Monstrosity Drummer Lee Harrison

August 24th, 2005
by EvilG

Monstrosity Drummer, Lee Harrison
Interviewed in July 1999 By EvilG

Monstrosity - band

Florida has long been home to a great number of death metal bands. One band that has been plugging away at it since the early 90’s is Monstrosity. Drummer Lee Harrison recently spoke with us from Tampa where the band are currently planning their tour for their new CD “In Dark Purity.” Besides Nile, Monstrosity are about the only pure death metal band that I’ve gotten excited about in recent years. Why you may ask? Well it’s because they aren’t just noise. They have distinguishable riffs that are often technical yet still memorable. Their latest CD “In Dark Purity” is available now from Conquest Music. This is THE death metal CD of 1999. No other death metal band came close to this level of intensity and musicianship in the death metal realm.


 

Metal Rules!!
In the early 90’s is when the Florida death metal scene really took off, it’s also basically when a lot of people got into death metal. It seems like now the scene has kind of waned a bit. Do you think that because of this, there are bands that were overlooked or deserve a second look?

Lee:
Actually, I think it’s starting to come back, finally. Back in 89-92 that was really the peak I think. From there it kind of went down. Now it’s more of a combination of black metal and death metal. As far as popularity, black metal is a lot more popular. As far as bands that were overlooked, the only band that was really overlooked and never got a record out was Eulogy but they have since broken up, a while ago. It was one of those things where we could never figure out why they never got signed because as a band they were together and had really good songs.

 

Metal Rules!!
They did have some demos that were sent around didn’t they?

Lee:
Right, yeah but there were these 1/2 million other bands that kinda sucked who were running around Florida with record deals. Eulogy was actually good but for some reason never got a deal. Other than that I think most of the bands at least got a record out, even if they had to do it themselves.

 

Metal Rules!!
How about today, do you think there are any bands that are being overlooked as far as being under-rated and not getting signed?

Lee:
I don’t know, if a band works hard enough they can usually find a deal somewhere because there’s still enough of a market. Nocturnes have recently gotten back together and they just did a record…and like Eric Rutan’s new band, they just got a record deal. 

 

Metal Rules!!
Is that Alas or Hate Eternal?

Lee:
Hate Eternal. So if the band is working, they can usually find a deal. 

 

Metal Rules!!
So what about the so-called “Florida death metal scene” – would you still say there is one?

Lee:
Probably as much as there ever was. There might of been more back in ’92, ’93 maybe. To me it’s really been the bands. There’s never been that many fans where it’s like the bands are all going to Europe or South America where you play for like 1000 people. The shows have always averaged about 200-400 people per show. Even back at it’s biggest, unless it was something like Sepultura where obviously they are going to draw a bigger crowd. But as far as underground death metal bands it’s always been between 200-400 and it’s still there, the same crowd.

 

Metal Rules!!
What would you say, in general, is the state of metal or death metal today?

Lee:
Well I think it’s definitely coming back around. As far as the underground stuff goes it will probably always be that – just underground because of the extremity of it.

Metal Rules!!
Do you think that’s where it belongs?

Lee:
Yeah, pretty much. We’re not expecting to break out into the mainstream. As long as we can get to the people that want it, we’re happy and as long as we can get out on the road and at least do decent, to do enough to do another record. That’s pretty much the goal at this point. We’re getting new merchandise. Last tour the merchandise was really not up to what we wanted. So this time around we’re spending the extra cash to get it done. Hopefully that will be what the people want.

 

Metal Rules!!
I have a question about what a lot of people or critics are referring to as the “new wave of Swedish death metal.” It seems like in the mid-nineties is when that scene kind of exploded and it’s comparable to the Florida death metal scene of the early 90’s. I was wondering if you follow that scene and do you follow any of the newer death metal bands coming out of Sweden?

Lee:
Which bands are you talking about?

Metal Rules!!
Well I guess it would be bands like Dark Tranquility, In Flames, Arch Enemy, etc…

Lee:
I don’t follow that too much. That was kind of like back in the day with Dismember. There was a Swedish scene back early on as far as I’m concerned. They were always kinda like number two, I guess you could say, to Florida as far as what the press and people were saying. I’ve found that with places like Canada, they don’t really have the greatest bands, but as far as an actual scene and fans and stuff, they really have a good scene up in Montreal. 

Metal Rules!!
Yeah there are a lot of heavier bands in Quebec.

