DAVE GORUSH OF INSANITY
Interview by David Leslie
Insanity was formed in 1985 in the San Francisco Bay Area and unleashed some of the most intensely brutal death metal of that time.
Insanity drummer, Bud Mills, was one of the first drummers to use the 1-1 drum beat that was faster than any thrash beat used at the time. The vocalist/guitarist Joe DeZuniga roared out some of the most powerful and brutal death metal vocals to be heard since. He was also one of the main songwriter’s and the artist that created the logo with the decapitated heads. The other guitarist/songwriter Dave Gorsuch seemed to push the style of guitar riffs to a more technical edge while mixing in stomping heavy parts with catchy tempo changes. With Joe’s style progressing in that direction as well, it proved to be a great partnership and the two would go on to collaborate on most of the early material. The last element to send the music over the edge was a ripping bass player and Keith Ellison played like a death metal version of Steve Harris.
The first show was played on Oct. 19th 1985 with Death and Sacrilege and the band maintained a frenzied pit the whole set, which was admittedly short because the band only had five songs at the time. Insanity then went on to play with many of the other great bands that played Ruthies Inn including the likes of Possessed.
Meanwhile a live rehearsal tape that was recorded with a stereo microphone was being circulated and an underground following was growing in countries around the world. About 1986 the underground scene was really growing and a number of fanzines were coming out with Insanity always getting one of the best reviews and urging readers to send for the 85 rehearsal demo as the first recording came to be known. After that everything seemed to be on the right track.
But this did not last long, after having problems with equipment and finding a rehearsal studio, Bud had to serve about 10 month’s of jail time. During this time the only productive thing the band could do was to write new material. So while we were preparing to record in a studio upon Bud’s release so we could finally get signed, Joe became ill with a heart disease. The band recorded one last rehearsal tape with Joe after a temporary release from the hospital but it was evident that some of his vocal power was gone due to the illness. Several months later after a long up and down battle Joe DeZuniga died on May 16th 1987.
After a long break the rest of us tried to keep the band going, but we couldn’t find a singer with Joe’s vocal strength and more problems we’re yet to come including a number of line up changes for a number of different reason’s that kept the band from doing anything significant for a while. Driven by the ´never-say-die´ attitude of the band and the support of the most devoted fans, the band was reformed in 1989. After a few years of struggling with a couple of line-up changes, Insanity signed a one-year deal with a German independent record label and released the debut DEATH AFTER DEATH. Unfortunately the band was not complete when labels such as Nuclear Blast offered to sign the band. Although there wasn’t that much difference between Nuclear Blast and M.B.R. at that time. It would have signicantly changed the band’s career if things happened differently.
Insanity played live numerous times in 1993-94 with the most notable show being at the Omni with the reformed Possessed (Mike Torrao has been a good friend of Insanity since 1985) & Machine Head. After the drummer Prakash Sharma’s back problems became a problem as well as the local scene sucking the band took a break in late ’94.
In 1997, the band reformed and Insanity began working on new material resulting in a 3-song CD SACREFIXION. Unfortunately differences in expectations strained relations between band members and this line up broke up in late 2001.
After setting up a professional recording system powerful enough of to finish the long awaited 2nd album, In 2004 Dave was contacted by Matt Harvey from Exhumed about releasing a compilation of old school Insanity recordings done from 1985 to 1994 on his new label Parasitic Twin Productions. Since distribution was being set up with Relapse along with the Exhumed CD of covers, the decision was made to delay the release of the 2nd full length to work on the compilation CD for Parasitic Twin. This was released in November of 2005 with the title FROM THE GRAVE. It features 3 remastered songs off the ’85 demo, the DEATH AFTER DEATH release, and new mixes of updated songs originally tracked on the bands 8-track in 1993-94.
From August 25th-28th 2005 Insanity completed a mini-tour of California with Exhumed, Abscess & Skarp re-sparking interest in the band in the Bay Area and Southern California. After playing more local shows and regenerating a local following, In 2007 the band welcomed original drummer Bud Mills back as Insanity played a ripping set at the Los Angeles Murderfest where the band shared the main stage with the likes of Repulsion, Atheist and Obituary.
In the summer of 2007 as the band was preparing to record and preparing for shows in Northern and Southern California, Bud was diagnosed with blood clots. After more tests cancer was discovered and it turned out to be Esophageal cancer stage 4. After receiving a few rounds of chemotherapy and fighting a very tough battle for months, we lost Bud on November 14th 2007. The pre-production tracks Bud recorded are being mixed and will be released in the near future on the VISIONS OF APOCALYPSE album. The band will also be putting out a DVD featuring Bud’s last show (the L.A. Murderfest @ the Knitting Factory in Hollywood, CA) among some bootleg live footage and a few videos including FIRE DEATH FATE ’85 featuring Joe DeZuniga.
