Heart of Steel: Interviews

INFERNAL MAJESTY - Interview with
guitarist Kenny Hallman

Interviewed by Luxi

In the unholy year of 1986, I got to hear Infernal Majesty´s 4-song demo for the very 1st time. I became totally amazed by such songs as "Overlord", "Night of the Living Dead", "Skeletons in the Closet" and "S.O.S.". All the spirit, magic and mayhem of San Francisco´s own boys Slayer (well, sort of!) were nicely captured into these 5 furious Canadian thrashers´ demo as well - and after hearing the tape over and over and over again, I sort of became even more hungry for their very much magical and captivating (satanic) Thrash assault!

Blessed were the whatever-Gods just about a year later as I managed to lay my hands on their eagerly-waited, now legendary debut album titled NONE SHALL DEFY which absolutely has become one of my favorite Thrash Metal albums of all time.

Then our ´infernal brothers´ split up for more than a decade until their 2nd album called UNHOLIER THAN THOU saw the day of a darkened sky in 1998 - AND the band went into hiding again (as it seems to many of us, I believe…) ´til their webpage was bravely launched to the public at the beginning of 2002, telling us that the guys were breathing and doing well and the band was getting constantly stronger as far as their new material was concerned.

For me, as a long time fan of the band, I finally decided to use my opportunity and make contact to them and ask from Kenny Hallman (the 6-string master of this fine Canadian Thrash band) shamelessly what´s been up with them for all these past years since the days of UNHOLIER THAN THOU. Kenny cleared a few things out ´bout the band - and just much more…

First off, let´s have a word or two about the most current matters of the band. You have been recoding your new album titled ONE WHO POINTS TO DEATH and obviously you just recently finished the vocal tracks for it. So, how´s everything going for that much anticipated follow-up album thus far? You used Media Sound studio for the recordings that is located in Vancouver? What kind of decisions made you record there this time?

We are not recording the full album at Media Sound, they are a studio in Vancouver who knew us and offered to let us use the studio to do all the recordings first and get a chance to experiment with a few ideas at a far lesser rate then Profile studio which we are using for the recording of the actual album.

 

Your previous album called UNHOLIER THAN THOU was recorded both at Reaction Studios in Toronto by Scott Burns where you recorded the guitars and the drums and the vocal and bass tracks were recorded at Signal to Noise Studios by Rob Sanzo in the same city as well - and the whole thing was mixed at Studio Victor in Montreal by this Obliveon dude Pierre Rémillard and then it was even mastered at Future Disk in Los Angeles by Chris Perry. Eh…, seems like a big puzzle of sounds for me; I was wondering why it had to be recorded/mixed/mastered that way - using 4 separate studios to get it done? Realistically thinking, it could have been done by using two different studios only for those certain purposes, right?

Yeah it was a bit strange how that album was recorded. Scott did the brunt of the work in Toronto and it cost us a lot of money so we really couldn't finish it until we secured a record deal, which we did with Hypnotic records. At the time we wanted to finish it, Scott wasn't available so Hypnotic Records sent us to Studio Victor in Montreal since they had a good relationship with that studio. We really wanted Scott to finish it but we didn't have much choice in the matter since hypnotic was paying the final tab on the recording.

 

UNHOLIER THAN THOU came out in 1998 and it´s 2002 now, so it´s been quite a long time since your latest recording sessions took place in your calendar. So, what happened in the Infernäl Mäjesty camp between this period of time? Did you actually  break up for a while? At least you went through these line-up problems as Chay Mcmullen (your previous bassist) and Kevin Harrison (now also ex-Infernäl Mäjesty skinpounder) were replaced by Kiel Wilson who took Chay´s position as a 4-string torturer and Kris DeBoer was placed behind the drum kit. Were these line-up problems the main reason for all this silence around you - or was there something else, too? Like some problems with Hypnotic Records, for example?

Things were going great, we were getting good response to the album and good tours but playing every night takes it's toll on some people. Kevin Harrison was becoming a complete pain in the ass, he wasn't 100% into it any more and it became hard working with him. Chay McMullen was a great bass player but wasn't interested in living in Vancouver with the rest of the band, he really wanted to stay in Toronto, which we understood but we needed him here not there so we parted ways. Finding Kiel and Kris came quickly but it took them some time for them to learn all the old songs as well as learning and writing all the new songs. We had to rid ourselves of Hypnotic Records, they just didn't have the funds to support us, we were owed quite a bit of money in the way of royalties and never saw a penny so we came to an agreement, instead of giving us our royalties give us full ownership of UNHOLIER THAN THOU which is why it was re-mixed and re-released it last year and included a live version of "Night of the Living Dead".

