Tom! What´s going on in your part of the world these days? Been somewhat busy with some ´metal related ´ activities – as well as some business related issues in your life lately, perhaps?
The killer heat has arrived in Texas so we’re all sweating bullets already. This can make shows a little hard to handle but there’s been a lot of them going on lately. High gas prices have many of us screwed and people do not seem to get to the shows as much as they probably want too but in general the scene seems a bit stronger than it was a few years back. I am writing a lot of new material for Nokturnel as well as Engorge and hope to begin playing shows this fall. My snake breeding business is keeping me very busy as well. My "Spiked Leather" business is also doing well. No sleep for the wicked!
Going back to the first babysteps of Nokturnel´s history, the band was formed by you in New Jersey around in 1989 – and a couple of demos (YOU DON´T HAVE A CHANCE in 1990 and WELCOME TO NEW JERSEY in 1991) later, the band finally got signed to JL America, and you recorded your debut album, titled NOTHING BUT HATRED for them, which was eventually released in 1993. Would you kindly share some of your memories with us from those days?
We felt this compliment which was often paid to us was actually our curse. “You guys are ahead of the times”. We didn’t see it this way in the beginning. The first demo was not too much to get excited over, it was the first songs we wrote together and not quite as technical as the later material. We did OK though as far as impressing locals, though some fucking hated us since we almost never slowed down. The second demo ended up as half of the NOTHING BUT HATRED release and we would have preferred to re-record those songs but thankfully we accepted the offer from JL America as the record did get our music out there to the 4 corners of the world. I never really knew it as well as I do now thanks to Myspace, I hear from people every fucking where who say they have the record. Between 91-94 we did tons of shows but never got to far away from the New York tri state area. We opened for a lot of great bands and did lots of awesome shows with local heroes Ripping Corpse, Revenant and the mighty Human Remains. Very good times partying with friends and going nuts on stage but fact we were not part of the current trends hurt us. As a matter of fact it hurt all of us NJ bands but I doubt anyone has any regrets. Some people just didn’t get it, and now… fucking years later people carry on about the NJ style death thrash. Luckily I have not changed a bit, so hopefully more people will support the band when I eventually get back out there playing. All in all, we didn’t let things get us down. We played the music for ourselves anyway, if people liked it that was great, if not… Well, tough shit on them.
A year later, you recorded a 7" EP titled ANTI GRUNGE for a small US label called Rage Records, run by Ed Farsthey respectively. As the title of your EP already said it loud and clear, it wasn´t any sort of tribute to the prevailing ´metal scene´ back then; on the contrary, it was meant heavily against this phenomenon called ´grunge´ which seemed to spread like a plague everywhere during the first half of the ´90s. This grunge thing was raising its big and ugly head every corner of the world, but especially in the US territory (where it all started from – thanks to the raising generation in Seattle at that time – you sucked donkey´s dick!) – and labels started really fighting over for all these musically grunge-orientated bands, which partly killed many promising and talented metal bands back then. Such a pity… Do you basically subscribe all of these lines what I was just stating here?
Hell yes I do! It was just unfucking real! When I heard members of the Accused were into this shit I about slit my wrists. No matter where you were, if there was music to be heard it was fucking Pearl Jam and Nirvana. The fashion was atrocious, the attitude was retarded, the music was nothing to fucking write home about and yet a billion people wanted in on this shit? People are fucking mutants… Why people must make such an effort to be into what is popular is beyond my comprehension. To see a bunch of dirty assholes in filthy flannel shirts and hairy armpit bitches acting like they wish they were at Woodstock but into metal at the same time was atrocious. Grunge just buried metal and ad MTV influence and trying to give it some sort of punk edge or some shit was laughable. Then an idiot turned millionaire is so depressed he blows his brains out. Suddenly he is a martyr for kids who are depressed. Remember when Earache Records was putting out quality records in the early ´90s and what it meant to be metal? That was really something, and yet most of us had friends and family who could not believe we were not into grunge. Nowadays you have too many kids who are into ´everything´. I remember when you were either metal or you weren’t. Technical metal was coming out of the woodwork and if I played a Nokturnel song on guitar in front of someone who was into grunge they’d try and act like that was nothing compared to out of tune bar chords strummed by junkies. If every one of those asshole bands choked on their granola bars and died I’d have considered believing there is a God. Thank the dark lord that shit is gone and pray there’s never a revival.
How did you get in contact with Ed of Rage Records anyway? He put out some other killer 7" EPs besides the Nokturnel EP – like releasing all these 7-inch EPs with bands like Exmortis, Infernal Heirarchy (ex-False Prophet), Prime Evil, Epidemic and so on – just to name a few…
Ed worked for Roadrunner records many moons ago. He was pretty well known in the local scenes. Everybody always liked Ed, he is a cool guy and was always supportive of Nokturnel. He was one of the few industry people who understood what I was trying to accomplish. The underground has always spawned the copy cats, the bands may as well have been cover bands for Suffocation or Cannibal Corpse but instead of being another one of those bands the 3 original members of Nokturnel absolutely refused. We like that kind of metal, we were into lots of death metal with guttural vocals but we wanted to be original. Looking back I think we may have taken that a bit too far but this is why I included the song "A Collision of Dimensions" from the ANTI GRUNGE release on FURY UNLEASHED. It should help people understand the original lineup was heading more towards the style of FURY, but we had no intention of trashing our old songs. We love that shit, but to make a few records that that were just like NOTHING BUT HATRED was probably impossible anyway. Ed had great taste in metal, I am sure he still does and we’ll always appreciate him putting that release out for us, I still talk to him once in a while.
Did you release your 3rd, ´promotional´ 3-song demo titled GIVE THIS TO ANYONE AND YOU ARE DEAD right after you had recorded NOTHING BUT HATRED, or was it even before that? Please enlighten me about this matter as it confuses me a little…
It had to have been before the release because there’s a compilation that JL released that actually had the version of "Human Termites" from the "demo 3." on it. Come to think of it, "Global Suicide" on NOTHING BUT HATRED may have been off that session too? We had built up some momentum and people were begging for new material and the thing we heard over and over from labels was “this is pretty good, we’d like to hear more”. We were just cemented into this demo recording budget bullshit and never were satisfied. However we aimed to be raw and unrelenting and almost prided ourselves on the mistakes and insanity that made up parts of those recordings. We just didn’t give a fuck… BUT! We were trying to show industry people what we were capable of hoping they’d imagine what we could do with a decent budget. Instead they jerked off on trends and milked them into the ground. We did not want to release any more demos, we tried to keep "demo 3." to ourselves but it found its way into tape traders [remember those???] and that was that. My guess is that one is the hardest to come by now. I see the others offered on peoples lists but never "demo 3.".
Your 3rd demo was recorded basically for the record label industry people only, but despite of your efforts to get signed at that time, you didn´t seem to have enough luck on your side, resulted in keeping Nokturnel unsigned. Do you believe that most of the labels were for looking for more death metal orientated bands at that time – and that´s why your attempt to get signed to some label, failed? Can you find any other reasons for this, why the signs of the stars weren´t at the right position for Nokturnel back then?
