INTERVIEW WITH GUITARIST CRIS McCARTHY
Interviewed by David Leslie
So Cris, under what conditions did you get involved in metal and how did you get interested in metal at all?
I grew up hearing all different music. I guess I went from rock n roll to metal.
I listened to Iron Maiden, Sabbath, Judas Priest, a lot of bands like that. Then I heard Metallica and Slayer, and I just went from there. The heavier the music the more I liked it. It was a progression that was a lot of fun.
When did you decide to play an instrument and how did your choice fall on guitar?
My dad had an accoustic guitar. From the time I was very young I always wanted to play his guitar. I still have that very guitar.
Was that the first instrument you chose to play with? Do you play other instruments as well?
That was my first choice. I played bass for a little awhile. Guitar is always what I wanted to play.
Were you self-taught or…?
Yes, I was self-taught. I learned alot by watching other players and just listening.
What were the previous acts you were involved with before Silent Scream? Can you tell us more about your early experiences as a musician?
The first band I was in was called Guillatine. I played with them for 2 or 3 years. I was not very good then. I really learned alot about writing and playing live in that band. I met Tom Perry in that band. He played on the Silent Scream record. I joined F.U.B.A.R. after that. I played with them even while I was in Silent Scream and Dark Angel. I loved playing with them. They had a punk to thrash sound. They were a really big party band with fun crazy songs like “Puffing with the Pope” and “Bitches in the Bathroom” just to name a few. Gene Hoglan even played with us for a short time. He recorded one of our demos with us. It was a great time.
Being based in Los Angeles, were you involved in the underground from the first days? Were you familiar with acts such as Metallica (before they moved to San Francisco), Shellshock, Bloodlust, Abattoir, Slayer, Armored Saint, etc.?
I did not really get into the scene until KILL ’EM ALL came out. It was a crazy time. It was like an explosion of metal.
What were your views on the scene as a whole?
Punk was dying out and hard metal was getting bigger. I really liked the changes that were happening in music. The shitty part in LA was the glam scene. I think San Fransisco had a cooler scene.
Do you think that in L.A. there existed two scenes back then? I mean, there were the glam/hair outfits, such as W.A.S.P., Dokken, Ratt, Mötley Crüe and the early thrash ones, such as Metallica, Abattoir, Slayer, Shellshock etc.?
Ya, definitely. Glam was huge in LA. It was really hard to get a gig then. I remember opening for Exodus at a billard hall. There were only really a couple of cool clubs to play at in the LA area for thrash back then.
Would you say, that the whole thrash thing started with records, such as KILL ’EM ALL, RIDE THE LIGHTNING, SHOW NO MERCY, etc.?
Ya, I think those were some of the first great thrash records. There were a lot of great thrash records in the beginning. SHOW NO MERCY, KILL ’EM ALL, BONDED BY BLOOD, DARKNESS DESCENDS. The list goes on and on.
As far as Silent Scream, how did you get together exactly and what about the musical past of the other members? Was Sielnt Scream the very first outfit for them or…?
SS had been together for a year or so when I joined them. They were a young band with a lot of energy. None of them had played with anyone else. They had some good songs and I really liked Mario (the singer/bass player). They only had 1 guitar player at that time (Chris Lawson). Adding a second guitar added a much heavier sound.
What about your rehearsals? Did you start writing originals right from the start or were you jamming on covers?
We played all originals. We wrote a bunch of new songs when I joined SS. We only really kept a couple of the older songs that they had. We started to find what we were good at playing and what we enjoyed playing. I really liked rehearsing. It gave me a chance to build on the songs I had been writing.
In New York appeared a band with the name Silent Scream as well. Were you aware of them? Didn’t you fear that the fans will confuse the bands with each other?
We had not heard about them.
How many demos did you record exactly? I ask , because I know only DEMO #3 from 1991, but you were formed in 1987…
I think 3. They recorded 1 before I played with them. I don’t remember who played on the 2nd. Patrick, Mario, Paul Lopez & myself recorded the third demo.
Can you tell us details regarding the demos?
I really only remember the last one. Those were the first couple of songs I had wtitten with the band. We were all excited about the direction we were going.
What did they sound like?
The production wasn’t great, but it sounded decent.
Did you heavily promote these demos? I mean, were they shopped around to attract label interests or did you spread it through the tape trading/fanzine network as well?
We pushed DEMO #3 a lot. We sent it to fanzines, record labels, and college radio. We wanted to get a record deal. We ended up with Tombstone Records.
The line-up of the DEMO #3 consisted of you on guitars, Patrick Short on drums, Mario Atencio (bass/vocals) and Paul Lopez (guitar). Was it the line up of the debut album as well?
Paul Lopez did not play on the record. Tom Perry played lead Guitar on the record.