Lee:
It depends on how you look at it – as actual bands coming out or the fans. To me, like I was saying earlier with the Florida scene, it’s more just that the bands here all happen to be good haha…Whereas the actual fan-base is not really that strong. These bands end up going and touring other places where their fans are at like Europe or South America.

 

Metal Rules!!
Where do you think your biggest fan-base is right now?

Lee:
Maybe right at the moment the US because we have really good distribution. We’ve always had a pretty decent following in Europe and South America is pretty much a given anyway, that’s where we like playing the best. There’s a couple of places in south America…Mexico, we’ve played Columbia and we’ve played Peru. When you go there the treatment is outta hand. Everybody is totally into it and that’s the way I prefer it. When you do shows in America people are more like they’ve seen this band 10 times already and are kinda over it. Well maybe not over it, just not as enthusiastic as some of these third world countries.

 

Metal Rules!!
In general it seems as if much technical music goes over people’s heads. Most don’t understand that the music is challenging to play and is a challenging listen. What is your vision on this subject, and does it affect the bands or the fans?

Lee:
Yeah definitely. I never really thought we were too overly technical until some of the reviews on Millennium. We try to get a perfect balance of stuff that is challenging to play and stuff that can go over well with the average person. Especially with this album, we’ve tried to make a conscious effort not to go too far out of hand with the technical stuff. We try to cover all the bases. For example, “Hymns of Tragedy” is a pretty technical song and then you have “Destroying Divinity” which is pretty much straight forward even though it’s a hard song to play physically.

 

Metal Rules!!
Do you find those to be more of your favorite songs to play?

Lee:
Pretty much “Destroying Divinity” and “Shapeless Domination.” “All Souls” is pretty much one of our favorite tunes but that to me is a technical song even though the riffs are kind of basic but there’s always something crazy going on with the drumming and time changes. 

 

Metal Rules!!
I really like “The Angel’s Venom” and “Perpetual War”, I like the machine gun riffing at the beginning of that song. 

Lee:
Yeah that’s cool I love it.

Monstrosity "In Dark Purity" (full cover art)

 

Metal Rules!!
What would you say your influences are both as a drummer and as a songwriter?

Lee:
I grew up on like old Kiss. That’s what I was listening to when I was eight years old starting to play drums and then I grew into other 70’s hard rock bands like Cheap Trick and Ted Nugent. As I got older it was Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Quiet Riot and other 80’s metal and harder bands, pretty much until they sold out. I would usually like them on their first album then I was onto the next heavier thing. It then graduated into Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and that kind of stuff with later on Testament, Violence and that kind of thing. By that time we were playing in bands and kind of on our own by then. We were trying to find the next heaviest thing and death metal, we were surrounded by it with bands that were trying to play heavier. It’s always been a goal of ours to be one step heavier than the next band. we’ve pretty much just maintained from there I guess.

 

Metal Rules!!
In terms of lyrics, you write most of them don’t you?

Lee:
Actually I wrote the first two albums. On this album (In Dark Purity), Jason Avery wrote all the lyrics. (What has inspired my lyrics in the past) has been usually dark stuff like on “Horror Infinity” there was a war song but more kind of apocalyptic lyrics. It was written around the time of desert storm and all that. There’s always been talk of apocalypse, it’s bee a running theme throughout the lyrics. That, and also manipulation and pretty much darker topics in general.

 

Metal Rules!!
Do you use triggers on your drums, and what are your feelings on their use?

Lee:
On Millennium, when we were recording that, I didn’t use triggers and I was pretty much adamant against them. After the final product of Millennium I really wasn’t happy with the drum sound. What we did on this album (In Dark Purity) was we triggered the drums but they were triggered to the level at which they were played, if that makes sense. Basically they run into the computer and it comes out at a certain level and so it’s triggered at that level. So if I hit it light it comes out light and if I hit it hard it comes out hard. To me that’s the best way to record. As far as live goes, I do use triggers, but that’s more or less because these clubs s lot of times don’t have the PA’s to really capture a really good live drum sound. It’s safer and easier to just come in with triggers, that way everyone can hear the drums and it’s not fighting against the guitars for volume.

 

Metal Rules!!
Since you’re the only original member left since the first line-up of Monstrosity, would you say that this is pretty much your band, or does it still feel like a band atmosphere?

Lee:
Oh it’s definitely a band atmosphere. Basically I’m the only one who could really stick it out. Everybody else was either…they got caught up in drugs or they you know joined Cannibal Corpse or whatever…they had other priorities. I’m pretty, I wouldn’t say strict, but I just have certain standards that I expect. If people aren’t pulling their weight I’m not going to sit around and wait for them.

