In the metallic world, some of the most brutal heaviosity can also be the silliest. Nobody can deny the greatness of Cannibal Corpse, for example, but their bloody disgusting lyrics detailing zombies, necrobutchers, plagues and,um, being raped with a knife are slightly less genius than the heavy riffosity at hand.
When I first heard San Diego’s Pathology, the crushing death grunts of vokiller Matti Way were a) totally indecipherable and b) totally awesome. But I figured they were treading the same blood-soaked waters as their Corpse-Grinding peers. Turns out I was completely wrong. When delving into the lyrics printed in the liner notes of the band’s exceptional new album Legacy Of The Ancients (Victory), I found a trove of stories detailing conspiracy theory, giants called the Nephilim who will rise and conquer mankind, freemasons and the inevitable coming of a reptilian race all set to a blistering slam-metal soundtrack rife with sick riffs and Dave Astor’s (ex The Locust) dizzying percussive mastery.
This ain’t your average bunch of heshers.
I recently caught up with new vokillist Jon Huber, a 26 year old super-mellow dude from the Northwest who just happens to love crushing slam. Just like Mark Wahlberg in that classic movie Rock Star, which is loosely based on Tim “Ripper” Owens’ ascendancy to the top of the heap as Halford’s replacement in Judas Priest, Huber loved Pathology, tried out for the vokill vacancy and got the gig. Here’s my quick chat with a very astute and well spoken rocker who enlightened me on the perils of living in a van and the travails of a slamming death metal band on the road for perpetuity.
How did a dude from grunge’s epicenter end up jamming with a gore band?
Jon Huber: Well, there’s been plenty of other relatively successful bands to come out of my home turf besides grunge but that often gets pushed to the wayside. Everyone thinks we just sit around drinking lattes, wearing ripped-up jeans and flannel. You’ve got Wolves In The Throne Room, Book Of Black Earth, Trial, Stay Gold, I mean there are so many bands to come out of my area that have been signed and done lots of touring. I mean, I am a huge, huge Alice In Chains fan but I can’t stomach Pearl Jam or Nirvana, bands I listened to when I was very young. Heart is from there; my dad’s brother was friends with one of the original members of that group as well as Jimi Hendrix. Those are 2 monstrous names from up there.
Where does your appreciation of the sick brutality of Pathology come from?
I appreciate all forms of music; actually, I don’t just listen to brutal death metal all the time. If I listened to it all the time, I probably wouldn’t play it all the time [but] I have a drive and a passion to continue doing what I do. I got into the guttural slam stuff Pathology does about 4 years ago when I found the band Devourment from Texas. Basically, they opened my ears and my mind to a different style of metal that I never knew existed and I branched out into different groups. I found Condemned and Disgorge and, shortly after that, Pathology. It just blossomed into an ever-growing list of brutal, guttural bands that I listen to now.
How did you hook up with Pathology?
Basically, I had been into Pathology for almost 3 years. After I quit my former band [I Declare War] I kinda didn’t have any vision of doing music anymore and I saw Pathology play with Enthroned this past August in Portland, OR and they had Shawn Whittaker (sic) from Insidious Decrepency filling in on vocals because [former frontman] Matti Way wasn’t able to tour with them due to some personal things he had to take care of back in the San Diego area. I was already a big fan of Pathology and, about a month later, I saw something online that said they were looking for a second guitar player and a vocalist, someone who could tour and, not meaning any disrespect to Mr. Matti, go out on the road full time and not just record and play a lot of local shows in California, Vegas is relatively close to home.
So, my very close friends Matt and Kyle from back home, said ‘This is something you are meant to do, vocally. It would not be a waste of your time to try out [but] it would be a waste of your voice, your talent by not even giving it a shot.’ So after a lot of personal inner conflict with myself, I wrote Marco, our manager, a formal email stating my previous history with bands and music, what I’d done, all my credentials. I said I knew about being on the road and how this style of music is not a huge money maker at all, that I wasn’t expecting to walk away with millions of dollars and all that garbage. I know it requires a lot of hard work and dedication, I know I won’t be sleeping in fancy 5 star hotels, I know I’ll be not showering and sleeping in parking lots and sleeping in the van, y’know, a lot of things people don’t think the road is about. They think it’s all glitz and glam, but it’s not. Anyway, I didn’t think anything would come of it but one day I was at my job and I got a message on my phone. It was an email from [drummer] Dave Astor.
[Due to my burnt out phone, and not burnt out mind as some would assume, our connection bottomed out like Xtina at the Super Bowl, but we resume eventually…]
So Dave Astor emails you out of the blue?! This is just like that movie Rock Star, you ever see that one?
Um, yeah. So Dave and I started emailing back and forth from there and he asked me if I wanted to do a trial video track for the band. It had been 6 months since I had done anything vocally so I definitely practiced a lot for the song and got warmed up.
What song did you do for the test?
I did Among Giants which is track 3 off Legacy Of The Ancients. I recorded with my good friend Jay who works at a radio station in downtown Seattle. We went to the studio, put the track in and recorded the vocals with a standard live mic, one of my SM 58s and did a few takes and I did the best I could. We sent it off and I wasn’t too thrilled with the way it sounded. I was out with my friend Matt that night just having a couple of drinks and celebrating the fact that I even got to try out and Dave emailed me back to say it sounded really good and would I like to come down and meet the band and have a practice, learn a few more songs and go from there. I was like ‘Yeah dude, I’d love to!”
I went down to San Diego for a weekend, we had a practice on the Saturday and they asked me if I wanted to know if I made the band. I figured they’d tell me when I got home but they were like ‘Oh no, you got it!’. I was put into the Pathology family from that point on back in January 2011.
What plans do you guys have for promoting the excellent Legacy Of The Ancients record?
We’re doing a tour with Obituary and Grave and then, in the summer, we’re touring the U.S. with Blood Red Throne and Grave once again. They’ve been working on some new tracks for the guitars and the drums and I’ve been writing new songs on my laptop, new material and we’ll be hitting the studio in June to hopefully get a record out in the fall with a whole new lineup, basically.
There is a lot of paranoia to the lyrics on Legacy, a lot of subversive imagery and conspiracy theory. Do you plan on maintaining that colour with your lyric writing?
Very much so. For about the last 3 years, I’ve done a lot of reading, a lot of research checking out info on other sources as opposed to your massive, global mania coverage like CBS, NBC, ABC.
In my opinion, as well as many people’s opinions in extreme music, especially if they know about slam or guttural bands or guttural vocalists, I mean Matti Way is an unbelievable frontman, an unbelievable vocallist, he is one of the godfathers of the gurgle, the guttural vocals. To try to emulate, to try to bring to the table what he does is definitely going to be a task but so far, live, people have been extremely pleased with it [and] they think I pull it off as far as the way my voice sounds. I try to bring it live, I try to put on a good show for people headbanging super hard, I hit the floor, punching the floor, stomping the floor, trying to get the crowd involved, get people moving and get them entertained. You’re paying your hard earned dollar- you don’t want to watch someone that’s going to put you to sleep.