 

How hard was it to start the song writing process all over again after these line-up problems and problems with your previous label were solved and left behind? Obviously some of your creativity can be killed that way kind of easily if you are constantly running from one problem to another…

Steve and I write everything and the problems never seemed to effect us when having to write, we have so many riffs written that we could probably have 2 albums out a year. It just amazes us that every time we think things are going great something or someone fucks us up, but Steve and I have come this far so I think we can handle most problems that come our way.

 

On this forth-coming, 3rd album of yours, there´s gonna be songs like the title track of this new album, "One Who Points to Death" - then "Death of Heaven", "The History of Hell", "The Killing" and naturally some other songs, too. Would you do us a favor and introduce each song on ONE WHO POINTS… song by song by telling what these songs tell about and by describing them to our readers a little bit as well what kind of songs they are as far as a structure of some certain song goes and so on… well, you know exactly what you should do, don´t you?!

(This Kenny left unanswered for some reason or the other…Hmmm?!?!)

By listening to UNHOLIER THAN THOU you can pretty effortlessly draw one band name out of your pocket and say they have been a major influence on your sound - and that´s Slayer. I think they have always been the most dominating influence in your sound and obviously you don´t hold anything against that statement - or how is it Kenny, he! Anyway, how much do you think Slayer´s influence is present on ONE WHO POINTS TO DEATH? Or have you somehow - even subconsciously, tried to leave those influences more on the background in your music and brought some new elements into your sound instead?

I don't think Slayer influenced that much, sure they are a great band and we've meet them a few times but we've never gone out of our way to sound like them. Steve and I grew up on KISS, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and bands like that, but the one band I think that did it for us was Mercyful Fate. God, when I heard DON´T BREAK THE OATH, I shitted, that album was just great. Steve and I have been together so long now that we know what we like and what we don't and since we both have the same taste I don't think we will change our writing style any time soon.

 

What other remarkable changes can be noticed if you draw a comparison between UNHOLIER THAN THOU and ONE WHO POINTS TO DEATH? Or would you rather like to say nothing has changed that drastically after all or…?

Well... the first 5 songs are love ballads… no only kidding, since we have gotten Kris DeBoer drumming for us we starting using the blast beat a lot more which is something that we've wanted to use. The music as far as I'm concern has changed much, we are still writing just as heavy and complex as we have in the past.

 

Your 2nd guitarist Steve wrote most of the songs on UNHOLIER THAN THOU and I guess probably he has also been the main song writer on your 3rd full-length album as well; just correct me if I´m totally wrong about it…?! Does he have the sharpest ears for all those killer riffs and clever song arrangements out of the rest of the Infernal Majesty team or are the rest of you just pretty awfully lazy bastards for writing new material for the band? ( -he!)

Steve and I split the writing down the middle; sometimes we combine stuff together but don't take any writing credit for it. The main thing is the song, regardless of who wrote this part or that part. That's how we work. We try different things all the time as a band, some things work some don't but we know when we have it just right.

 

As far as the album´s production goes, what did you do differently this time around compared to the recording sessions for UNHOLIER THAN THOU? Did you use any of these guy´s production skills somehow on this album as well who were involved with the recordings of UNHOLIER…? Did you know right from the very start what kind of sound you were after for ONE WHO POINTS TO DEATH or did you end up having that certain sound pretty much in the very end of the whole process?

We know exactly what we want when it comes to the songs, we spend a lot of time on pre-production so that we have a good idea of what everything would sound like when it goes to tape. We've been in plenty of studio's and know what to do, the thing you have to watch out for are people who tell you to do things that you don't believe will help the songs or the band. We have people telling us all the time that we are old school…guess what? That's how we like it. Sure, we might try some things in the studio but if it don't work then it don't work.

 

Do you already have any personal fave songs on this new album? And what kind of things make these particular songs so special for you then - being it single, catchy riffs, a certain chorus part, mind-sticking hooks, etc. - whatever really?