As far as playing live, the band is just starting to play with drummers and guitarists and hopes to announce a new complete line up soon!
Dave, I would be curious to know, how did you discover metal and what did you find so exciting in this music? At which point did you find interest in music and metal in particular?
When I first got into music I started listening to bands like Black Sabbath, Rush, Led Zeppelin etc. Joe DeZuniga exposed me to metal which I loved from the start because I always was into the heaviest and most technical riffs from the bands I was exposed to.
Were you always a fan of the thrash metal that was going on in the Bay Area or were you rather into classic metal acts, such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Saxon etc. or perhaps into melodic ones, such as Kiss, Van Halen, Def Leppard, etc.?
Since we met in the early 80’s bands like Motorhead, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest etc. was the heaviest shit we could find, which were our favorite bands until we discovered Venom & Mercyful Fate among others. We were really into the scene and saw Metallica play with Dave Mustaine and Ron McGovney in 1982 and they became our favorite band until we saw Slayer the first time they came up from L.A.
When did you decide to play guitar and was this the first instrument that you you decided to play? How did your choice fall on guitar at all?
I just really loved it from the start. I remember listening to AC/DC when I first got into music as a kid and I was thrashing all around the house playing air guitar with a broom, jumping off the furniture and totally rocking out. Besides the fast and intense parts, guitar solos were often my favorite parts of songs so naturally I wanted to be a lead guitarist.
What were your influences to become a metal musician?
First, I guess, it was Maiden, Preist, Motorhead, Venom and Mercyful Fate, then Metallica and Slayer. I was always heavily into Randy Rhoads as well.
At that time, thrash was the great buzz in the Bay Area, such bands popped out, like Exodus, Possessed, Death Angel, Heathen, Blind Illusion, Trauma, etc. What can you tell us about those extraordinary early years, about the atmosphere that could be found in that area, the violence that could be found at the Exodus shows etc…
Those were THE BEST TIMES. It was so cool in those early years before Metallica got big because the punk scene fused with the metal scene and everyone was thrashing all around like a big group of friends slamming into each other like you would with a small group of friends. Everyone was open minded as well. At our very first show we had a huge violent pit within 30 seconds of starting the first song and no one even heard of us before.
The Bay Area scene was becomig very big with the aforementioned acts and all of them tried to make their dent in the scene. How did you view that explosion?
It was great. We’d go see bands like Possessed, Exodus and Death Angel all the time, and having the scene get bigger helped us out when we started playing live.
Were you familiar with those outfits?
Sure we’d see them all the time and partied with a few, especially our bros in Possessed.
In my opinion, the most extreme and aggressive band at the Bay Area was Possessed. Do you agree with me? Would you name Possessed a thrash, death or black metal band?
I would agree, I think Possessed was the first death metal band. I believe even Chuck of Death said in the past SEVEN CHURCHES was the first real death metal album.
Were there at that time borders between the styles of metal (thrash, speed, death etc.) or was there a common underground, extreme metal scene?
There weren’t “borders” just because people had different styles. At that time there weren’t that many bands around that were death so it was more of a common scene. Athough when we started playing in the Bay Area, Possessed was the only other local death metal band which is probably why we bonded and liked to hang out with them at shows.
The band was formed in 1985 by vocalist/guitarist Joe DeZuniga and you. Did you know each other earlier? Did you have previous experiences or was Insanity your very first band?
Yeah, we were friends a few years before Insanity started. Joe actually taught me some of my first riffs on guitar when we were best friends at 15 & 16.
At which point did bassist Keith Ellison and drummer Bud Mills get in the picture exactly? What about their musical past?
Keith was my good friend and bassist. After we had been jamming for a while and started to write a little bit, we joined with Joe after playing our high school. In January of ’85, we spent the summer playing with a different drummer Joe knew but that didn’t work out, and Bud answered an ad we had at the local record store where we’d go to buy the latest metal albums.
Were they your first choices or were there perhaps other auditioned musicians as well? Was it easy to find members that were sharing the same musical interest?
Keith and Joe were my first choices. Once we formed, we played our high school with both the drummer we had and a drummer Joe played with, but once we found Bud we knew he was the man.
I read on your biography, Keith Ellison played bass like the death metal version of Steve Harris. Was Steve his pattern?
