NOCTURNUS 2008 – Mike Browning
Interview by Luxi Lahtinen
Live pictures by Luxi Lahtinen
Thanks to Erich Heintzelman for the transcription
Mike Browning does not need any introduction. His merits in such legendary satanic death metal bands as Morbid Angel, Incubus Nocturnus, Acheron, etc., should speak volumes for who Mike Browning is. The man is a living legend so to speak.
His latest band, After Death, got into a touring mood last October, doing 12 dates across the Europe, but this time Mike and his other band fellows decided to do the tour under Nocturnus´ moniker. The band concentrated on playing Nocturnus songs only off from the highly successful THE KEY album, plus they also played a couple of After Death songs – as well as they did a couple of old Morbid Angel songs that either Mike wrote himself for Morbid Angel´s ABOMINATIONS OF DESOLATION album, or co-write them together with Trey Azathoth.
Mike tells in this interview why he decided to do this tour with the After Death line-up, and not the original Nocturnus line-up that recorded both THE KEY and THRESHOLDS albums. He also reveals the possibility to continue doing more Nocturnus shows during 2009 – as well as speaking straight from his heart on how he felt when he was fired from his own band by the other band members, that he formed back in 1987.
This is a really interesting and in-depth interview that Mike was kind enough to do for Metal-Rules.com, so be sure to read it in order to understand why certain things happened the way they happened in the first place regarding Nocturnus especially.
(Important side note! This interview was conducted with Mike in the mid November 2008 and was sent to one guy for transcription purposes. Despite promises, he never did the transcription, so hopefully that explains why this interview wasn´t published any earlier than just now.)
THE LOST KEY TOUR OVER EUROPE
So, Mike could you kindly tell us as for starters how this “The Lost Key” European tour went for you all in all? What were some of the best and most memorable shows you did out of all these 13 dates you did, and what were some of your very favorite venues in your opinion where you played with Nocturnus at?
All in all the tour went pretty well. We had one show in Austria cancelled, due to the local promoter not even booking the show at the venue so we actually did twelve shows. But I would say Baroeg in Holland, the Underworld in London, the Prague show, the Italy show and a few of the Germany shows were all awesome. We had several shows where we ended up doing four or five encores, so I’d say overall, the tour was a pretty good success for us.
I witnessed your show in London on October 21st and have honestly confess that you put up a killer show at Underworld at that night – despite of a few technical problems that occurred during your set. Anyway, I guess you met many old Nocturnus -fans on this tour; I mean, all those people how have actually been into this band since you recorded your first demos with this band, correct?
We had a couple of problems at the Underworld in London, mostly with the equipment, the drums, one of my symbal stands kept breaking. Like three times it almost fell right on me while I was playing and nobody was there to help me fix it so I had to kinda wait till a good spot to fix it. But, that happened a couple of times, but I think it was pretty amazing overall. A pretty big amount of our crowds were people that saw Nocturnus back in the 90’s, so it was really great to see people that I hadn’t seen in like seventeen or eighteen years, people that I’d talked to on the Internet for the past few years. Yeah, I think it was a really good thing and you know it was really cool to run into, and meet all these people in person that you talk to online all the time.
What about all these warm-up bands you had on this tour – I mean bands like Violated, Punish, Memorial and Slither. How were they chosen for this tour to support Nocturnus?
We actually had nothing to do with that part of picking the bands. The whole tour was put together by the Kraftwerk booking agency, so we just basically showed up and played our stuff. But I will say that all the bands were great and with really cool people in it, and it was amazing that five bands went on this tour from all over the world, and we came together for two weeks and we had no problems at all. Everyone really enjoyed the whole tour, everyone got along real well. I always hear so many bad things about bands on tours fighting and things like that. It happened before with Nocturnus, you know some of the members themselves were fighting on the road. But it was really good this time, you know. Everybody got along real well and we had a lot of fun and you know that’s the main thing and I think people saw that on stage that everybody was getting along. So all and all it was a pretty good thing.
Like you had already stated in public prior to this tour, you were doing this tour with the After Death line-up, and not the original Nocturnus line-up. So, can I ask is there so much bad blood between you and the other original members of the band – excluding Mike Davis, that you even didn´t consider asking the rest of the guys to do this tour with you?