 

Metal Rules!!
I have a couple of questions about past members of you don’t mind…

Lee:
That’s fine…

Metal Rules!!
What ever happened to guitarist Jason Morgan, is he still playing with Eric Rutan and Alas?

Lee:
ummm…no, he’s up in Tennessee. That was more or less a side thing for him. He actually didn’t play on the demo, even though it says on it that he did. He just played a couple of live shows with them. But I don’t think he wouldn’t, I don’t think Alas has been doing much lately I think he’s been concentrating more on Hate Eternal. He’s got Doug from Suffocation playing second guitar on that. As far as Jason Morgan, he actually plays on “In Dark Purity.” Him and Tony both play on the CD and that was because Tony had just joined the band and we wanted Jason there to make sure the album would go good as far a time and money goes. We’re still good friends with Jason Morgan, he’s just not into the band thing right now and he’s up in Tennessee. We’re not ruling out ever playing with him again at all.

 

Metal Rules!!
What about former members Mark Van Erp and John Rubin?

Lee:
Van Erp actually lives with me right now. I mentioned the drug thing earlier, well that was pretty much him. He had gotten arrested for dealing cocaine and there was kind of a problem of that anyway in the band and it came to a head with his arrest. We had to bring in Rob Barrett to play bass actually for a couple of shows because with the problem of his arrest he couldn’t go out of the country. So at that point that’s when we found Kelly. We’re still friends and he’s over that, that charge has long been dropped or whatever. He’s just working and not really playing bass too much. He’s more into the ‘life’ thing right now.

And John Rubin I actually haven’t heard from. He did Malevolent after playing with us. He was pretty much just burned out on the whole thing anyway, even when he was with our band he was pretty much more into Lynryd Skynyrd type of stuff and was wanting to do something like that. I really don’t know if he’s done anything with it or not. I just haven’t heard form him. Like I said, I know his heart really wasn’t in death metal or playing this kinda stuff. We used to have to beg him to do whatever he did with us. 

 

Metal Rules!!
Former guitarist Jason Goble, he also played on Cynic’s “Focus” album.

Lee:
Right, yeah he was pretty much always with Cynic. We put him on the album but he was never really a member. I think he only played one show with us. He was with Cynic and those guys and Cynic were doing the death albums, the bass player did the Atheist and the Pestilence albums. It was like Jason Goble was always a good friend of ours and we asked him do do “Imperial  Doom.”

Metal Rules!!
Do you know what he’s doing now?

Lee:
He lives in Oregon or something, I think he’s married. I don’t think he’s playing too much, or definitely not in a band situation.

 

Metal Rules!!
Can you tell me how you found your new guitarist, Tony Norman?

Lee:
Actually he found us through this guy Derrick Rod, he plays drums for “Divine Empire” and he had gotten our number from him. We have our music tabbed out and we sent it to him. He learned and and just came down and played it. 

 

Metal Rules!!
Was he in any bands before Monstrosity?

Lee:
He was in a band called “Eternal”, they were just a demo band I guess.

 

Metal Rules!!
Considering that Jason Avery did some backing vocals on Millennium, did you have him in mind back then for Monstrosity?

Lee:
Yeah, he was in the band actually when we did Millennium. It was a case of we had written the songs around George’s vocals for one thing and second of all we just wanted to make sure that Jason was the right one. We went ahead and let George do the album and Jason did the back-ups then Jason did all the touring to support Millennium. It was done to make sure everything was going to work first because George basically quit the band four days before we recorded the album. So it was all going on right then. 

 

Metal Rules!!
So why did George leave, was it because of the Cannibal Corpse thing?

Lee:
Yeah, it was obviously a better opportunity for him at the time. We were definitely going to do another album but our future was uncertain, there was no guarantee of what was going to happen. Doing the Misfits / Anthrax tour and doing the Cannibal Corpse album just probably seemed like a brighter situation to him. I don’t blame him now. I was a little upset over the whole royalty aspect. We had stuck it out this far you might as well go all the way. There’s no hard feelings now for sure. We’re actually happier because George lived in Maryland the whole time he was in our band, he had to commute to do everything. He didn’t write lyrics, there were a lot of things that were negatives as far as George being in the band. We always put up with it because he was a good singer and a good front-man. He’s our friend and all but with Jason Avery it’s a total different story. Jason’s in there helping with the business end and he writes all the lyrics. It’s not like I have to do it all by myself, he contributes ideas. The whole band now lives within a few blocks of each other. It’s just a way healthier situation. Before there’d be time where we’d go six months, the band would be practicing, but George would come in and we’d have to play a show without even practicing with him. It’s just dysfunctional. Now it’s light years different. 