Yeah Steve Harris was his main influence I believe. He was an amazing musician and ripped it up like a lead guitarist on bass at times.
Joe DeZuniga roared out some of the most brutal death metal vocals of that time, and he was also one of the main songwriters and the artist that created the logo with the decapitated heads, is that correct?
That is correct, he was an amazing artist. I used to draw myself, but I gave it up and just started playing guitar when I met him and realized I couldn’t draw for shit compared to him.
Who came up with the name of the band? Was it an original choice as far as the name of the band?
That was Joe’s name. Keith, the bassist, and I had another name and Joe actually joined us to play a show at our high school. He would draw the logo and the beast creature on shirts and Gary Holt of Exodus wore one live so we said o.k. Joe we’ll call the band Insanity.
I mean, in the middle ’80’s were there bands in Germany, Norway and Singapore who called themselves Insanity. Didn’t the fans confuse the bands with each other?
That is news to me. We never heard of them. We had a ton of mail coming in from around the world and we were in a bunch of fanzines as well so I guess you would have to ask the fans that question.
Was it clear for you right from the start to found a death metal band? Was death metal a known notion (term) at that time?
I believe it was just starting to be called death metal after Possessed released the first album SEVEN CHURCHES. We aimed to write songs that were heavier, faster, and more technical than anything we heard people playing.
Was your goal to become the most brutal Bay Area act?
You could say that. We wanted to try to take things to new extremes in speed, heaviness and technical intensity.
Would you say that the first really death metal group was Insanity in the Bay Area? Were you the forerunners of death metal?
Well, Bud did come up with the drumbeat that took the speed of our music past the barriers of the thrash beat so I guess you could say that as far as the evolution of what death metal has become.
At that time, there was an active death metal scene in Florida with likes such as Morbid Angel, Massacre, Mantas, Hellwitch, etc. Were you familiar with them? Had you heard of them at that time? Did these bands have had an impact on you?
Yes, they were in a lot of the early fanzines we were in so we did hear of them, but we had already established our sound so none of them had an impact on Insanity music.
What about the rehearsals of Insanity? What do you remember about them?
The early days were some of the best times of my life. We had so much fun playing and partying back then. We used to jam in my garage and then get really drunk. Sometimes, there was a bunch of people around thrashing and going wild. My parents would be really pissed at the condition of the house when they got home although they were very supportive, especially when mail starting coming in from around the world.
Do you consider yourselves as talented musicians?
Not the rest of the band but I am! Ha-ha! Actually there were some good musicians around but we tried to write songs that went just beyond our ability at first which in turn made us better.
Did you rehearse hard to become better musicians?
We would try to rehearse up to five days a week when we first got Bud but that’s because we had fun and were inspired. I wouldn’t call it hard, especially, the way we partied back then.
Did you try to improve your abilities as far as playing music?
We had to improve our abilities to be able to play the riffs we started writing. Often we would teach each other riffs, we would have to wait a week or so before we all had them down good enough to be able to play the songs with the whole band up to speed.
Did you start writing your own material right from the start or did you jam some classics of Metallica, Slayer, Exodus, etc.?
For our first show at our high school we played the standard “Seek and Destroy” and “No Remorse” from Metallica as well as “Black Magic“ and “Fight Till Death“ from Slayer. Black Magic was the first song we played with Bud when he came to audition and he did it perfectly so we knew we had the right guy. From then on we concentrated on original music only.
Was it hard to aquire playing the covers? Did you consider it difficult to play the covers?
Not really although the first Metallica solos I learned with the help of a guitar teacher since I just started playing guitar a little more than 2 years before Insanity formed.
The first show was played on October 19th 1985 with Death and Sacrilege and the crowd maintained a frenzied pit which was admittedly short because the band only had five songs at the time. Any memories of this gig? Were you very exciting before the show?
That was probably the best experience I’ve had being on stage (although Murderfest last year was pretty cool too!). It was unbelievable how people that never heard of us before would be thrashing that hard and stage diving. At one point there were about seven or eight people that did a stage dive at once that the almost took Joe off the stage with them.
What about the setlist? Which of your own songs and which covers did you play on that night?
I don’t remember the specific order after starting with “Attack of Archangels,” but the first three songs we had down were “Fire Death Fate,” “Blood for Blood,” and “Ultimate Death,”
which were on the ’85 demo. “Death after Death” and “Attack” (which had instrumental versions sometimes included on the ’85 demo) were next after that.
Wasn’t it risky to play a show without having a demo tape?
I don’t think so. Mike Torrao from Possessed put in a good word for us and Wes from Ruthies Inn was mellow so it was nice to be able to play with bands like Death and Sacrilege for our first show.