Yeah, I do actually still talk to Mike Davis and it’s really too bad that he declined to do the tour. But after the fact that Lou and Sean stole my name from me, I wouldn’t help those guys if they were dying in the street in front of me to put it mildly. But, yeah I do still talk to Mike and I’d asked him if he actually wanted to play guitar on this tour, but he was really, really tired with the whole music business in general you know, so he declined to the do the tour. But he was actually happy that I was gonna do it with everybody and that, you know, it´s probably gonna make Lou and Sean mad, but he doesn’t get along with them at all anymore either. He was actually pretty happy about it. And I actually talked to Dan Izzo too, the old singer after me, and he was actually pretty thrilled about it too. He said ‘Man you should definitely go do this tour, you know I hope it pisses off Lou and Sean’, cause he didn’t like… uh, he doesn’t get along with them either anymore. So, pretty much it was a good thing overall, you know, it was much better to go with guys that I enjoyed playing with on stage. You know, I wouldn’t reunite with people just for the money. I’m not into that, so I would rather bring, you know, people that I get along with on stage and we can still do the same songs. To most people I believe they sounded pretty much the same as back then in the 90’s but… uh, a lot of people said it was even heavier and faster so to me that’s a pretty major accomplishment.
What was the main purpose for you personally to get Nocturnus to do these shows – and not your current band After Death? Did you kind of want to remind all of Nocturnus fans out there that Nocturnus is still your band, no matter if some other ex-members of the band have trademarked the name for them?
Yeah, that was definitely a part of the whole thing and I think we did a really good job as most people said it was even better than what they saw back in the 90’s and doing this will hopefully make people realize the connection that there really is no difference between what they just saw, you know, Nocturnus and After Death, its just a continuation or a part two of the band. So, I think you know I wanted to remind everybody that I could still do the Nocturnus songs, but that I have more to offer than just old Nocturnus songs, because you have to move on from things and I personally don’t mind playing the old songs and the old Morbid Angel songs. I really like it and it was good to be able to go to Europe and use the name Nocturnus, because After Death hasn’t really gotten a good push by any companies or anything that really has pushed it out there and all the magazines and things like that. People don’t really know about After Death and hopefully this tour really helped alot because people realize it was the same band I think, and we played some After Death as well as Nocturnus, and Morbid Angel songs. So I think it was a good thing that we got to do this the way we did.
When it was announced officially for the first time that you´ll be doing this tour, how some of these other original members reacted to your statement? Did some of your ex-band members be pissed off for your decision to use the Nocturnus name on this tour?
The only person, well actually there was two people that found at about it before
I actually left, uh, was Mike Davis and Dan Izzo and actually they both were pretty happy that I was gonna go out there and play these Nocturnus songs. It was kinda getting back at Lou and Sean because they both are not friendly with those guys either because of the name thing. Lou and Sean didn’t include Dan, they didn’t include Emo, who was in the band at the time and they didn’t tell Mike that they trademarked the name either until after it had been trademarked. So Mike was kinda like, you know, he always wanted me to know that he really didn’t have the plan that Lou and Sean had of backstabbing me and stealing the name. But after it happened, you know, they kicked me out of the band and you know he said he just kinda went along with it but actually you know after that happened they didn’t even last six months as a band and Mike was actually the first one to say ‘Man, this is terrible it’s not the same anymore I quit.’ So basically that’s what happened.
TRADEMARK PROBLEMS WITH THE NOCTURNUS NAME
How did you feel back in the day when the other original members of the band trademarked Nocturnus´ name for themselves behind your back – and then fired you from the band even if you were the one who created Nocturnus? Obviously using the word “betrayed” is kinda lame word for describing how you actually felt when this news hit you – straight to your face, already years ago?