I think we did the 3rd demo for ourselves too in a sense we always rushed things because we’d wait for a label to bite and too much time would pass so we’d freak out and want to hear the music we were working on. It was really the "WELCOME TO NJ" demo that got us signed. Songs like "Human Termites" and "Global Suicide" – even "Revenge of the Corpse" were really blowing peoples minds live as it was definitely stronger material than the older songs we wrote. Vocally I was always very influenced by Mille of Kreator and though my style was more out of control it was still way off base when compared to the new vocals of early grindcore, Swedish death metal, and Cannibal Corpse/Suffocation. Some people in both established bands and record labels actually suggested I change my style and go with the flow and we just laughed that off. Fuck that. This would defeat the purpose of the band. Imagine my frustration being a soloist on guitar and watching the trend come into songs with NO solos. People just didn’t give a shit. That also hurt us, it was trendy… and it meant you were fucking cool if you saw someone shredding a solo and their attitude was “fuck that shit”. Again, I like solos so there’s tons of them. Lastly was both the no mosh and hyper thrash speeds as opposed to the break downs into slow parts with double bass and the Morbid Angel blasting. We had our own style, and I am very proud of that. However I must say I really prefer FURY UNLEASHED as my oldest influences are much more easily heard. I had a much better response from labels with FURY UNLEASHED but this time it was the ´NO spikes – and NO corpsepaint´ that discouraged labels. Even though I run a business making "Spiked Leather", I am unsure of what I will go with when I play out. Nokturnel was jeans, metal and t-shirts… We did not have an image. This also did not help. Playing with Morpheus Descends and Incantation showed me the importance of showing people you’re serious by how you carry yourself. In other words instead of insisting that I’d stay exactly as I was in Nokturnel I got my shit together and dressed more appropriately which was not much different at all. The spikes were a big change though, but since I was thrashing in the front row in the days of Kerry King [with hair] and Blackie from VoiVod with his sick armor I always thought it was cool, but the original line-up was so out there it’s even hard to find pictures of us. We cared nothing about people knowing what we looked like. Incantation was definitely the band that was more professional in the sense band pictures with us looking serious was a must. In Nokturnel we may have worn shirts with some fucked up humorous comment on them. This was unacceptable with Morpheus Descends and Incantation. Some of my older lyrical content was not appreciated; "Welcome to New Jersey" was a really fucked up technical song with 73 riffs and all these crazy drum patterns. The lyrics were semi-autobiographical and a lot of it was funny too. It was making the point that living there amongst the pollution and idiots sucked and it was driving me insane. The ending chorus was "Welcome to New Jersey! Put a Gun to Your Head instead! Welcome to New Jersey! You’d Be Better off Dead!!!!!!!!!!!". Some people were just too ´evil´ to support music like that but we felt we were similar to Macabre in the sense we were too brutal to be playing with any other genre than death metal. Why the fuck would we strive to be in a scene with bands like who? Overkill? Megadeth? Can you imagine how much the hardcore people hated us… we LOVED this; we drove them nuts. One of the reasons I was enthusiastic about joining Morpheus Descends was even after my participation in Ripping Corpse people still wanted to talk shit and act like they were more metal than me? It was fucking irritating the shit out of me. I had already had Savage Death, Nokturnel and Ripping Corpse attached to me but Death Metal in the truest sense, Especially ´New York style´ was a lot different. Why people thought this was so fucking ´hard´ for me pissed me off and after I fronted Morpheus Descends live opening for Cannibal Corpse I silenced a lot of the locals. Even more so after I sang on the HORROR OF THE TRUTH. I despise the music industry. I ran a distro for many years and had a lot of inside honest answers concerning levels of success, monies paid, records sold and other interesting things most people would like to know about labels and bands. Most of the time it is nothing short of pathetic. I realize it is to be expected but most industry people only care about bands on their labels. They’re the best of the best, that is until they do not deliver and sell a lot of records and then they’re dropped and forgotten. There’s not much patience and results are expected immediately. Back in the early 80s it seemed like the few labels into metal were looking at young kids who showed potential and it was the bands that made a decent first record and a phenomenal follow up that went onto have long careers. Now you see a full page ad in a magazine for a band for the release, once or twice, and then they’re on their own. If you don’t sell a ton of records right away the attitude is often something like "Well, we ran some ads like we do for all our bands, what else did you expect?" And tour support? Money from a label to put a small independent band on tour? Is there such I thing??? I wouldn’t know. Taking this long rant into account think about it. Early Nokturnel was not trendy, the vocals were too old school, music too technical, drumming too different. We had twisted humor in some lyrics, not appreciated. Insane guitars but people were fascinated by cool death metal riffs at the time as well as blasting drums so once again it was not appreciated. Labels wouldn’t touch us with a 10 foot pole. Our musicianship meant nothing to them so we carried on independently with a long set list to pick from for shows and just kept on playing. Now, not having a stable line-up is probably not very appealing to labels. I guess I am a difficult fucking person huh? Ha-Ha…!! Fuck it all, I will release the next record myself again if I have too. I will tell you this. I have some very close friends and also know many great musicians who have personally told me they are really impressed with my music. Some have even admitted I am by far their superior! Do they ever mention Nokturnel in any interviews? NO! Thanks for fucking nothing! Whatever… I hold no grudges but jesus fucking Christ a little help may have made a difference.
When you played in Nokturnel with Erik (Young, on drums) and Martin (O´Connor, on bass), money seemed to be tight for you guys, and you couldn´t arrange rehearsal sessions as much as you wanted. Still, a lot of people were very amazed by the fact that even if you had almost a minimal amount of band practices, every time when Nokturnel played live, they simply destroyed the place (-s) by their incredibly tight, energetic and furious live shows. So can you Tom tell us where all that magic came from why you were considered such an impressive and lethal act onstage, no matter how little or much you had trained with the other guys in the band for these gigs?
For Eric and I that dates back to the ´80s and Savage Death. The other 2 guys in Savage Death were pretty mediocre musicians. Eric and I were already raging back then. Back then if you could play D.R.I. and early Slayer you were the shit on drums. Eric was all that plus heavily influenced by drummers in groups like Rush. He was just incredible. When Savage Death ended up not getting signed too Combat Records the other 2 guys just gave up and Eric and I kept on playing. I once counted that we knew and played over 500 cover songs, entire records by Slayer, Mercyful Fate, Exodus, Sacrifice, Celtic Frost and tons of others. We’d just run through a million songs like nothing and then began playing Savage Death songs at double and even quadruple speed as compared to a few years back. We were always really in sync, it was fucking awesome. My rhythms were always solid so Eric was used to that but my soloing got better and better to the point where it would start fucking with his head. This demented style I created was later incorporated into rhythms, some of Nokturnel´s songs were as complex as other bands solos and luckily that made no difference to Marty. It was no big deal for him, and often he and I would put a simpler bass line behind the guitar that was not just the same thing played slower and lower. It was ´true´ bass playing and taken into another world with Marty’s effects. I never used effects, and still don’t. Any effects you may notice on the original line ups material is all Marty. If you could have seen us rehearse you’d have thought you were hallucinating. Since no one was there but us we’d act like retards and do shit like jump high in the air over n over or literally run in circles. Make fucking stupid faces as we were pretty shit faced most of the time. We’d just go nuts and sometimes burst into fits of laughter cause we were playing a million miles an hour doing all this technical shit but for us it was just like… I don’t know… It was just not that hard for us. We also hit a point when we would play Nokturnel songs as double and triple speeds at rehearsal. We’d also switch instruments and play grind with me on drums. We once played a Savage Death song, we did Bring me the Guts of the Priest live with 2 basses and no guitar and double speed. We would just go ballistic; we were fucking nuts and barely fought over anything. Those were good times, the best I have ever had playing with any band. To this day I have no idea how we pulled it off? Live was no joke. For shows we were thrashers. We wanted to deliver a good show and our off stage antics were just our way of showing off. Live, we were all about the speed and the technical style we wanted so hard to make popular.