Insanity then went on to play with many of the other great bands that played Ruthies Inn, including the likes of Possessed. I think it could have been a great gig – the two most brutal Bay Area bands on stage on the same night. How do you see it?
Yeah, that was a great show and they were good friends of ours and Mike T. really helped us get going before we were even sure if we were ready to play live.
Meanwhile a live rehearsal tape that was recorded with a stereo microphone was being circulated and an underground following was growing in countries around the world. Didn’t you have the opportunity to record the material in a studio?
Not at that time. We didn’t have any money and some of the reviewers were writing that it sounded better than most studios demos anyway. We were planning on recording in the studio in ’86 but that’s when Bud got thrown in jail and later that year was when Joe first got sick.
What about the recording sessions?
Well, after recording the band live the way we’d normally set up, I made some adjustments for the recording that became 85 demo. I had Bud set up his drums in the center of the garage. Then I’d set the recording level to his playing and then match the level with the amp volumes which were set up by the sides of the garage door like usual. We plugged Joe’s mic into my practice amp and I leaned it back against Bud’s front most cymbal stand aimed at the bottom of the mic.
The demo contains originally three tracks, featuring “Fire Death Fate,” “Ultimate Death,” and “Blood for Blood” but on some versions are “Attack of Archangels” and “Death After Death.” Why didn’t you put these tracks on the demo? Was the five track tape a bootleg version?
It was only our 3rd or 4th rehearsal I think, and Joe didn’t have the vocals down yet (and we didn’t have the leads down either).
Were you satisfied with the end result, with the sound of the tape?
Yes I am.
Would you say, if you could have recorded the demo in a studio it would have sounded better?
Sure, but only if we had the right engineer or producer that would make it sound as raw and powerful. The 85 demo captured the essence of Insanity pretty well and as a lot of early reviews said, it sounded better than a lot of studio demos at the time.
About 1986 the underground scene was really growing and a number of fanzines were coming out with Insanity always getting one of the best reviews and many orders were coming in for the `85 rehearsal demo as the first recording came to be known. Do you still remember in which fanzines were you featured? Did you often give interviews for fanzines?
The first was Violent Noize by Borivoj Krgyn. There were a bunch of others like Decibel of Death, Metal Core, Ripping Headaches, Douche Rag, Speed Corps from Canada and Satanic Death from Japan to name a few. We did a ton of interviews back then for almost every fanzine we were in.
Would you say that the demo drew the fans attention to the band and more and more fans started getting interested in the band? Did it open some doors for the band?
Some people have probably heard of the band because of the demo and a lot of people think it’s a significant recording in the history and evolution of death metal. Especially people like Jeff from Carcass who told us Insanity was one of their main influences.
How many copies were sold from the demo at that time? Was this tape shopped around to attract label interests?
Unfortunately I didn’t really count. It seemed like I used to send out about 20-30 a week at times but probably more than half of those were free copies going to fanzines or college radio stations. We were just about getting to the stage where we thought we’d be able to do a studio demo before a bunch of bad stuff started happening to the band.
Unfortunately, this did not last long. After having problems with equipment and finding a rehearsal studio, Bud had to serve about 10 month’s of jail time. What did he commit? Didn’t you think about sacking Bud from the band and searching for a new drummer instead of him?
He burglarized a liquor store. We would have liked to keep playing, but there was no one around that could play like Bud because his drumming was one of the vital elements that made Insanity what it was in the early days.
Did Bud’s jail time break the band’s impetus on the wheel?
Yeah, it was the first thing that started to screw us up in a major way.
During this time, the only productive thing the band could do was to write new material. Which songs did you write during this time? How did you approach the songwriting of the new material?
“Ritual,” “Possession,” “Night of the Dead,” there were a few more that weren’t completed or ended up being parts of other songs. We didn’t have a standard approach to writing, sometimes songs start with a riff or a lyric or even just an idea for a title.
So while you were preparing to record in a studio upon Bud’s release so you could finally get signed, Joe became ill with a heart disease. What happened with him?
He got a rare virus that attacks the heart. When he first got sick his heart enlarged by one and a half times and it was weakened to the point where the doctors first said he would need a heart transplant within three weeks or he would die.
Which labels did start showing interest in the band? Would you say, there was a great buzz around the band at this point?
Nuclear Blast was the first label I remember that contacted us. I think there were a few others but I don’t remember the names. I would have loved to have signed with Nuclear Blast back then but the band was unable to do anything at that time in the wake of Joe’s death.