Yeah, it was a real let down because not even one of these guys was ever even in a band before Nocturnus that ever really did anything other than play in their house or in a garage. If it wasn’t for me putting them in Nocturnus they probably would’ve never done anything even close to what we had back then. So yeah, it was pretty disgusting what they did to me but the fact is I was the creator and the original voice and soul of Nocturnus, and nothing will ever change that. I mean, 90% of the people out there already know this and they don’t think it was a very good thing. I don’t think anybody out there that’s been in a band would like any of their material or their ideas stolen from somebody else and used against them. Even on top of just stealing it but used against you after that, you know, there was point where even Sean and Lou when I tried to do After Death – well, Nocturnus AD, which was the first thing I was gonna do in 2000 or actually late 1999. But they actually had a lawyer send me a letter saying they were gonna sue me for using the name, or a likeness of the name with Nocturnus AD in it, and used the AD, After Death and I thought people would make the connection a little easier, but they didn’t seem to. I’ve never really gotten a big push from any kind of label or anything for it. So, you know it was a let down, but betrayed is a pretty good word stabbed in the back, I don’t know (laughs). There’s quite a few words for people who do that. I don’t believe anybody out there who’s a musician would be pretty happy with somebody if they did that to them. And to this day this is why I would never actually reunite with those guys because I would never give them the satisfaction of being able to do it again, because they obviously can’t do it without me. So, they need me to be able to do this and I’m just not gonna give it to them. So, and I actually showed them that I don’t need them, so I think that speaks volumes for itself.
Talking about this recently done Nocturnus tour though, due to some US trademark restrictions – just like you had already made this one statement in public, you couldn´t either do more shows that these 13 dates on this tour. Can you be more specific about this issue what kind of restrictions we are talking about in here?
Basically, they own the name which was trademarked in the United States back in 1993, after THRESHOLDS came out when they trademarked the name. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do more shows than 13 in the European market, it was just more that I didn’t really have that much time off from my job, and my guitar player didn’t have that much time off from his job. We tried to do as much as we can in two weeks with our vacation time, and I think we did pretty well. We were gonna do 13 but ended up doing 12 shows, so we only had one day off in 14 days, right in the middle, which was kinda nice. We did have to just kinda run right in there, tour, and run back out. We didn’t have a lot of time to hang out or do any other things like that. As you know, that’s quite expensive to just be hanging out. Pretty much when you do a tour you have to stay pretty busy doing shows, and I think this was a good little comeback tour. I think that enough people saw it to spread the word, and next time we’ll do a much better tour, well maybe not longer but just more quality shows and hopefully some festivals next year so we can play in front of some bigger crowds and just kinda spread the name again. You know, let people know that there’s really no difference between Nocturnus and After Death anymore. If they like what they see they are gonna here that kinda stuff whatever the band is called at this point.
I can’t really use the name in the United States, but Europe and the rest of the world is a different story, so it just seems I won’t be able to do stuff in the U.S. So, as far as releasing any recordings under the name Nocturnus, that’s probably not gonna be a possibility either. As long as I can tour in Europe under that name, I’ll do some more tours until people really make the connection and it doesn’t matter to them whether the band is called Nocturnus or After Death because they are going to see the same people playing the same type of show so hopefully that will work out pretty soon here.
MORE THAN A NOCTURNUS TOUR
I think it´s very cool from you that you actually decided to take a couple of After Death and even Morbid Angel songs into your set list for this tour. By taking a couple of After Death and old Morbid Angel songs into your setlist, did you also kind of want to remind them who you are, what you have done earlier and what you have currently been doing – like giving a sort of promotional package out from yourself, especially for younger people – and sort of educating them at the same time, who Mike Browning actually is as far as your whole history is several bands is concerned?