Is there – or are there some particular shows you did with Nokturnel that you´ll remember for the rest of your life? What made these shows so special for you in the first place then?
Man, were there ever! Lemme see. One time Nokturnel, Human Remains, Revenant and Ripping Corpse played and the polarity switch on my amp was in the wrong position. I got electrocuted the entire set until I fucking freaked and kicked the mic stand off the stage and finished the set instrumental. Tons of fun there, my mistake too yet I told the soundman he was an asshole, classic. Another time in Washington DC. We played over a heroine dealers storefront that sold chicken wings, chips, soda and heroine. The club was an empty apartment or storefront? No idea but it had no stage, no security, they served minors beer and the crowd was die hard metal heads. The largest assembly of thrashers ever to bang their heads to "Revenge of the Corpse", legendary! Human Remains and Deceased were on the bill and we had a blast. 2 big guys fought outside for maybe 15 minutes straight that night too, fucking insanity including gun shots in the area, I am talking ducking behind parked cars close. Another show in Cleveland, Splatterfest again with Human Remains and Deceased went over well and was a lot of fun though I invited King and the band back to party where we were staying and told him bring everyone. I did not mean EVERYONE as in the whole club. King decided to announce our hotel rooms during the Deceased set, dozens of carloads of people showed up but I was furious by then so I told all the extras tough shit and too fuck off. We had a good show with Cynic, Sinister [gods!] and Cannibal one year and many locals played. We turned a lot heads that night. Countless shows with the NJ heroes Ripping Corpse, Human Remains and Revenant. Deceased were also great friends and just playing for and partying with close friends meant more to us than playing large venues for strangers who very well may have been a bunch of fucking posers. You have to realize most people were baffled by Nokturnel. They were utterly confused and left with the impression we were fast. For the people who understood us, we were a great band to play with. Our first show was with Ripping Corpse, the scene then was really small in NJ so bands had to take whatever they could get and play with whatever… and the look on Shaune and Erics face when we did sound check was like FINALLY! Another band that was similar to their style. We became great friends from that day on. We had many shows that sucked balls, with next to no one there but we looked at it as rehearsal. The great shows we played made up for it. But back to grunge… Those dark times helped disband the original line-up. That shit and "Enter the Fucking Sandman…" ugh…
Nokturnel´s long awaited follow-up album, FURY UNLEASHED, was released on your own label Nokturnel Eclipse in 2001, with a different line-up – Lee Ribera replacing Martin on bass and Tophetarath replacing Erik on drums. Could you tell to the readers of Metal-Rules.com what kind of things eventually resulted in changing the Nokturnel line-up to the one that recorded FURY UNLEASHED, and to release this follow-up album of yours on your own label eventually?
Lack of appreciation caught up with Marty and Eric, even the good shows were just not that good. Both of them knew I did not feel exactly the same and other bands surely would have been interested in having me play for them and one of them was our best friends Ripping Corpse. They had shows booked and no bass player so I stepped in. The other guys were OK with this and at the time Marty had the chance to tour with OLD and we intended to eventually get back into things with Nokturnel but it never happened. The other guys had much more stable lives than I did. I don’t think they felt to o bad about leaving as they knew I’d carry on, and I did knowing I’d eventually do another Nokturnel record. After 7 shows over the course of a few months with Ripping Corpse I ended up in Morpheus Descends and then Incantation. There was plenty of the good the bad and the ugly during those days but after I had had enough I decided it was time to get my unused material written and recorded. These riffs spanned the course of close to 20 years of work and after playing them 98172439821 ways I composed Fury. I used 2 guys for the recording with no promises of any future with a lets see what happens kind of thing and the record came out awesome but no shows have ever been done by me with anyone but the original line-up. I hope to change that soon. Labels were yawning at the release even though they often said they liked. The things they got excited over made me fucking laugh… I am still laughing but if my level of success stays as underground as I always have been, well that’s fine by me. I am not going to harass any labels and carry on about how great I think I am, if they can’t see it what can ya do. Fuck it, I will carry on, putting out a release independently gets cheaper so it would mean more cash to record with and less to produce the packaged finished product.
Are you occasionally in touch with the previous members of Nokturnel Martin, Erik and Lee – still considering them as (good) friends of yours? Do you have any idea what these 3 fellows are up to nowadays?
Yes, they’re considered great friends. Eric was the best man at my wedding but I have lost touch with him as of late. I talk to Marty every so often, Lee was just here for my last party and Tophetarath and I talk once in a while. He has a studio in his home and can be found on Myspace (www.myspace.com/theensomberoom). All are doing well and have fairly average lifestyles working and whatnot. I wish them the best, they’re great people and all were awesome musicians.
Chad Walls joined Nokturnel in February 2008, filling up your previous drummer´s, Tophetarath´s boots better than you originally hoped for, I suppose. A longtime Nokturnel supporter Greg Smith from Unchain the Underground sent you a video of Chad playing with Brodequin and you became somewhat totally impressed by his abilities behind his drum set. What are his best assets as a drummer in your honest opinion, and what new he has brought into the sound of Nokturnel?
Well, with no disrespect to Chad he is not in the band yet and honestly that was never our agreement, but I do want him as a full time member. Greg did help me contact Chad, and he is a great guy and one of the strongest Nokturnel supporters. However, initially Chad had no interest in playing death metal. I believe he still loves the music but is a little in the been there done that mode and has moved on to bigger and better things. I feel funny answering for him, as that is just my view on this, but some people are just plain sick of the lack of originality in metal. Too many bands sound exactly the same. I got him to listen to FURY and he changed his mind. This was a great compliment. The thing is sure the Brodequin video was impressive; he was playing a billion miles per hour. But after learning more about his diverse playing background and especially hearing his relief when I told him I didn’t want a blast fest, that I had some really great material that his many styles he could play off of he became pretty enthused, but he is a very busy guy. VERY busy and things have been dragging due to this long distance thing. He is not even in the US at the moment. We agreed to begin and possibly even record the final product by sending files back and forth and this is not something I am used too. I really hope things do work out as Chad is incredible. I do not think much of many drummers I see and hear. Too much trickery in the studio and too sloppy live. Many are only able to play a few beats at a few speeds and people are so fucking impressed. It’s pretty lame. The drumming on FURY is very straight forward, but I wrote it that way. The new material is different, it is more complex and Chad is the kind of drummer I need for this. Oddly enough I asked a few drummers I thought were pretty fucking good to audition so I can start playing shows and they were all in the mind set that they could not play it??? I actually broke down and bought a drum machine. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. Chad is my number one choice.