You recorded one last rehearsal tape with Joe after a temporary release from the hospital but it was evident that some of his vocal power was gone due to the illness. What about this tape? I think Joe didn’t feel in the right mood himself, right?
He was doing the best he could in his condition. I’m sure he was in the right mood he just lost some of his power after getting sick.
Several months later, after a long up and down battle, Joe DeZuniga died on May 16th 1987, which was a great shock for you. Didn’t you think about giving up everything and breaking up? You have lost a talented musician and a good friend, haven’t you?
Yeah, my life changed a lot after that. I was very angry, frustrated and depressed all at the same time. I drank and did drugs all the time to try and cope with what happened. At first I didn’t play guitar at all for a while, but it was such a part of me that eventually I started writing again and finished some of the songs Joe and I were working on.
A half year before Joe passed away Cliff Burton unfortunately died as well, who was also very young, like Joe…
Yeah, that really sucked too. We were at the first 2 Metallica shows with Cliff Burton back to back Saturday nights at the Stone in S.F. Sometimes I think I can see myself at the front of the stage on the Cliff ‘em All footage from that show.
After a long break the rest of you tried to keep the band going, but you couldn’t find a singer with Joe’s vocal strength and more problems were yet to come, including a number of line up changes for a number of different reasons that kept the band from doing anything significant for awhile. Would you say, that it was hard to find the suitable replacement for Joe? Weren’t any talented musicians around your surrounding area?
Yeah, there will never be a replacement for Joe and we could never match the chemistry of the original line up.
What kind of reasons still hindered you work? What about the line up changes?
After Joe died, line up changes and not being able to find the right people have hindered the band ever since.
At that time was Poverty established which consisted of Bud Mills on the drums, Sean Riggen on vocals, Lou Gilberto on the bass and Scott Dodge on guitar. Did the guys take the band seriously or was it meant as a kind of project?
You would have to ask them. I’m sure they took it seriously in their own way.
Was Poverty a reason that hindered your work?
No. Although in hindsight it would have been better for Insanity trying to continue with Bud even though he lived far away and didn’t even have a drum set when we first started playing with other drummers.
Did you like their demo POVERTY PORTRAYS TRUTH?
Of course, it has the legendary Bud Mills on it. I even recorded a demo for them called POVERTY SUCKS when their style was more metalcore.
Would you say, that you could continue the band, because the fans were devoted and you were driven by a never say die attitude?
I guess those would be the two main reasons. I just love playing the songs, we had a lot of fun just hanging out parting and laughing besides the time spent playing music.
You reformed in 1989. What was the line up at this point? Did your music change or did it remain the old school thrash/death metal?
When Keith and I first reformed the band in 89 we had Prakash Shama on drums, Matt Janko on guitar and Bob Martinez on vocals. The music didn’t change but Bob had a drug problem that made his voice sound more like thrash than death metal sometimes and that is one of the reasons the band encouraged me to take over the lead vocals after I had been singing backup vocals for a while.
Would you say, that the Bay Area scene reached its peak at this point, but the newer acts, such as Kaos, Epidemic, Militia weren’t on that highly talented level, such as you, Possessed, Exodus, Death Angel, Heathen, etc. were?
I never though of it like that, but I guess you could you could say so.
In the late ’80s/early ’90s thrash metal went out of fashion and it was a great death metal boom, so the timing of your reformation was perfect, do you agree with that?
Maybe worldwide, but the local scene in the Bay Area started to suck for bands that weren’t national acts in the Bay Area. Some of it was due to the “pay to play”policy clubs used to rip off bands and not having clubs like Ruthies Inn around anymore.
Don’t you think, that around 1989/1990 death metal was becoming bigger and bigger to the detriment of speed/thrash and you still hadn’t entered the likes of Exodus, Testament, Metallica, etc. – and it was already too late for Insanity and you had lost all of your chances at this point to become bigger?
I guess so. Like I said, the local scene sucked at this point, as well, so it was par for the course and made me grow disillusioned with the whole thing eventually.
Have you ever cared for the trends? In your opinion, why did thrash loose its popularity at that time?
No. I don’t care what other bands are doing. I just know what I like and try to remain true to myself, which I think fans can appreciate because they can sense we are really into and not just going through the motions.
After a few years of struggling with a couple of line-up changes, Insanity signed a one-record deal with a German independent record label Black Lung and released the debut DEATH AFTER DEATH, but unfortunately the band was not complete when labels such as Nuclear Blast offered to sign the band. What was the problem, why weren’t you complete?