 

A wickedly insane live pic of Jason Avery!!Metal Rules!!
So where did Jason Avery come from, what band was he in prior to Monstrosity?

Lee:
He was in that band Eulogy that I was talking about earlier. More or less they broke up right at the time we were looking for a singer so it worked out perfect. 

 

Metal Rules!!
I noticed that Jay Fernandez has contributed to several songs on “In Dark Purity.” Who is Jay and what did he contribute?

Lee:
He played on the first “Brutality” album and he was playing with us for a while and he’s a good friend of ours. We just needed someone to help us write this album and he was willing to do that. It came down to time constraints. He didn’t have a lot of time to do the band thing, that’s why he didn’t stick with it. We’re still friends, he’s a killer writer and we appreciate all his help.

 

Metal Rules!!
Since forming Monstrosity have you ever contributed to any other band?

Lee:
Let’s see…not really, I haven’t really played with too many people. I’ve jammed with a few people but nothing serious. I wrote some lyrics for “Pierced From Within” by Suffocation. When they were in the studio they needed dome lyrics for a song and they were at a blank and the time was running at Morrisound. I helped them out by writing a few paragraphs, it really wasn’t that much. Other than that there’s not not really anything else.

 

Metal Rules!!
I noticed that “In dark Purity” has been making it into the record stores, I assume this might have something to do with Mercury Records teaming up with Olympic recordings? Is that the case you think?

Lee:
Exactly the case haha…

 

Metal Rules!!
What lead to Conquest Music and Olympic Recordings teaming up?

Lee:
We just wanted the better distribution. Marty (the guy from Olympic) is really cool. You can actually pick up the phone and call him and he answers the phone which at most labels it’s not like that. A lot of them you have to go through voice mail, there’re never there. I find most of the labels are pretty much crooked. 

 

Metal Rules!!
How have the labels treated Monstrosity in the past?

Lee:
They are always trying to get something for nothing. They promise you everything in the beginning and then in the end you don’t get anything hahaha….That’s how I see it.

 

Metal Rules!!
Are you happy with the situation now then?

Lee:
Oh yeah. It’s nice to be able to walk into a “Best Buy” and see six copies of our album.

 

Metal Rules!!
Do you own Conquest Music?

Lee:
Yes.

Metal Rules!!
What prompted you to start your own label?

Lee:
Basically lack of faith in other labels. I don’t want to get down on Relapse but, they were the old Nuclear Blast America, and “Imperial Doom” came out through them in America. Granted it’s not as good as the distribution we have now, but they still got it into the stores. They did a few ads here and there but they never did one interview, they didn’t hook us up with any kind of tour, it was like they were concentrated on the Relapse bands while our band got more or less overlooked. So we had all our problems with Nuclear Blast and we had severed our ties from them at that point. There was a publishing problem, they owed us money for publishing, they were saying we owed them money for a tour for which we had already recouped our money according to their statements they had given us. To make a long story longer we ended up severing the ties and we went looking for a new label. We talked to Century Media and Pavement and basically nobody really wanted to support us like we felt like we deserved. I felt I could do a better job myself so I went ahead and started Conquest. We recorded Millennium. Nuclear Blast finally paid us the publishing that they owed us so we went ahead and released Millennium through Nuclear Blast in Europe. But then they turned around and did things like sell to Japan which they didn’t have a license to do. They call it import but it’s really just the same thing.

 

Metal Rules!!
Imperial Doom - cover So when you left these previous labels did you maintain the rights to your back catalog?

Lee:
As far as “Imperial Doom” we’re actually going to release this thing called “Crave The Blood” and it’s going to have 5 songs from “Imperial Doom” with a different mix. The fact that they are a different mix makes it ours since it’s been 5 years since it was originally recorded. There was a time limit in the contract, never mind the fact that they breeched the contract anyways…but whatever hahaha…As for Millennium, they still have a couple of more years left on that till that 5 year term runs out then we can re-mix the songs and they would become  ours. They have the copyright to that particular sound, so all it would take is for us to re-mix it or alter it in a certain way. 

Millennium - cover art

Metal Rules!!
What about the “Horror Infinity” stuff…

Lee:
Yeah that’s all on the “Crave The Blood” that I was talking about. Basically the songs that weren’t on the demos: vicious metal thirst, imperial doom, ceremonial void, final cremation and darkest dream. They are on there and then the 4 songs from “Horror Infinity” and the three songs from the “Slaves and Masters” demo.