You have been working with some new Nokturnel stuff lately too, which is said to be some of the fastest stuff you have done with this band, but also at the same time, some parts are said to be some of the slowest shit you have ever done with the band. Could you kindly reveal some more accurate details about the new songs that you have either finished, or currently working with, with Nokturnel? Please name some new song and/or working titles as well if possible at all…
It takes me an eternity to write songs. Even a riff or two off of FURY was written in the late ´80s. I have more shit that old and stuff I wrote as recently as last month. Imagine I was playing cheap black thrash [which was considered black metal in the day!] back in the ´80s and began attempting to be technical. Then formed the insane Nokturnel, worked with another technical band… Ripping Corpse, then shocked people by playing in a doomy death metal band Morpheus Descends, and a bit more of a complex death metal in Incantation. All this influence, plus what I grew up on musically, and then my own style… all stored in my subconscious somehow. My worst habit is ALWAYS thinking I have heard a riff before. Now honestly, I just don’t care. I know I do not ´steal´ riffs, I have never had the need too so I let me songs build themselves spontaneously and do not even record much of it. I just remember it all. After shit going sour with Incantation I was going to do another death metal band in that NYC style but said the hell with it. I will just use everything for Nokturnel. I won’t recapture the NOTHING BUT HATRED feeling anyway so almost anything goes. I can not begin to explain it really and there’s no song titles. No lyrics. Just some ideas…. But I hope to record one song before the full-length recording in the near future and it is a great song, but even that is not the best representation of my new material. I know Nokturnel fans are going to shit when they hear it. This record will go in every direction death thrashing black metal heads crave. No keyboards, minimal melody, sick guitar solos, over the top vocals in a wide range of keys, blazing fast, neckbreaking thrash, and even some killer mid paced shit and a touch of heavy and slow. Like FURY UNLEASHED, these songs will all be quite different from each other. It’s going to be like NOTHING BUT HATREDand FURY UNLEASHED combined. If a label would step up and give me a budget I would work on this project for many hours a day. Since that is not the case I have to keep up with my 2 businesses and family and work on metal whenever I have free time. This is why I want to get the one song recorded, to give people something to talk about while I finish the record.
Have you already given any thought for that when you might enter a studio with Nokturnel and record your 3rd full-length album? Are you going to produce it by yourself, or do you have an intention to find some other guy to produce it who could have the best understanding how a band like Nokturnel should sound like on a record?
I wish I had an answer for that. I will do whatever it takes to get this done, that’s about all I can say for now.
Do you have plans to record your next album having only Chad and you in the recording line-up, Chad doing the drums and obviously you all the other remaining instruments, from vocals to guitars?
That is the plan. I will compose all the music, play guitar and bass. Write all the lyrics and do the vocals. Lee did a killer job playing bass on FURY. It is no easy task. If you think so let me hear you play a track like "Food Chain" or "I Remain Faithless", that ought to be good for a laugh.
I think you also want to re-active this band for doing some live shows again, so probably an ideal Nokturnel live line-up has obviously crossed your mind a couple of times already, hasn´t it?
I think about it every day. Chad can not help me out unless it is something big like European festivals or a great tour. I have a lead for a new drummer and a few guys in mind for the bass. Chances are I will do both Engorge and Nokturnel at the same time and play twice a night. Time will tell.
PLAYING IN MORPHEUS DESCENDS, RIPPING CORPSE, ETC.
Talking about your session slots in some other bands, you did some shows in the line-ups of such bands as Morpheus Descends, Ripping Corpse and Incantation. You had some really good contacts to people in the underground metal scene – from the late ´80s to early ´90s and everything was done in the name of real metal brotherhood back then, at least without as much bullshitting and backstabbing as there´s in today´s metal scene. Well. Would you Tom mind explaining about those days a bit better, how did you end up playing in all of those bands – and what kind of meaning each band had in your life back in those days?
I was good friends with the guys in Morpheus since their demo days. Many people were under the assumption that since I was this chaotic guitar player hell bent on speed that meant that’s all I was into. Morpheus knew better. I joined the band, I was not a session member. At first I just played guitar but then I became the front man. Unfortunately they tried to keep me tied down and under control which is not really my thing. Nokturnel was practically free style in the solo department, I’d just improvise all this chaos. Morpheus would not have that and I got used to it and was a big fan and loved playing their music. This did baffle a lot of people, some felt it was a waste of my talent but I knew they’d let me show my influence eventually within reason and we were all good until the drummer started causing a lot of problems. As I mentioned, in a sense they played games with me. They did not use me for a show I was fully prepared to play in the beginning and that goes for playing on the HORROR OF THE TRUTH mini-CD. Instead they recorded the record and I wrote the lyrics, sang on it and only added guitar solos. The drummer was fired after the recording and we never found a suitable replacement. That was the end of that. Many people joked about me being the 6th member of Ripping Corpse when they had their original line-up. I never missed a show, sang backing vocals live with other fans a few times and they recorded DREAMING WITH THE DEAD not far from my house so they stayed with me and I was there for the entire recording. Though I am not credited on the record I sang on the backing vocals, the booklet for the CD was printed before the recording was finished so I was shit out of luck on that. When they needed a bass player it was no brainer. Everyone who knew us knew I’d be taking the position and I learned about 16-18 songs in 2 weeks and we played a few killer shows. I am very proud of that. It was a great experience playing with one of my favorite bands. Incantation, who hasn’t been in Incantation? That list may be shorter than a list of people who have been in that band. John Macentee didn’t seem to realize I was a fan. He seemed a bit shocked by it. He and I are both from the same area of New Jersey and when he was a baseball hat wearing little mosher he knew of Savage Death, probably loved that shit too, that’s kind of fuckin funny huh? Anyway that story begins with Daniel of the Chasm informing the band he was playing Milwaukee Metalfest with The Chasm. This would happen in the middle of the Incantation´s biggest tour to date which was with Morbid Angel. I was in limbo. I had no band and was just farting around in Ft Lauderdale sharing a townhouse with Phil from Malevolent Creation, not good for your liver or brain cells… But anyway he is a good friend and he convinced me to move down there. Of course shortly after I’d hear from Incantation in fucking Ohio and have opportunity knock to fill in for Daniel on two weeks of the tour. I escape the northern US and move to Florida only to end up right back in the fucking snow! With barely ANY rehearsal I got things rolling and started getting prepared for the biggest shows of my life. My reputation for being a fast learner has helped me get into these bands and though Morbid Angel could be spotted watching Incantation for a song or two fairly often on that tour, my first night fronting the band was in Saskatoon Canada and there’s Morbid sitting at a table waiting to see how I do. They almost looked concerned, ha-ha! My old friend Eric Rutan was probably telling them he knew I’d pull it off and honestly, we had a great show. What can I say? I guess I am fucking amazing, ha-ha! Before that on his last day, Daniel and John fought and fought til Daniel said fuck this and quit leaving me to finish the entire tour. John was very appreciative back then but this didn’t last long. You know brother, you can not ask someone to step into the biggest tour of not only your life, but also the biggest tour for that bands history and not have a cocky confident person lead the band. You have to not only perform and fucking kick ass, especially opening for Morbid fucking Angel, but you have to connect with a crowd unfamiliar with you, connect with people expecting to see someone else in your spot! Then off stage you have to constantly present yourself in a manner of seriousness and show people you are dead fucking serious and intend to not only stick with what you’re doing but that you will be an asset to the band and take them to the next level. John took it as I had rock star syndrome. Maybe I did appear that way but tons of people loved that lineup of Rob, John and I. Sure some thought I sucked too, you can’t please everyone, but as far as we knew the majority of people looked forward to hearing me record with them. A tour or two later and John was sick of me, and I pretty much hated him and they fired me. I heard they played with this one and that one and blah blah blah, and for the record I say with confidence Dave Culross agreed to play on the INFERNAL STORM because he thought he and I would be working together. I got fucked hard. That record would have been a lot different with me on it but what can ya do. It’s their loss. I saw John singing at a local show, I thought he sucked fucking cock. Maybe it was an off night, happens to everyone but since he had no sympathy for me even when I had the fucking flu, I’ll say it again. He sucked cock. It’s been at least 10 years and I have done so much, better said accomplished so much since then I am not really half as mad or bitter as I used to be with him. I have a million things to complain about and some are great for a good laugh but whatever. Incantation carries on and on a good day I will say that’s cool. On a bad day I’d say what a joke. Like the song says, "I’ll Take My Hate to the Grave!". At the end of the day, looking back on EVERY person in EVERY band I’ve played for I wish them all luck, even Incantation. I will insist that he made a big mistake by losing me, and I passed up an audition for one of the biggest bands in the history of death metal to play for Incantation which says a lot for how serious I was. That annoys the balls off me but after all this bullshit, I have to stay focused on my own band Nokturnel. I have always like Kyle from Engorge and watching him struggle with similar issues with his band I agreed to write their new record and should be playing live with them too, but I agreed in part due to some really killer shit I wrote that was just too different to be used in Nokturnel.