Because that was right after Joe died and we wouldn’t have been able to come close to recreating the sound Insanity had been known for at that time.
What about Black Lung/M. B. R.? Were they a small label?
They were a small label but as Matt Harvey mentioned to me, there wasn’t that much difference between them and Nuclear Blast back then and I couldn’t tell the future and know which label would fold and which one would become huge…
Why couldn’t you accept the deal of Nuclear Blast? Did they offer you a good contract? Would you say, that a deal with Nuclear Blast would have been better for the band?
Nuclear Blast would have definitely been better, but as they say hindsight is 20/20. After Joe died it just seemed impossible that we could record an album so that’s why I didn’t write back at the time. Of course, I wish I would have contacted them after the band started playing again but I can’t change the past, I can only go forward.
The album contains only your demos, why didn’t you put newer tracks on it? Were the tracks simply re-recorded, mixed and remastered?
It was going to be our first official release since the 85 demo so we thought we should make a real album of those tracks before releasing newer material. All the songs were recorded from scratch, that is the purpose of going into a recording studio.
Do you consider DEATH AFTER DEATH as an an onslaught of old-school death metal with extreme thrash influences, by an ambient noise and a slowly picked acoustic guitar?
That sounds like a good description although the slowly picked acoustic guitar is only for the intro of ”Attack of Archangels”.
Can you give us details on the record?
Well, we recorded the basics (rhythm tracks) in two days at a studio called Audio Voyage in Livermore, CA. After the label heard the first mixes, they gave us a little more money to go in and redo some vocals and mix it in a bigger studio so we went to Hyde Street in San Francisco, which is where Joe Satriani worked on a bunch of albums.
Were you satisfied with the sound? Did the tracks sound like in the old days, I mean, didn’t they loose from their pure aggression?
Not completely, I had a difficult time getting the engineer to understand terms like “Brutal”as far as what we wanted and being in the experience of having to produce the album and only having experience recording the live rehearsal demos made me want to learn about audio engineering.
If the record could have came out earlier –for example during ’86/87-, would Insanity have been a more known band with a huge reputation and respect in the underground? Would the record have been a classic, influential death metal one?
I’d like to think so. A lot of the early reviews we got from the 85 demo said we had the potential to RULE!
Would things have changed signifcantly if the band’s career happened differently?
Of course it would have because then (as Matt Harvey wrote on the From The Grave liner notes) Insanity would be mentioned along with the likes of Possessed, Death and Morbid Angel not too mention we’d have more albums out and we would have done a lot of touring as well.
Insanity played live numerous times in 1993-94 with the most notable show being at the Omni with the reformed Possessed (Mike Torrao has been a good friend of Insanity since 1985) & Machine Head on March 12, 1993, any memories of this show?
Hell yes! That was a great show. It was also my first show singing. There was a video made of it with two camera’s and it is on the DVD we’re working on.
A Possessed / Insanity gig poster from the year 1986
As far as Possessed, what did they sound like? What was the line-up of the band? In my opinion, without Jeff Becerra, it wasn’t worth to reform the band.
Well, being a friend of Mike Torrao, I have a different opinion and appreciated being able to hear the songs again. They had a very good drummer and Mike had a cool voice but obviously Jeff’s is one of the most classic death metal voices of all time. Jeff has become a friend of mine as well and I might try to get him to do some guest vox for Insanity in the future.
After drummer Prakash Sharma’s back problems became serious the band took a break in late ’94, wasn’t he able to bear the physical burdens or did he have other problems?
He still has problems to this day. He is in extreme pain most of the time and walks with a cane. It is a huge shame because he is one of the most talented drummers I’ve ever played with and is one of the best friends I’ve ever had.
The whole metal thing was onto an extinction phase during the early/mid ’90s, with many bands either breaking up or changing their sound for something that had nothing to do with their original approach (Metallica). How do you see it?
Yeah, it seemed like Testament for one tried using the ”Metallica” formula that brought them major success. There was some fads happening like ”funk metal” that bands like Kaos followed plus the whole grunge thing happenned and real metal suffered because of it.
Do you also think that metal, in general, seemed to be kind of dying on a large scale, being killed by grunge and pop/punk?
Yeah, I would agree with that.
In 1997, the band reformed and you began working on new material, but what did you do during those three years?
I had a job and a girlfriend and almost got married. I guess I drifted away from playing music for a while because I got tired of all the bullshit and bad breaks.
A 3-song CD called SACREFIXION has been released. Was it similar to the old way of the band or would you say, that you turned into a modern direction?