Yeah, this was exactly my intention. It was more than a Nocturnus tour I would say, it was a tour of most of the highlights of the stuff I did in my career, but maybe not even all of that either. It was still 70% Nocturnus stuff. I think because we used that name I wanted to make that the prominent thing. People will probably never get to see me with Morbid Angel except for some old videos. The same with the other members of Nocturnus. I will not play with them for money, it doesn’t matter to me. I am not that type of person that’s just gonna get up on stage with people I hate just because I am getting paid to do it. That’s not what music is about for me. So, I specifically put this set together so that the people that are new and old would get to see the songs from the 80’s, 90’s, and the present all mixed together in one set and how it actually all blends in pretty well. It did work together quite well with everything. I would say most of the nights, the highlights were the old Morbid Angel stuff because basically people knew they would probably never get to see that kind of thing again. But I can say that next year, if we do come back, I want to have some newer – not really newer songs, well maybe with After Death, yes. But with the Morbid Angel and Nocturnus stuff, I want to do some other songs that we didn’t get to do this time because of time restraints and only being able to learn so many Nocturnus songs in like two months. We had a new guitar player to work in as far as our second guitarist. Belial, from Lethal Prayer and Omneity, he stepped in and did the tour as our second guitar player and he only had a month and a half to learn 13 songs. I think he did a fantastic job. Next year, like I said, it will be the same lineup and we’ll be doing some extra Nocturnus songs that you didn’t hear, a couple of other Morbid Angel songs for the encores. We’ll always leave those pretty much for the end of the set as a really good show clincher for everybody. I think people really like to leave hearing those things. There is a couple of requests that we got every night pretty much it was stuff that we didn’t do yet. It was kinda good because it will leave more for next year that people didn’t get to see. I don’t want to go back next year and do the same exact thing that I did this year. I will as far as the same three bands, but we’ll add some other new songs to make the show completely different so when people see it they’ll be like damn, the didn’t play that last time at all, they didn’t play that one, they didn’t play that one. We’ll still keep the main classics so people will be happy to see those again. We’ll just continue to try to make everything better each time we come.
How did you exactly feel personally to play all these old Nocturnus and Morbid Angel classics to your audience, after all these years? I guess playing these songs have brought many great memories back to your mind. Does this correct, too?
Yes, when I play these old songs it definitely brings back the same feelings that I had when I originally performed them. I even have the vocals a bit different from each band so they matched the original sound. I sang a little gruffer with the Morbid Angel stuff. I sang pretty much my same kind of Nocturnus voice with the Nocturnus songs and with the After Death I kinda made them a little heavier but made them sound pretty much like the RETRONOMICON CD. The vocals are different on all 3 of those recordings and obviously at the time it just came to different feelings with the different bands and different subjects that I was singing about so it just sorta came out of me in different ways and, you know, different age. I was quite young when I was in Morbid Angel so obviously my voice has changed a little bit. With After Death I tried to sing a little bit more so people could understand my words, ‘cause I felt the words had gotten more complicated and better. I actually had stuff to say and riddles in the songs for people to figure out. So, I kinda liked having everything sounding a little bit different but still it’s all very uniform when you hear it together. I tried to match them with the way I originally did it and it just kind of happened naturally anyway, I didn’t really have to force anything to do that. It was kinda nice playing these old songs and hearing the people like singing along with the songs and stuff because they knew them quite well. That makes you feel good that after you put an album out 15 years ago, or 17 years even, or even longer with the Morbid Angel. That was 22 years ago. When you think about it that way these people are singing these songs that have been out for twenty something years. It’s really cool to see that because you don’t get that type of thing going on I the United States. That is what I really like about Europe. People are just so much more involved in the actual music. It is always an honor to come over here to Europe and play.
GOING BACK TO THE KEY AND THRESHOLDS
When your debut album, THE KEY, was released in 1990, it´s was kinda extraordinary and even very much groundbreaking album all in all as far as death metal sound overall is concerned. Nocturnus were considered to be the first death metal band that took keyboards to be as a part of the death metal sound, and you used equally like with any other instrument on THE KEY – expanding the sound of death metal a bit further your own way that was used to hear normally from other death metal bands to that day. How do you feel about being some sort of innovators in this type of, may I say, ´musical exploring in death metal´, now 18 years later?
We never actually expected to be labeled as the first death metal band to use keyboards and I know that we actually weren’t. I had heard several bands use keyboards in death metal and black metal kinda stuff that was just starting to come out to at the same time. I guess it was more of the fact of how often we used them and that we didn’t really sound like any other band when we used the keyboards, which is very important to me. To me, the goal of playing music is to be original. There is a thousand bands that copy each big band out there. You have one big band, and you have like a thousand bands behind it that use those sounds and those type of writing to do that. I understand it, because if a band really influences you and you really like that band you end up kinda writing stuff similar to that. I’m not saying I’ve never stolen anything idea-wise from any other band because that’s just ridiculous because everybody has to do that nowadays. There is not many people that can come up with something out of the blue that they really can say that has never come from anywhere before. You always have some kind of influence, unless somebody was brought up self-taught and never listened to another song in their life and they was just asked to write music. Say you gave somebody a keyboard and locked them in a room before they have ever heard music. It would be quite weird to see what they come up with being that their brain was not preconceived with any type of music. I think with that it is all up to what you have heard before and what you want to do after that. I’ve listened to music all my life. My mom used to sing in a band actually back in the 70’s. I’ve always been around music and I’ve always wanted to play music, but for some reason to me it was always that I wanted to do something that didn’t sound like everything else. Even though there was a lot of stuff I did like and listen to, it was better to me to not sound like that, but to have these influences still, but not sound like it. It was kind of a weird thing to figure out. I think overall we did pretty well because even to this day I really don’t hear any bands that sound exactly like what we did on THE KEY.