You were hired to Incantation for nearly 2 years. Did you ever consider that you could play with them forever because Incantation were a really popular band at that time, and as you know, they still exist and have a pretty strong following around the globe?
Sure, I had every intention of staying with them, they chose to fire me. I knew I would record another Nokturnel record someday but would have let Incantation be my priority, and that is what pisses me off the most!
John McEntee from Incantation was even a relatively big fan of your first band Savage Death, which obviously told something about his interest toward you, and your skills to create a savage and evil sounding deathrash stuff via Savage Death. Can you tell more accurately how your friendship started with him back in the day, under what kind of circumstances, etc. – and have you still been able to keep in touch with him through all these past years, up to this very day – despite of the fact you got fired from Incantation eventually?
I only knew of John in the ´80s. I didn’t really speak with him until the classic most respected line-up of the band was in effect. I saw him around at shows and whatnot and watched his attitude change. Some agreed with me, as I thought to myself “this guy is something fucking special now?”. Just as he misunderstood how I carried myself with determination I guess I didn’t really understand him either. He didn’t seem evil to me, or aggressive in any way shape or form. I will never deny that ONWARD TO GOLGOTHA is a masterpiece and I loved the majority of his later work but none of that matters after you’ve been fucked over by him. Before I joined the band we’d acknowledge each other with a what’s up kind of nod if we saw each other but he was going for the full on death metaller and I have always been a thrasher. We were a bit different. When we were getting along though I thought things would work out. They didn’t and after getting my gear from him at a metalfest I never spoke to him again. We have not spoken at all in a decade; I can be a cunt like that.
Have you ever thought of releasing both Savage Death demos on 1 CD, as they seem to be such ´hot titles´ amongst the true underground metal collectors nowadays? I bet you have even received some requests for them from some label people that would be relatively keen on releasing them in a CD-format, correct?
Man, again I have to laugh as you are correct. This has been laid out on the table and planned several times now and then those who say they will release it fall off the face of the earth? Maybe they came to their senses? I don’t know? I have a lot of pride when it comes to this band. Some of it makes me laugh as I hate the vocals and some of the solos from the other guy are just pure shit but we were fast, a little technical, and most important satanic. I get it, I understand the second wave of black metal but guys my age were pretty fucking irritated with this too. Suddenly Venom and Sodom aren’t black metal anymore?! That is not the real shit? Fuckin A, I am 41, do the math… See what people were listening to back then when Savage Death was around and then re-evaluate this topic. Satan! Satan god dammit! Young people today have no fucking clue what it meant to be into this back then. They’ve had extremist views handed to them on a silver fucking platter with an instructional manual and that goes for musical influence too. Who do you think has had a harder time becoming an advanced musician? The guys who grew up listening to Kiss or the ones who grew up with Malmsteen? Some bands of the past 10 years deserve praise, they’re very impressive. Where would they be without heaviest bands of the ´80s? I shudder to fucking think! When I moved to Texas, many looked at me like who the fuck is this guy and why does he think he is special? Or, well fuck I have never heard anything he did. Oh you didn’t? Maybe you outa look into that before you run your fucking faggot mouths! Savage Death came oh so fucking close to being signed to Combat with a push from manager Debbie Abono and Possessed, well almost doesn’t count, shit didn’t work out. Regardless, we still refer to this scene as the underground. That’s what we were, and that’s what I support to this day. I was in high school when I joined Savage Death. There was no blast beats, guttural vocals were rare and many people feared God in those days to the point that they’d say they thought the music was cool but would not support it due to the Satanism. Guys my age remember THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST being shocking and Ozzy was considered to a degree an extremist. There WE were, kids crushing the fucking cross and I fucking meant it. I still do! Jesus I am pissing myself off now, ha-ha! Savage Death had some great material in the works, even the songs on the demos matured into better versions, it’s a shame that shit didn’t work out. Then again, I still get mail from around the world, from both young kids and people older than myself who still listen to the band. It’s fucking crazy. Not very often, but I had heard from quite a few people and 2 small labels wanting to release that stuff in 2008, which says something…
Despite of considering Nokturnel as your own baby, you still seem to give lotsa credit to your first band, Savage Death – even saying you should never have stopped this band in the first place. What made Savage Death such a special band for yourself personally – apart from the fact it was your first real band that got some recognition in the underground metal scene?