To be honest with you… no I don't have any faves as they are all good or we wouldn't of put them on the album. Understand that we spend so much time on these songs that you soon love them all since you've worked so hard to get all the parts sounding just right. What kills me is knowing that some of these songs will never be played live since we usually get one hour to play.

 

Could you also say that this new album is somewhat competitive with either NONE SHALL DEFY or UNHOLIER THAN THOU as far as both of these two great album´s contents go - especially musically, but also maybe lyrically as well?

I never liked the comparison - which album is better? - what song is the best? - it doesn't matter, all people have different tastes at different times. This is just Infernal Majesty doing what we like, the style of the new record doesn't sound that much different than NONE SHALL DEFY except that that was then and this is now. I know that there are people who are going to love it and I know there will people who hate it.

 

You have always been lyrically against Christianity - or at least sort of a hypocritical side of Christianity? Is your anger and hatred only based on the fact that all these people who claim to be "good people", are kind of using Christianity for their own purposes - using it as some sort of tool when they trying to make some profit by using it in their own pathetic life and manipulating people to believe that they are actually doing something good and even all this in the name of their own God?

I personally think religion is a farce. I don't need someone preaching to me about how things should be, or what I should believe. If some one feels strong about a certain belief system then great for them but don't look down on people who don't follow your belief system. Look at the world today, 95% of all wars are due to religious beliefs and in the end know one wins. Slayer says it best on GOD HATES US ALL.

 

Do you consider Infernal Majesty a little bit as a satanic band in some sense due to your lyrical approach; like a Satanic Thrash Metal band that necessarily doesn´t fully stand for things written ´bout Satanism, but is more into that stuff because of this certain image, sort of?

I never considered us a satanic band, sure we wrote songs with that lyrical theme but we are far deeper than that. We try to write things that are interesting subjects. The "Roman Song" is about the good old days with gladiators, "Art of War" is about a guy who gets shipped off to a war he doesn't want to fight, and so on. It would get really boring fast if we only wrote about Satan.

 

What do you overall think of other satanic metal bands that are seriously into all these ´evil´ topics (like Deicide, Acheron and the likes…) and live their life like every day could be the last day of this world, the day of Armageddon?

All the power to them, they know what they like so they write about it.

 

You have just recently added "None Shall Defy" video to your website. What kind of memories do you still have left towards that particular video shooting sessions now after it was done almost 15 years ago or so? What have those people thought of it now when they have been introduced to that video for the very first time?

We decided to put the video up on the site for people who have never seen us live. Believe it or not we don't (look) much different now then we did then. Those early days were great and lots of fun, and even with the problems we've encountered over the last few years I still find it fun to be involved with Infernal Majesty. If it wasn't fun anymore I would have packed it in.

 

Have you ever considered releasing both your self-titled 4-song demo (-´86) and CREATION OF CHAOS demo (-´91) on one CD as I believe this thing has probably at least once even crossed your mind and probably even your fans have asked this same thing from you earlier - or how is it Kenny?

Yeah… people ask us all the time about CREATION OF CHAOS. It was released on a tape, but I don't think we will ever release it on CD. We didn't have Chris Bailey singing on it, so I can't say that it is a true Infernal Majesty Demo.

 

When you visited Finland in 1998 on tour with Cannibal Corpse and Dark Funeral, I remember talking to Chris ´bout your past image with all your leather costumes, spikes and that ´cute (-err…) hair style´ that some of you guys were using proudly and which indeed made some of us pretty damn confused as if we weren´t sure enough whether we were dealing with either some sort of a Glam Rock band or a real Thrash metal band or what; it was indeed pretty awfully confusing to look at all those pics taken from you guys on the back cover of NONE SHALL DEFY album if you ask me ´coz the 1st thing that actually crossed my mind when I saw those pics there, was like: "Oh no… not yet another Glam Rock/Metal band making its pathetic attempt for trying to get recognized mainly by their horrible-looking hair…" - or something like that, -he, -he!! Well, now when you let some nostalgia conquer your memory bank, how do you personally feel your band image back then? Feeling a bit embarrassed or anything like that, maybe… -eh?!

I don't think we really let it bother us, I never felt embarrassed about it. Sure people might have been confused and I can understand why, but that was how we looked then and we felt comfortable about it. Shit, look at KISS, they confused a lot of people when they came out and I don't think they have to many regrets.