 

Metal Rules!!
In ’94 didn’t you record a demo that was passed around?

Lee:
That was the “Slaves and Masters.”

Metal Rules!!
I know people have copies…was this officially released by the band or was it only recorded to be sent out to labels?

Lee:
It was originally for labels but we ended up selling it while on the road. It’s on the “Crave The Blood” CD so you’ll be able to hear it then.

Metal Rules!!
When will that be out then?

Lee:
Probably in September/October ’99 but it will only be on Conquest so it won’t have the Mercury distribution. We’ve got the cover art, and it’s killer. It’s ready to go out now but we’re letting “In Dark Purity” go for a little longer before we issue it. And then….we’re just dying to get on the road!

 

Metal Rules!!
That was my next question actually….what are your touring plans?

Lee:
Well, we really want to get out there. We’ve been talking with a few bands such as Calligula from Dark Funeral about maybe them coming over and doing something with them. There’s so much speculation, it changes every five minutes. If I were to say something in the end it would probably change. We definitely plan to tour for this album. 

 

Metal Rules!!
Have you played any shows around “home base”?

Lee:
Not really…

 

Metal Rules!!
That must be a bummer, to have a new CD out and not to be touring for it…

Lee:
Yeah, it’s pretty much a bummer. We’ve been holding out hoping that this tour takes off so we can just make it a part of the tour. I think we’re actually going to set up a show here in Tampa pretty soon, do some local stuff until we figure out what’s going on. Then we plan on going to Europe, the album has actually been out longer in Europe than it has been here.

Metal Rules!!
As usual…

Lee:
It’s kind of cool, they have shape discs over in Europe that are shaped like saw blades. There’s actually 5 different versions of the CD. There are 2 European versions. One is almost like a bootleg I’d have to say…because there are no lyrics and they even have song titles wrong…it’s just another long story. The other version is the shape disc saw blade which has the lyrics and everything. then there’s the Japanese version which has a Bathory cover on it. There’s the South American version in which there is not much of a difference except there’s about 5 more seconds at the beginning of “Perpetual War.” It’s got this drum intro thing. Then there’s the US version.

 

Metal Rules!!
Have you worked out a setlist for the tour?

Lee:
We’ve got our setlist worked out for MILWAUKEE METALFEST XIII. At this point we are playing side one of Millennium, Imperial Doom, Final Cremation, Burden of Evil, Horror Infinity, Darkest Dream. As far as new stuff goes: destroy, shapeless, angel’s venom, all souls, dust, perpetual war, embraced, and then pillars (the slow song) when we play fragments we’ll run them together. 

 

Metal Rules!!
Will you be playing “Angel of Death” live seeing as how you covered it on the CD?

Lee:
Yes!

 

Metal Rules!!
I have a comment to make about the cover you did, your version was way cool but it seems like today everyone is re-hashing old stuff like that…

Lee:
Right, but no one is doing “Angel of Death” and no one is doing it as good as we are ya know haha…It’s like everybody does “Reign in Blood.” We didn’t even record it for the Slayer tribute, we recorded it on our own anyway just because everyone does “Reign In Blood” but nobody goes for the big one which is “Angel of Death” as far as I’m concerned.

 

Metal Rules!!
So when are you playing at the Metalfest?

Lee:
Saturday, July 31 at 8:30. That’s a pretty good time so long as we don’t go against somebody huge upstairs. As long as it’s not something like where we are playing to 10 people while everyone else is upstairs. I’ve seen that happen. Luckily it didn’t happen when we played there before….we don’t wanna be there haha…

 

Metal Rules!!
In closing, are there any future plans or goals or plans for the band that you can share with us?

Lee:
Just that we want to get on the road, that’s our main goal at this point. We’ve already got three songs for the next record so we’re still pushing. We’ve already got the next cover ready and everything. We’re ready to go onto the “Crave the Blood” thing and after that a new album.

 

Metal Rules!!
Will it be recorded at Morrisound again?

Lee:
Probably but it won’t be as long as “In Dark Purity” but it will be done at Morrisound. In the past we’ve been kinda unhappy with our production but we’re happy with “In Dark Purity.”

 

Metal Rules!!
Well thanks for your time Lee and good luck. Hopefully this will open up a few more minds to your music.

Lee:
Cool, I appreciate your help. Take care buddy.


Thanks to Conquest Music for setting up this interview.

 

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