I’d say it’s a bit of both. It still has the Insanity sound but we have become better musicians and started writing longer songs with guitars harmonizing or playing different parts more often. We also starting incorporating a second deeper voice occasionally to add more variety to the vocals.
What about those songs respectively about the circumstances of the recordings?
“Sacrefixion” is one of my favorite Insanity songs and starts off with blazing speed for a long time before changing into stomping double kick parts. “Dread The Dawn” is a song that expanded the realm of what we thought we could do and is one of the songs I’m most proud of writing. “Mortification” is a very heavy moshing song with great vocal patterns and the verses have some cool dual guitar parts that overlap and transition into each other. These songs were recorded at the studio I used to engineer at and I learned a lot during the process.
There were unfortunately big differences in levels of dedication, money spent and effort put in strained relations between band members and this line up broke up in late 2001, what happened? What kind of reasons led to the break up?
Well, the question pretty much stated the problem. Everyone was in it for different reasons at the time, and drinking seemed to be the only thing everyone was serious about. I was making a lot of sacrifices including not taking good paying jobs so we could record the album so there was a lot of tension and we had a blow up but everything got patched up and we played Murderfest last year together.
After Insanity was reformed in 2005 the band played the first show in many years in San Francisco on June 8th. How were you treated by the fans? Did you enjoy the show?
It wasn’t the best show because we were just getting started again and wanted to keep it low key. We had bigger and better things planned we wanted to get ready for.
What do you think about reformations which happened in the last 5-6 years, such as Heathen, Death Angel, Nuclear Assault, Celtic Frost, Metal Church, Agent Steel, Hirax, etc.? Would you say, that these bands have never been as big as they are nowadays?
Yep, the old school is BACK!
Do you like their present albums? Can the present records of these bands be compared to their classic, immortal ones or are there two different worlds, which isn’t worth to compare to each other?
I haven’t heard all of these bands latest material although I will be getting the latest Death Angel that just came out as soon as I can. Even then some things are classic because they become a familiar part of our past so for a lot of people nothing will ever live up to the earlier stuff.
While you were booked for other shows to prepare for a West Coast tour with Exhumed from August 25th-28th, drummer Colin Osness broke his hand, bad luck again… It meant, that you had to cancel the shows, right?
No, we were about to and even contacted Bud about filling in but he got better just in time although we weren’t sure if he’d be able to make it through a whole show much less multiple shows night after night.
Luckily after Colin’s cast was removed and he was cleared to play on the 19th, the band was able to rehearse a few times before the first show at The Pound in San Francisco and continuing on to Southern California. How did the whole tour go?
It was awesome! We gained a lot of new fans and made some good connections as well. All the band members from the different bands were really cool to hang out with and we had a blast. Although we did have some drama with a friend we were supposed to stay with in Hollywood and someone tried to steal the bass guitar the next night and I didn’t get any sleep and was running on fumes by the last show at the Jumping Turtle although the guys in Cattle Decapitation that were there seemed to be impressed and we were supposed to play with them down there before Bud got sick.
Insanity gained many new fans on the road helping to re-spark interest in the band to a new generation of metal fans. Would you say that Insanity’s name is still big and it is still in people’s mind?
I would say that Insanity’s name is big in the minds of those who know the band’s material or have seen us live, but we are still no where near as big as we would have been if a few things happenned differently.
In 2004 Matt Harvey from Exhumed contacted you with the idea of releasing a compilation of early Insanity material on his new label Parasitic Twin Productions, which is a 70-minute compilation called FROM THE GRAVE. Was it an honor for you? Weren’t any labels interested in releasing this material?
It was an honor, and it really helped get our material circulated and with worldwide distribution. Since it was Matt’s idea and he would have Relapse Records distribute it (at least in the U.S.), I didn’t see any reason to be trying to shop it around to other labels.FROM THE GRAVE is a 70 minute compilation of vintage Insanity material from 1985-1994, this CD chronicles the band from the ’85 Live/Rehearsal Demo, the DEATH AFTER DEATH release and remixed & completed versions of 1993-94 8 track demo songs including “Carnivore,” “Ritual,” “Night Of The Dead,” “Extinction” and a recording of an old classic “Ultimate Death” with rhythm tracks recorded in 1998.
Whose idea was it to release this album? Can you tell us more about it?
It was Matt Harvey’s idea. A few years earlier he had the idea of covering an Insanity song but he said since Napalm Death beat him to it, he wanted to release a compilation of Insanity material as he was starting a label called Parasitic Twin. Unfortunately, although he did get us distrubution with Relapse he never follows through with anything from promoting it to finishing getting the contracts signed or paying us the royalties due and has avoided just about every attempt we’ve made to contact him and finalize things which has been a major source of frustration since he also helped us out so much and we don’t want to burn that bridge either.