You recorded two albums with Nocturnus, THE KEY and THRESHOLDS off of which THE KEY was actually a much more popular record among the metal fans. So, is it too rude to ask from you what went wrong with THRESHOLDS back in the day?
What went right with THRESHOLDS actually? I don’t know… I didn’t sing on THRESHOLDS and I didn’t right hardly any of the lyrics either. At that point, everyone in the band wanted to change into more of a sci/fi and less occult type of band and the record company was pushing for us to have a front man too. They had said if you want a bigger budget for the second record, if you want us to do a video, you really have to do these things that we are telling you to do. You need to get a front man because nobody in the front of the band ever moved on stage, just a very little bit. As far as a live thing, I was behind this super huge drum set. Basically everybody was saying all we heard was a voice coming from behind the drums. Now today, if you had some money behind you, you could have big screen TVs, big screens with cameras focused on me playing and singing so people could actually see me behind the kit. Also now, I use a drum set. My personal drum set is an old 1970’s Ludwig kit. Ant it’s clear its vista like set. It’s totally clear and see through. Now when people say I can’t see you behind the kit, well now I’ve fixed that and bought a clear see through drum set. You actually can see me playing drums. You can see me singing and I’ve moved some stuff around visually wise so you can see me a lot better now when I’m playing. We’ve made sure everybody up at the front of the stage kinda stands a little to the sides of the drums. Before, we had people that used to just stand right in front of the drums for the whole show and it just kinda messed up the appearance of everything. It was a live and learn with that. The problem is that the record company suggested things and said if you don’t do these things then you won’t get these extra things for the next record. In fact you’ll get less than you did for the first record. We did everything the record company wanted to do. We got a singer. We went more science fiction and less occult to try to go with a broader audience, which was not my idea either. The end result was that THRESHOLDS has only sold a third of what THE KEY did. People must have agreed with the fact that I really didn’t want to change anything and to keep everything the way it was and just try to work around those things like not seeing me. Big screens, video cameras, there is always a way around those kinds of things. If you have a good formula going which we did on THE KEY there was no reason to change it. It would have been great to take that and just make it better. I think we could’ve done that had we went that route if I would’ve just especially me and Davis together just wrote the lyrics and not involved anyone else and then we just like push the music a little heavier I think we would’ve been able to put out another album that would’ve compared or even been a little bit better than the KEY. THRESHOLDS had a much better sound overall I think as far as the quality although THE KEY was a lot rawer and maybe had something to do with more of an evil type sound. You can’t really ever tell what would’ve happened if we’d kept it that way. With a song like Bridge own on tour, on the first tour, I was singing that even before THRESHOLDS came out. It was all planned out for me to sing on THRESHOLDS but the problem was that everyone wanted to write songs about army men jumping out of airplanes and attacking army bases and to me that kind of stuff was not what I thought Nocturnus shouldn’t be working on or writing about but then I didn’t want to cause to many conflicts with my band members. We were all under contract, we had to work together. I compromised way too much and didn’t really speak up too much. I said let’s see what happens with this and see if the record company is right, see if everyone in the band is right. When you’ve got like four other people going we need to do this, we need to do this and I’m the only one who was against it then what can you really do. You just have to go along with it and hope for the best. If it didn’t work out I could’ve said ´See I told you so…´- and we could’ve gone back to doing what we used to do. But they really I was able to do that and say I told you so. Look, THRESHOLDS, you know, it was ridiculous. When it came time to do the third album they were like, we need to get rid of Browning because he’s got too many ideas and we need to just keep pushing this way because eventually the people will catch and like what we are doing. But that’s just not true. I think the people would’ve been much more into us going back and doing another part two of THE KEY, which I could’ve easily written a whole other story that could’ve been part two of THE KEY. They kind of missed out on that being ever able to happen. So who knows in the future maybe I can work on some stuff like that, too but it’s always a possibility.