Well, consider 2 of the 4 members of the band were still playing together and we had good songs that sounded a hell of a lot better years after they were written. We were good in the beginning, but we became great, it was as simple as that. Eric was not into Satanism at all. This did bother me a lot but this was not so uncommon in other bands. He was tolerant of it and was not all christianed out. He actually seemed to like the fact I was the evil entity of the band, and since he was behind the drums he was not very much in the spotlight of either band other than his playing. He was actually really quiet. Marty was not into Satanism either but he pretty much hates all organized religions. It was two against one. They insisted on changing the name and dropping all the old songs. I was pretty pissed about it at first. Then again look at me now… It’s been almost 20 years since then and here I am still struggling to find a good drummer. I could not afford to lose Eric so I caved and we started this new band Nokturnel. Think about this now. Imagine when the second wave of Osmose black metal bands hit the scene. How do you think Savage Death would have been received if I had never stopped my blasphemous death thrashing style? Songs like "Spit on the Cross", "Bring Me the Guts of the Priest", "Satan´s Throne", I mean – come on… People always love the veterans. I remember when people I knew mocked Blasphemy. Years later they worshipped them. I refuse to think that if I never lost the name or the lyrical content of Savage Death that I would have had a hard time finding a label to put out my records. To this day, there’s always that one person in a thousand who flips the fuck out when they realize I was in Savage Death. Two demos, 3 shows, and yet the band is still a bit legendary. Ask yourself, where were you in 1985 and what were you listening too? Most metal heads were probably playing Atari or Nintendo and listening to REO Speedwagon or Journey as kids. I was desecrating cemeteries and raising hell. Savage Death was a band that should have made a big impact on the scene. To our surprise bands like Destruction and Celtic Frost had our demos. Again, I just never got my shit off the ground and had members quit and whatever. Just like with Nokturnel. Yet, somehow, my music is everywhere and there’s people who are into it, and that to me is every bit as important as mainstream success. I don’t mean to be disrespectful to modern black metal bands. I can not possibly know how they feel about some of the things I am saying. My point is some young bands got to start off with an introduction to this genre with Immortal, Emperor, Marduk, Satyricon, Darkthrone, and well you get the idea. Me? Fuckin A I remember metalheads into Priest and Maiden mocking me for praising Celtic Frost and Bathory, and even worse Napalm Death. Of course most of those dumb asses saw the light a year or two later and loved those bands but Savage Death was raw and harsh, shitty, fast and sloppy and we thought we were right on track. It will always be sacred to me.
You recorded 2 demos with Savage Death; MASS GENOCIDE in 1985 and CRUCIFIED IN HELL demo in 1986, and both demos were compared musically to bands like Slayer and Possessed. How would you describe Savage Death to all those people who are still very keen on finding out how this band was like musically?
Well, in a joking way I would say we were like a shittier version of those bands and would have to ad Death and Destruction. We were totally primitive in the sense all our songs were in the same time signatures and almost everything was done 4 times. So if a fast thrashy riff starts in a Savage Death song you can bet your ass it will play at least 4 times and then either do the same riff one string higher up or do something different for one or two times and then back to the original riff. We also had to have the mosh parts. We were all about that trend, S.O.D. was shocking the underground and all kinds of metal bands were being influenced. So think cheap thrash with mosh parts for demo one, no double bass at all. There were some decent solos and some really cool ones on there too, again in predictable arrangements. Actually Eric was not on that demo and the original guy was pretty fucking worthless and a poser. I fired him shortly after we recorded that demo. I am pretty sure I trashed part of his kit while he stood there about to cry, hard to recall, it was like 84…? Then Eric Young auditioned and passed within 10 seconds. We were able to incorporate double bass and faster parts. I started writing much more technical parts but the time signatures were still very basic. I wanted much darker, deeper vocals and pushed the singer and he just didn’t get it so I hate his vocals on both demos, he pretty much inspired me to start singing myself. The guy was a fan of Sodom and I was trying to get him to sing like Angelripper. Didn’t work out at all. Bands began to gain huge fan bases though their sound was horrid, musicianship atrocious and image was often laughable, but towards the end of the 90s it seemed bands even capable of making quality recordings were shooting for shit production intentionally. THOSE people would probably bow to Savage Death, like I say when aggravated, where were you in 1985? For me, metal holds no surprises anymore. I have been doing this my entire adult life.
Did you manage to receive any label interest by those 2 demos you recorded in the ´80s?
Yes, we did. One or two small labels. New Renaissance wanted us too [I think? Not sure as I contacted them recently and mentioned this and got no reply?] but Combat showed major interest. Remember we were in high school at the time and we were asked to go to their main office to meet president Steve Sinclair. We went and were told we had a great chance of signing with Combat and that if we did we’d tour with Ludichrist on the "Immaculate Deception" tour. We actually said no… and told them too speak with Possessed’s manager which they did and even with that push and dreams of touring with Possessed, who we had met a time or two, the first gulf war fucked up the economy and Combat dropped bands instead of signing them. They wanted us to do something they called "The Bootcamp Series" after that. Ultra cheap, no cover art LPs with camouflage in the center of the LPs. They wanted to press the demos, ALWAYS been my fucking curse! Back then we refused and waited patiently for them to make another offer and shit went nowhere and we disbanded.
How was the underground metal scene in New Jersey – from the mid ´80s to the late ´80s? As far as I remember, Ripping Corpse – fronted by Scott Ruth, seemed to be one of the most known and popular underground metal acts coming from your area back in the day. Also Revenant, Human Remains – and of course not forgetting the mighty Whiplash, led by Tony Portaro, or Blessed Death either…
Early and mid ´80s sucked. Real metal was just getting off the ground. One Savage Death show was in an empty club and I wanted to leave immediately. A total flop, no advertising, no one knew we were there. The other bands come walking in with Quiet Riot hair cuts and spandex… I flipped and went back to the van. I did not play, then other guys did for maybe 4 people. Our first show was with Hatred and Whiplash. Overkill and S.O.D. played the same night so attendance was weak but it was very memorable. That was when the scene began to take off and posers were discouraged from coming to real metal shows. Those were the BEST of times. Even the hardcore bands back then were so superior to anything I hear these days and crowds for a while were very tolerant of each other. S.O.D. had a lot if not everything to do with that. When 1990 rolled in we were seeing the heaviest underground metal bands emerge. NJ bands took influence but we all must have been in the same frame of mind as we all played this technical music but it was not super down tuned. The vocals as I have said a few times now for all of our local bands were not guttural and NYC bands like Mortician and Immolation were already making waves and fans were somewhat segregated. I will never understand why but people seemed to want ALL the bands to sound the same. Even when Suffocation arrived there were some who said “this isn’t death metal?!” and soon after that the BRUTAL moniker was applied as it was something different. I didn’t really think so but that was just my opinion. NJ bands were simply not as well received in New York and the NJ scene was tiny in comparison. Occasionally one of us would get to open for a big band and get to showcase their material for a much larger audience but for the most part it was a very small scene and we were all really cool to each other. We would hang out once in a while even when bands were not playing, we were all good friends. There was a definite connection mentally within the brains of Nokturnel, Revenant, Human Remains and Ripping Corpse. Many of the bands from the ´80s were long gone by the 90s but some of those guys were still playing in different bands, just like I did after Savage Death. I was still around but playing for Nokturnel. Then there were also a large amount of people who became addicted to Slayer and Exodus and remained loyal to those kinds of bands and ignored the underground. In the early ´80s denim was totally in as well as baseball hats with the visor bent up and shit like Suicidal and whatever written on them but the same kid would have a pentagram tattoo. In general, people were way cooler and the scene was fucking awesome. My good friend King of Deceased once pointed out to me that suddenly everyone we knew from shows was in a band. There were simply too many bands in the ´90s. Egos became inflated and bullshit started over who would open for who and who would headline and people started choosing sides. Then people would use the excuse they were preparing for their own shows instead of attending them and the number of people at shows declined greatly. Metalfest was the in thing and some bands basically didn’t give a shit about anything but playing a show like that. NJ bands pretty much just accepted it and kept on playing.