As far as the record, what we get here is a good old package of insane old school death metal that just leaves the listener obliterated by its intense speed and aggression. How do you see this?
I would agree with that, I like that description although I am a perfectionist and still think it could have been better.
Do you think that Insanity are one of those bands who were part of the growing extreme metal scene from the mid 80′s to early 90′s and who didn’t receive as much credit as they should of along with several other great bands who only made it through demos during the 80’s such as Necrovore, Pentagram(Chile), Sindrome, Terminal Death, Incubus (Florida), etc.?
In some ways. Because of the bad luck of the band, we didn’t get the exposure I think we deserved but that’s because things got derailed so quickly. The fanzines we were in actually gave us a lot of credit and we would usually receive the most positive reviews.
In this compilation of Insanity’s music the listener can notice that you kept that same fast, aggressive, non-boring sound throughout all the releases in here and your sound can be described as if one had Possessed and Devastation (Chicago) put together, but with more technicality. Do you agree with it?
Yes, again I think you’ve described it well! Fast, aggressive, non-boring old school death metal with more technicality!
The vocals are great and they can’t be really compared to anyone else’s; the guitars are insanely technical and very powerful, the riffs are catchy, the drumming is very fast, typical thrash beats but 10 times faster. How do you see it?
Wow, I didn’t think my vocals were all that, I just try to make it sound raspy and as powerful as I can (although I feel I’ve been smoking too much pot until recently) but thank you. I’ve always tried to write technical and powerful riffs but keeping them catchy has been key! Playing faster than thrash has been a trademark of Insanity as well as Bud was an old school pioneer creating faster tempos in extreme drumming.
This will help to give the band a new level of exposure and will help spread Insanity like a worldwide plague. Is that correct?
Definitely! We’ve been hearing from a lot of new fans from all over the world as well as old school fans that still have the original 85 demo. It has really helped to fuel the resurgence.
I read about another compilation called ULTIMATE DEATH. What about this release? Is it bootleg stuff or an official one?
It’s not really an ”official” release. That was made for some fans that wanted to get the full 85 demo on CD. I did some mastering and added some songs that also appeared on FROM THE GRAVE from a 94 demo.
How happened with that DEMO ’85 that came free with issue 15 of Snakepit Magazine?
Laurent Ramadier who has been one of our biggest fans and strongest supporters from the early days asked if he could include a 6” vinyl of the demo with his Magazine. He also gave us a bunch to sell at shows and from our website.
How do you feel when you see that there’s still people who really understood how great Insanity was and who still enjoy your music after all those years?
That is one of the main reasons why we still try to keep the band going despite how much bad luck and setbacks we have sufferred through. The fans mean everything and it does make me feel validated for not quitting when I hear from them.
Last year, unfortunately, Bud Mills died…
Yeah, it’s been a real fucked up time. He was a one of a kind friend and drummer. After we played Murderfest it felt like the band was finally back on track in a major way. Besides planning on more west coast shows, we started preparing to re-record the VISIONS OF APOCALYPSE release because we made a bunch of small improvements and a couple songs changed a lot. Unfortunately we will have to release the recordings Bud tracked in 2001 instead. I’m just starting to get back on track after being depressed for quite a while and I plan on completing the final mixes in the next few months.
My last question: how would you characterize the career of Insanity from the formation ’til the last show, respectively your bandmates, including Joe DeZuniga and Bud?
We started off with all the potential in the world and with Joe’s death everything fell apart before we could make a major impact. We used to joke about being “cursed”because of the timing of certain events like amps not working the day of a show and a bunch of crap like that. We definitely had some of the worst luck of any band I know of. It seemed like we had the world in the palm of our hands and it slipped through our fingers but the most tragic thing of all is to lose good friends. Joe and Bud were some of the best friends I’ve ever had, and you can’t replace friendships like that. On the other hand, some great things have happened in the last three years with the FROM THE GRAVE release, being covered by Napalm Death, the Exhumed tour and the Murderfest show we’ve played. Before Bud’s death, it seemed like Insanity was making up for a lot of lost time.
Dave, thanks a lot for your patience and answers. I hope you enjoyed the feature. Anything to add that I forgot to cover?
Your welcome, thanks for the support. Look for the VISIONS OF APOCALYPSE release soon as well as our upcoming DVD featuring Buds last show at Murderfest in Hollywood, CA. Music videos and other footage of Insanity shows over the years.
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