RECOLLECTIONS FROM THE SCIENCE OF HORROR
What about your 2nd demo, THE SCIENCE OF HORROR? What are your thoughts about it now after all these past years. It´s anyway that demo that made Earache Records interested in Nocturnus, and that eventually got the band signed for Earache.
I still love the sound and feeling of THE SCIENCE OF HORROR demo had but unfortunately without the same people playing on it. We changed the style from a slower more evil sound to a faster, technical sound. Even with the same songs they were all sped up, they were made a little more technical. That was mainly due to the fact that the musician I was working with and what they wanted to do as well. Gino was one of the main songwriters on THE SCIENCE OF HORROR. Actually, Richard Bateman was who didn’t even play on it, but some of the older songs Richard and Gino we all worked together on those songs so they all had that old style to them. And then so it was a really, really good demo I thought. We did it on a weekend and we had Jon Oliva from Savatage. John Oliva was playing. He was actually was working in a studio with a friend of his and he said, ´Hey, for 500 dollars I’ll do a demo for you´. So that was like recording time, mixing, and everything. It was like great, that’s only about a hundred dollars per person or so. We came up with that really as fast as possible. He actually even ended up singing back ups on it for us so it was kind of nice to have John come on the record too and sing backups and help with this and help with that. He did a lot more than just kind of sat back and watched everything and mixed it. He actually had a lot of hands on stuff and ideas it was I think for the money that we spent I think that he really gave that demo an original sound. I think it the perfect thing got him to do that. It was the thing that got Earache interested in signing us. I think Trey and Mike Davis were really good friends at the time so he kept kind of pushing because even Earache was like I don’t know, this stuff is really different, I don’t know if it’s going to sell or if it’s going to bomb. When you’re doing something that no one else has done before, only so many people are going to like it – and then the rest are going to hate it. That’s what happens when you do something very original. That’s why record companies book or sign bands that actually sound like other banks because they know if Morbid Angel sells this many records, then a band that sounds like Morbid Angel will sell you know like a pretty good amount of records because they sound like Morbid Angel. But a lot of times these labels are just really too afraid to take a chance on something that’s completely different. So we kind of got lucky with Earache on that that they did give us an opportunity.
Would it cool to get it released for example as a limited 10” E.P. or picture album, for example? Have this type of plans crossed your mind as of lately?
Actually the two Nocturnus demos were released on CD by a label called Karmageddon a few years ago. But yes, some vinyl is always awesome to have we just released the After Death RETRONOMICON CD and a double vinyl through Iron Pegasus. Like I said, vinyl is always an awesome thing. Especially a picture album would even be better. It’s kind of hard with the Nocturnus name. I really can’t release and don’t want to release anything that’s going to cause any problems. Legally-wise unfortunately I can’t do that. It’s one thing to play some songs live but it’s another thing to actually release some material that’s going to end up eventually in the United States and being sold over here. Once it’s sold over here then there could be a problem. So I really want to stay away from that. It would be nice to have some stuff out but it would have to be, actually, unfortunately it would have to be put out by the people that own the name, Nocturnus.
As for Morbid Angel, what do you think about the fact David Vincent has returned back to Morbid Angel and working with a new album with the other members of the band? Are you personally looking forward to hearing the next Morbid Angel album?