BRIMSTONE AND EXILE
You also used this more of black metal type of band called Brimstone, together with Rob Yench (Morpheus Descends, Incantation, etc.) and Chris Baisley (Crucifixion). You released at least one 8-track demo with this troop, titled BLACKENED REWARDS OF BLASPHEMY, which was also released as a CD later in 2001 (on Dark Horizon label), but under Exile´s name – and with one bonus track ("What Rides on the Wind Must Be Slain"), which was actually a Exile song. Both of the line-ups were the same, so what made you eventually to change the name from Brimstone to Exile, and could you tell what caused the split up of this line-up? Was that band (i.e. Brimstone/Exile) more or less some sort of a project band for you more than anything else – or did it have all the potential to become a band that would have deserved more years to exist in your opinion?
I wish you were correct on all counts but unfortunately this is not the case. I have talked a lot of shit and mentioned almost everyone I have played for but you’re probably wondering why I have not mentioned these bands. I will try and keep this short, as it is kind of a long story. Rob and Andy of Morpheus lived in the same town and after all, Andy moved to New York to be in Morpheus. After we lost the drummer we had no band, and those guys began writing this black metal stuff without much serious intention. It was something to do since Morpheus was inactive. I joined after they had a few songs written playing bass and it was almost all super fast picking which really livened up the already promising songs. We went into the studio where Nokturnel used to record and had one fairly expensive session to record the song "What Rides on the Wind Must Be Slain". We were happy with it, it was awesome but soon after that personal things came up in Andy´s life and he made the choice to deal with them and moved back to Indiana. Things were a bit fucked up for a while, Rob and I felt Morpheus was down too 2 members for a while and even Brimstone was on the rocks. What happened was the music Rob and Andy wrote was divided and reworked in new songs for 2 new bands. Rob and I had Exile and Andy formed Fog. After Andy was gone Rob and I wrote 7 or 8 songs and once again recruited Chris for the drums. Rob has a knack for song titles which he chose for many of my lyrics, but all lyrics were written by me. We equally contributed to the music. Being Celtic Frost and Darkthrone fans we took a lot of influence from them, some from gods Aura Noir too. Chris’s drumming was not really up to par but many people into this music overlook mistakes anyway and the overall finished product was a very good record, however other than one track on an American black metal compilation I am unaware of any of these songs ever being released. Rob and I don’t speak much since my ousting from Incantation but I came to the conclusion it would be stupid to miss an opportunity to do something with either band, Morpheus or Exile for the sake of holding a grudge so Andy being the middle man basically negotiated both of us into working together again. What happened after the record was finished is a mystery. I think Rob remixed it 2 or 3 times, I have never heard these mixes myself. I have heard this record was going to be released several times now and it never has been? Since it is out of my hands I don’t know what to say or think but they were talking about doing a second record soon. Well, fuck… how about releasing the one we did 10 or more years ago first? I would play on a new record, that is if it ever happens but I can tell you there were some great songs on the first recording and some really killer lyrics I put a lot of work into. There’s also a track or two of unreleased Morpheus material with Eric from Nokturnel on drums. "The Forbidden Path of Legendary Evil" was this huge song with a majestic solo and was just as dark as death metal should be and was to show people the direction the band was heading. Never saw the light of day. All this is just beyond frustrating to me but what can I do? Macentee called Exile moshing black metal, and that is not far off from what it was, hopefully that shit will get out there someday.
How did you end up being a member in this band, knowing that you have always been into a more thrash/death metal orientated stuff – and Brimstone/Exile represented more of this black-ish type of metal – and being basically a completely different act musically what you did with Savage Death and Nokturnel back in the day?
Not really, it was mostly because we had nothing better to do and we were basically hanging around being unproductive. Rob and I were really blown away by Aura Noir´s BLACK THRASH ATTACK and if you think about it. Morpheus and Nokturnel were dead in the water, but both bands had cult followings and remained included in the local scenes even though we were inactive, we were far from forgotten. We could not find a drummer suitable for either band. We did not want to make half assed versions of either one so we just did something much simpler. We kept things in the basic, almost Savage Death like format. Regardless we were very happy with the record, but I am cautious on doing shit like this anymore as I put a lot of time and effort into something that would have been useful in another project that actually makes it to the stereos of people into my music.
How was it to work with Rob and Chris anyway back then? Rob had earned his biggest spurs in Morpheus/Morpheus Descends earlier – and Chris had his own band Crucifixion going on for some time before they hit their weapons together and started Brimstone. Obviously when you joined Brimstone, the chemistry between each of you was relatively good then already, each of you kind of being aware of what kind of stuff you wanted to do with Brimstone – and respecting the backgrounds of each of your earlier bands where you all came from, correct?
I know nothing of Crucifixion? I am not even sure it is the same guy??? Chris was into Morpheus, that is a fact and I think he was into Nokturnel as well. I just remember hanging out with him at Rob´s place a few times and though he was pretty nervous, after many days of hard work it was looking promising that he could pull off the record. As far as being a good guy, hell yeah – Chris was a great guy and I recently began speaking with him again. We all got along well but unfortunately Chris could not get past a level of performance that was not going be good enough for Morpheus. Sam Inzerra was a very hard act too follow. His speed was nothing to write home about but the inventive snappy fills he threw in all over the place was too much for Chris. Brimstone, however, was easy to follow when the drums were concerned so Chris struggled through it all. We started that band with a drum machine and had what seemed like an eternity of the inhuman blasts and we realized that the thrashier drumming was also very suitable, and it made all the difference in the world when we added slow parts. You know we were in upstate **New York**, not on Manhattan and I do not recall anyone other than one person who ever saw us play. For me, well I would have been happy just to make the record at first but we got kind of excited over the potential for the band and began to take it more seriously, but until that music is in the hands of metalheads it is pretty worthless and that just sucks.
OF GAUNTLETS AND SNAKES
You married your current wife Eloisa on October 30th in 1999, and I was – to be honest, really surprised to find from some of your wedding pictures that both you and I have shared one communal friend for many years already: Patrick Ranieri from the mighty Hellwitch. He was videographing at your wedding and obviously your friendship with him started way back already when every metalhead seemed to be involved heavily with the tape trading scene in the ´80s. Could you tell us how your friendship with Pat of Hellwitch started?
Pat did indeed film our wedding. I have to tell you, when thinking back to these old days it’s hard to remember what life was like before computers and the internet! I think initially he was one of the privileged few to get the 3^rd demo. I believe we sent him WELCOME TO NEW JERSEY in the early ´90s too. After the shock wore off that we were so different from most bands we realized we had to search for like minded people when it came to technical metal. Hellwitch was one of the older bands that still intended to stand their ground and not cave into to trends with their style of technical Florida death metal. My mother moved to Florida and I began visiting several times a year and this is when I began hanging out with South Florida metalheads and Pat was one I always looked forward to hanging out with. Pat’s video collection was nuts and we’d hit a few bongs and dig out classic shit only we like, like A.O.D. at CBGBs, the Meatmen, and of course some really disturbing shit too. We’d have hilarious conversations about industry people carrying on about how talented some bands were when we thought they pretty much sucked haha! I still talk to Pat too. It’s hard to get the fucking guy out of his house but I never minded going over to his place. When I finally moved down there with Phil from Malevolent Creation I hung around with those guys a lot as well as Xaphan from Kult ov Azazel, also at the wedding, ha-ha! Me and him had the anti-Christian bond thing since we were definitely on the same page with that and he is a cool guy to party with too. I do not know many people overseas as far as popular bands go, but here in the US I am fortunate to have known so many great people personally. It is something that has always meant a lot to me, to have good friends who acknowledge Nokturnel as a great band.