What about guitarist Chris Lawson and singer Tom Perry? On which Silent Scream recordings did they play?
Chris Lawson played on the first demo. Tom Perry was the lead Guitar on the record.
Why did they leave the band?
Tom left after I did. Chris Lawson left shortly after I joined the band. We had differnt writing styles.
How did you get in touch with Tombstone Recordings who released your debut record? Does it mean that there weren’t bigger labels interested, such as Combat, Metal Blade etc. or…?
I’m not sure how they got our tape. They liked it enough to record the record. We tried the other labels but didn’t get any intrest.
Based on your name and general style, Silent Scream, you seem to clearly draw your inspiration from bands like Slayer, is that correct?
I would say yes.
Does it mean that Slayer influenced you a lot using a Slayer track as a band name?
The band was already named when I joined, but I do know that is where they got the name. Slayer definetly had an influence on the early SS songs. REIGN IN BLOOD is one of my favorite records, but I don’t feel Slayer influenced my writing a whole lot. Maybe a little.
How do you view SOUTH OF HEAVEN compared to the earlier Slayer releases?
I think it’s a great record. I’m a huge fan. It must have been hard to follow up REIGN IN BLOOD. SOUTH OF HEAVEN was a little different compared to the other early records.
When and which studio did you enter exactly to record your debut? How long did the recordings take?
We started recording in July of 1991 at Dino M 2 studios in Torrance, Calif.We were in there for about 3-4 weeks.
What about the recording sessions?
We did not have much of a budget so we had to rush through most of it. It was frustrating at times, but I did enjoy recording the record.
Did you have a decent budget to record the material or did you pay the studiocosts by yourself?
We had a very small budget. We stretched every dollar.
Did you use all of the material that you had written for the record?
There were a couple others songs that did not get recorded. I think we used what we thought were the better songs.
What about the sogwriting aspect and the lyric aspect as a whole?
I wrote a lot of the music on my own, then I would sit down with the band, usually Mario, and fine-tune the songs. Mario wrote most of the lyrics. I think Patrick helped with some. I wrote lyrics for 2 songs on the record.
Do you think that FROM THE DARKEST DEPTHS OF THE IMAGINATION is too bleak for a full-length release?
Did the record have potential in your opinion?
I think there were some very stong songs. We did not have any support to tour. I left the band before it was released. So I really don’t know how much they tried to keep it going.
The vocals sounded similar to Death’s vocals on the album SCREAM BLOODY GORE, only deeper and cleaner, what’s your opinion about it?
I guess I never thought of that. I liked the vocals.
Do you think that musically you sounded very talented?
I think there is always room to improve, but ya, most of us were good at what we were doing.rio is a very solid bass player. Tom is one of my favorite lead guitar players. He is very melodic. I think my writing and rythm playing was very stong on that record.
Can you give us perhaps a song to song description?
* “Self Abuse”: Is about autoerotic asphyxiation. It has some really cool riffs in the song. It is the first track on the record, so we all really liked it. It is one of the last songs I wrote for the record.
* The title track: goes into the mind of a very sick induvidual. Some great riffs and tempo changes.
* “Open Season”: was one of the first songs I wrote with Mario. I remember that was the first track we recorded for the record. If you listen to it, the guitars sound different than any of the other songs. It took awhile to find a tone we liked. We never had time to redo that track.
* “Theatre of the Depraved”: Gene Hoglan wrote the lyrics and I wrote the music. I asked Gene if he could write about snuff movies and that is what he came up with. I really like the chorus chords.
* “Matrix of Madness”: Gonzo from the band F.U.B.A.R. was in the rehersal studio with me when I was working out the song. He had some lyrics written down and started to sing along with me. They fit with the song. Mario really liked the lyrics so Gonzo let us use them. Gene plays the guitar solo in that song.
* “Distraction of Thought”: I really dig the opening riff to that song. It’s fun to play.
* “Rise and Fall”: is the only song we used from the old demos. It always went over great live.
* “Prey upon the Weak”: That was the first song we all wrote together. I actually do the last guitar solo in the song.
The production of this album is about the heaviest one can get. How do you view this? Were you satisfied with it?
I thought the guitars could have sounded better. For the budget we had, it came out alright.
The band sounds extremely heavy and technically there is not much to complain about. Is that correct?
I think we were pretty heavy. I don’t know if we were that technical. The songs just turned out the way they did.
Would you say that Patrick Short is one of the better up-and-coming drummers around today?
Pat was a good drummer. He had alot of energy.
All of the music was very good all together. It’s a very strong work, do you agree with it?
I do agree, there is some very strong music. I still wonder where I came up with some of those riffs.
How did end up Gene Hoglan become the producer of the album since it was his first experience as producer? Were you happy with his work?
Gene was great. He sat in rehesals with us for a couple weeks to really get a feel for what we were doing. He was great in the recording studio. He knows how to get the most out of a preformance.