 

Do you, by the way, have any (wild?) memories left about that particular gig here in Helsinki 16th of October in 1998? Anything special happen to you (or someone else) before or after that gig? Some ´juicy´ details, please, he! heh!!

None that I can remember. All the cities on the tour were great. A lot of weird shit happens when you are on the road and it really is hard to remember each city, that's why I have a video camera now so I can film every place we go.

 

When you recorded your CREATION OF CHAOS demo-tape, you had Vince as a vocalist on that one - and he sadly passed away in October 2001? I hope I´m not too ´rude´ or ´impolite´ by asking the following, but what on earth happened to him? I guess many overly curious people would like to get some light shed over this rather dramatic issue anyway, so can you talk about it what caused his death?!

Vince led a crazy life… he's been in and out of jail and had drug problems which ultimately led to him passing away. He has always been in contact with Steve and I over the years, letting us know what he's been doing with his band Bloodwurm, etc… They had just finished recording and Vince went to a radio station in Toronto for an interview, everything was going good until half way through, Vince went to bathroom, did some drugs and died. It's sad as I truly think that Vince had something with Bloodwurm, but he led a life that has a short road.

 

I just got a re-issue for the UNHOLIER THAN THOU album from you and noticed that it´s been released on Anthology of Death Records. Is that your own label you guys in Infernal Majesty are running it by yourselves? What was the idea to form a label and run it by your own hands exactly? A full control over things in general or…?!

When we got the masters of UNHOLIER THAN THOU back from Hypnotic Records, we knew that we had to release it in the States. So we went into a studio and remixed the album. We got distribution through Big Daddy and released the newest version under our own label. Having a record company owning your product is tough as you haven't got much control over it, we love the idea of having 100% control of owning our stuff. So many labels take advantage of bands these days. These bands work hard, but never see a penny.

 

Then you also have this pretty special live-CD titled CHAOS IN COPENHAGEN available thru your own merchandise. Would you like to enlighten our readers a bit more about it - sort of give your own commercial clip about it to all the interested parties it might concern by your very own words…?

Yeah… we thought it would be fun to record a bunch of our shows and make the songs available to the fans. We did run into a few problems as we weren't allowed to use certain songs since they have been licensed by another label from Roadrunner Records (who still own the rights to NONE SHALL DEFY). But over all it was just for the person who wanted to Infernal Majesty live.

So, when can we expect to hold your new album ONE WHO POINTS TO DEATH in our hairy hands…? And would you give us a few good reasons why everyone should buy it without any hesitations (more commercial deeds to be done from you again, -he! )

We are hoping to have it out by the end of the year. We are just looking for the right label to put it out. We've had so many people complain to us that they can't find our stuff, so we really are looking hard at which label should have the new album. Our main concern is the promotion of ONE WHO POINTS TO DEATH. We were promised so many things from our last label and it just didn't happen. If this album gets the proper promotion then it should do well, I think it's a great album, it's heavy, it's complex and it's Infernal Majesty.

 

What kind of expectations do you personally have towards your forthcoming album either selling-wise or feedback-wise or otherwise?

I hope that this album puts Infernal Majesty in the spotlight. Sure we hope it sells well and I don't see why it shouldn't if we have the promotion, but we want to tour to the masses so that everyone will know who the hell Infernal Majesty is.

 

And I suppose right after your new album is out, you´re supposed to do some touring for it, correct? Any chances to see you guys playing here in Finland sometime again, too…?

You got it… I love touring and meeting new people and fans, that's what makes it all worthwhile. We have offers to tour right now but we are holding off until we know when the album will be released. We are planning on touring the States later this year then Europe in the Spring.

 

What would be your personal dream-come-true thing you still haven´t achieved with Infernal Majesty, but would like to achieve sometime in the future? Like becoming as famous as Metallica and Kiss together - or probably a little less than that, he?

My dream would be to have Slayer open for us... HA- HAH…!! I just want Infernal Majesty to become known on a mass level, fame and fortune are great as well, but I really want everyone to know what and who Infernal Majesty are.

 

Well, I wanna take this opportunity and thank you from the very bottom of my heart for killing your time with this rather megalomaniac interview, but hopefully it was all worth it anyway. Thank YOU on behalf of the staff of Metal-Rules.com as well…

Infernal Thanks Luxi for your support and believe me Infernal Majesty are not going away….


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