Did your band (-s) ever play any shows with Hellwitch, by the way?
Not yet but there’s still hope!?
You have also been doing gauntlets and boot covers for more than 10 years already, and run a webpage called “Spiked Leather” together with your wife for these products. How did you run into this business in the first place? Some sort of a desire to look good, armed and ready to kill with your own band (-s), perhaps?
We simply call it the "Spiked Leather" page on Myspace but the company is still called Nokturnel Eclipse. Nokturnel Eclipse was my distro and we started off with CDs and T-shirts and then saw the need for quality gauntlets. I referred to Nokturnel Eclipse as the label that I released FURY UNLEASHED with too. While in Incantation we’d occasionally be looking for gauntlets and I could see how people end up taking whatever they can and the majority offered are screw ons. Somehow these things can and do loosen up and fall off. I bought one that was riveted on and when looking for a place to consistently buy materials I decided this was the type of gear I wanted to make. I got better at making the pieces as time went on and though I make custom items, for the most part I encourage people to stick with what we feel are traditional pieces. I see the trend now is elaborate costumes. With pictures of bands like Dimmu Borgir and Behemoth plastered everywhere I understand why people want these types of accessories but that is not my thing. I may experiment with some new things very soon but for the most part I do very well with the few types of things I offer now. I wanted to offer people quality gear made from someone involved in the scene for over 20 years instead of them having to buy from Hot Topic or porn stores and head shops.
10 (and more) years is actually a terribly long time to make spiked leather gauntlets and boot covers, so therefore I´m curious to know what are some of those most known customers in bands you have made these custom-made gauntlets for?
Kult ov Azazel, Fog/Typhus, Engorge, Exhumed, Vital Remains, Godless Rising – just to name a few.
Do you have any potential competitors in this biz so that a so-called market-based pricing is about the same for each of you that work in this business area for making these very nice-looking gauntlets?
I have seen many people come and go, and have also heard quite a few complaints about some of my competition. Luckily for me, my rate of customer satisfaction is damn near perfect. I have some customers who bought pieces about 10 years ago and those pieces still look great today. If somewhere else is doing better than me at one point I am not going to lose any sleep over it. My pricing is firm unless a band is buying a bunch of shit at once and as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. You want some quality shit? Buy from ME www.myspace.com/spikedleather
You are also strongly fascinated by snakes. Would you tell something about that too, how and when you got involved with those living creatures for the first time, for the purpose of starting collecting them, and eventually running a webpage (www.tomssnakes.com) for articles and pictures about them (written and taken by you) for all snake lovers around the globe? How many snakes do you have in your personal collection nowadays?
That goes all the way back to my childhood. I always had pet reptiles. Back in the Savage Death days locals in my town called me snake and I felt that was a blasphemy since I was a huge Voi Vod fan. I didn’t start breeding snakes until I moved too Texas. It was something that started as a hobby. I needed something to keep my mind off the fact I was not in a band and not able to get things accomplished with Nokturnel. Little did I know I would do so well with it and I had success producing babies early on. I started with 3 pairs of snakes. Now I probably have 50 pairs. I never have any less than 200 snakes here and at certain times of the year I have over 500. Since I seemed to see success early on many people emailed me and asked me the same questions over and over and though I enjoy talking about snakes as much as I do metal I started to not have enough hours in the day for this. I started my web site so people could see what I have to offer and make purchases and authored articles about things I do to increase other hopeful breeders chances of success. The reptile industry is no joke in the US, and in many places worldwide these make desirable pets. I actually call that company Snakes By Nokturnel Tom, and many people in this industry know I am some sort of heavy metal maniac and sometimes I am slammed for it. I always use the name Nokturnel on all things related to me. Nokturnel Eclipse Distro, Snakes By Nokturnel Tom, the band Nokturnel is something that will be attached to me eternally and it’s funny how people are very used to it. In the reptile world some call me Tom Stevens but most call me Nokturnel Tom. The worlds largest Reptile Expo is coming up in late August in Daytona Beach Florida and I will be there as a vendor selling my most expensive and rare animals. Like metal fests, people get to see others they only see once a year at this even and we party our asses off. During the day I am all business, I wear a shirt with some snakes on it or something, but at night when I hit the bar. I wear something most find offensive just to break balls. Fuck them if they can’t take a joke. There have been instances where Nokturnel fans found me because of the snakes. The email comes in and I think it is a typical order. Then they ask Toms Stevens? From the band Nokturnel?!?! And flip out when I say yes. It is very cool.
Have you planned to make some of your snakes to breed, and then sell some of their offbrings away to all snake lovers? Would be kinda cool business idea, I think.
That’s exactly what I do, this is my job. I work on average 55-60 hours a week with these animals but it can be quite profitable. I have produced some very rare animals which has brought name into the industry and whether people want to be assholes about my music and religious beliefs or not, there’s no denying I have great animals. It’s great to hear from metal heads who are into snakes, there are plenty of us out there. I ship snakes nationwide here in the US, it is a great business for me to run from home.
I guess that was it Tom. I wanna sincerely thank you Tom for your time that you spent answering to this question marathon – and I hope you find this interview worth of your interest and I didn´t manage to bore you completely to death with my questions. If there´s still something you´d like to say, now here´s your last opportunity for that… ;o)
I can’t believe you forgot the question of all questions concerning Nokturnel who wants to know about the NOTHING BUT HATRED and FURY UNLEASHED record cover arts (Oooops… sorry about that, man!)! NOTHING BUT HATRED was supposed to show our disgust for what humanity does to itself by having a photograph of a huge oil refinery [in NJ of course] pluming massive amounts of smoke into the air with the bands photo mixed into it in a dark disturbing kind of way. Instead we paid two art fags in advance for this professional idea we came up with and instead they made this “movie set” type of thing for us to be photographed in front of. The money was spent so we had no choice but to give it a shot. The final product was not much like what we had in mind but again striving for originality we went for it. Some people love it, some people hate it, some people think it is nothing short of ridiculous. All I know is it is memorable and when many ask me about the band it is common for them to say “the one who was hanging from chains on that cd cover?”. So we got what we wanted in a sense. However lesson learned. I went with the old school approach for FURY UNLEASHED and had NO cover art on that one – just the logo and the title and of course some people bitched about that too. Whatever, it’s always been ALL about the music for me.
This has been one hell of an interview. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for this bro! It is an honor and for all friends old and new that I met throughout the years in the bands I have played for please contact me! It would be great to hear from you. Nokturnel fans often find me but I lost contact with many great people I met from my Incantation days and that is a shame. You are not forgotten! Thanks Luxi! Thanks METAL-RULES.COM!