Do you still remember how many copies you managed to sell of the record?
I really don’t know. I don’t think it was too many. I left the band before the record came out.
You have opened for several big names in thrash, including Atrophy, Dark Angel, Death, Nuclear Assault and Sacred Reich; what do you recall from these gigs? What were the shows to support the record?
Most of those shows we just picked up in the LA area. We were playing alot of shows. They just kept getting easier to get as we went along. We played a couple different times with Sacred Reich, Dark Angel and Sepultura. We opened 2 nights at the Country Club for Sepultura. That was a great time. All the shows we played were great.
Have you ever done headliner gigs as well?
We did a bunch in the LA area.
The album came out in 1992, how did you view the status of thrash at this point?
It was definetely slowing down. Music changed alot in the early 90’s. Thrash has always been underground. You have to really have a passion for it.
Would you say that it wasn’t as popular as it was in the mid-80’s, and it simply went out of fashion?
I think it was still new in the 80’s, so it seemed bigger. I think it is still standing the test of time. I don’t know if it was every really in fashion. I sure loved it and still do.
At which point did the Silent Scream story come to an end? What led to the demise of the band?
I left the band to join Dark Angel right after we recorded the record. They continued for a while after I left, but it eventully fell apart. I guess I took the writing with me when I left.
Then you joined Dark Angel. How did you get in the picture exactly and what was the line up of the band at this point?
Gene told me Brett was leaving Dark Angel and they were going to be looking for a new guitar player. I wasn’t really happy with what was going on with Silent Scream at that time. It is a little complicated to talk about the ending of Silent Scream, so I’m not going to.
In 1992, you recorded a demo titled ATROCITY EXHIBITION. Did you have a big hand into the songwriting or…?
Gene had written alot of great new music. He and I also wrote some very heavy tunes together. I wish the world could have heard that record. I had a small part to do with it.
How did the recording sessions go with this demo?
Gene put alot of work into it. I was not there for all of it.
This is a demo that Gene Hoglan recorded in 1992 for what was to be the fifth album of Dark Angel, is that correct?
Was there still material written that wasn’t recorded?
Yes, the material Gene and I wrote.
How would you describe those songs compared to the previous Dark Angel records?
Not even all of Dark Angel heard the songs, as they were just about broken up at the time, unfortunately, right?
That is true. I still believe it was a great loss when Dark Angel broke up.
Did you make some promotion for this demo? Did you shop it around to attract label interests?
I know there was no promotion for the demo. I do believe there may have been some intrest, but I really can’t say for sure.
What happened to the other Silent Scream members after the band’s demise and what about them these days? Did you remain in touch with each other?
I am very good friends with Tom Perry. I have not really kept in touch with the other guys. I really don’t know what they did after Silent Scream.
The metal scene started dying in L.A., then in San Francisco, and in New York by the early ’90s as well, how do you explain that state of things, since those areas were some of the most important places for metal in the States?
It’s hard to say. I think music is like a rollercoaster. You have your high times and your low times, but it always seems to come back. The first bigger thrash bands will always be remembered for breaking new ground. LA, San Fransico and New York will always be important for metal, but what is good is that metal is coming from every corner of the planet. So that tells me it is very strong now.
Have you kept in touch with what was going on in the metal scene during the ’90s?
A little bit, yes.
Do you consider FROM THE DARKEST DEPTHS OF THE IMAGINATION a classic death/thrash record? Did it leave its mark on the scene?
I wish it was, but no. I don’t think too many people heard the record.
How do you view bands who betray their fans by incorporating newer sounds or become unable to come with killer tunes like they used to do?
There are so many bands that have done that. It is dissapointing when you expect something and you don’t get it. On the other hand as a musician I can understand evolving or changing, but if you change too much, you should change bands. Fans are what make it happen for bands. You should not betray them.
How do you view the present metal scene and how much did it change or develop over the years?
My favorites are still the older bands. I do like alot of new stuff too. Metal will always be around as long as kids are pissed off. The scene is different today. You have the Internet, ipods. You can record quality sounding music in your own home. It is alot easier to share music and reach a much larger audience. Fanzines are online. Everything is accessible. So to me that makes it much more interesting. I miss the old days though.
Are you still tied up to the stuff you’ve enjoyed listening to while you were growing up?
Ya, I still listen to what got me interested in metal.
What were the best and the worst memories as a member of Silent Scream? How would you describe the band’s career as a whole?
Overall I really enjoyed my time with Silent Scream. I liked writing and playing shows with all the great bands we did. The band’s career was too short. I still have songs I wrote that I wish Silent Scream could have recorded. Maybe in another life…
Cris, thanks a lot for your answers, anything to add what I forgot to cover?
Thanks a lot for this opportunity!