Well, you know I think this is what people consider the classic Morbid Angel sound that got them really popular and with the fact that their last few albums didn’t do well with the different singers on them I think there was really no choice but for them to get ´Evil D´ back in the band. Although they al hate each other personally and of course you know they’re only dong this for the money and that Morbid Angel was pretty much a band without a label. Without you know their sales had completely dropped with HERETIC, which I thought was actually a pretty decent album. But I’d like to see what happens with Morbid Angel again. The problem is that when you listen to this stuff you’re going to know that although technically it’s going to be an amazing album, no doubt, it’s you’re gonna know that there’s really nothing substantial behind the driving force of the band. Everybody’s just sort of in their own world now in Morbid Angel and it’s pretty common knowledge that none of them get along and they’re only doing this because they’re trying to save the last little bit. Before they’re trying to make a bunch of money again. People like Trey and David, they live off of music. So if they don’t do things that are going to sell a lot of records then they’re going to have to go out and get regular jobs which I’m sure they don’t really want to do yet. So I think this is like a last grasp at trying to make Morbid Angel work again. It’ll probably do well but how long it’ll last when I think that the people out there, I think that they’re not so fooled anymore by these things. Although I think they really want to see Morbid Angel play again with David you know I think in the back of their minds they really know that they’re not doing this for the music. That they’re doing it for the money. It’s just the way it is. Unfortunately there’s a lot of bands doing reunions and that’s kind of like why it’s kind of funny that the Nocturnus thing was called a reunion but it really wasn’t because I could’ve done it with the other people. At least a couple of them I’m sure that Lou and Shawn would’ve done it in heartbeat as long as they were getting paid. Now if you would’ve told them you could do this Nocturnus reunion tour but because of the cost you’re really not going to make any money, well then we just wouldn’t have done it. Up for them it would’ve only been a factor of how much money can I make to do this. Obviously I don’t like them and they don’t like me so but they would get onstage for money with no problem and I won’t. So it’s just sort of that’s the way it is. I think with Morbid Angel obviously money is a factor. They’re a business more than a band. To keep the business running, they have to do what they have to do to keep the business running. So basically that’s what you’re going to see on stage. You’re gonna to see great musicianship but I don’t think there’s much soul behind it anymore.
Richard Brunelle also played on the ABOMINATIONS record, and last time I interviewed you for Metal-Rules.com (it was in 2003), you told me that you see him every now and then, and still consider him as a friend of yours. Do you know what he´s up to nowadays? Is he having any band projects going on or anything?
Yes, I used to run into him quite often here and there. He used to be in a band called Path of Possession. They used to have a lot of parties at their house. So I actually used to go over there every once in a while and hang out with them. The Cannibal Corpse guys would be there and you know it was kind of a cool party place but Richard has had a lot of problems with drugs. Last I heard he was in jail for the sixth or seventh time for smoking crack cocaine, so no, I don’t really talk to him anymore and haven’t heard from him in probably a good three years now which to me doesn’t really bother me. I don’t really want people that are doing crack cocaine ad are stealing stuff from people to pay for it. That kind of element I really don’t need in my life. I hope that one day that Richard does end up kicking the habit and becoming maybe another really good guitar player again. So but you know again that’s his decision and all up to him.
RE-RECORDING OF ABOMINATIONS OF DESOLATION?
Would it be a cool idea, let´s say, to do like a club tour with him, and play the whole ABOMINATIONS OF DESOLATION album through, song by song? I´m sure there would be a lot of metalheads – especially all these old school metalheads who would just love to see a tour like that happening some day?
I can say that it’ll probably never happen with Richard I would say unless he was like really changed his stuff and wanted to be the second guitar player with Trey again. But it would be great to do it with Trey. I also thought it would be an awesome idea for Trey and I to go back in the studio and re-record ABOMINATIONS OF DESOLATION in its entirety today. I think that would be something that everyone would really like to see happen as far as the Morbid Angel fans new and old. I think if they were hear every one of these songs on ABOMINATIONS done exactly like the album was but with today’s technology and effects and stuff like that, we could just pretty much make a pretty phenomenal sounding record I think if it was even just Trey and I in the studio together. Let him play the bass and guitar and I do the vocals and drums and maybe we both just work on some keyboards. It could just be the two of use and I think we could just make an awesome ABOMINATIONS OF DESOLATION re-release you know. So it wouldn’t really be a re-release. It’d be a total new recording of the same songs in the same order and everything. But I’d love to try to idea and I really don’t have anything against Trey. So if he was ever up for it then I’d be up for it with no problem but I don’t think that would ever happen with him. But you know stranger things have happened so you never know.
I guess due to some legal trademark problems for Morbid Angel´s name, you obviously couldn´t do anything like that, could you?
As far as Morbid Angel, now that is completely Trey’s name. A friend of ours said our music sounded really morbid so Trey took that word ´morbid´ and put the word ´angel´ to it. So Morbid Angel is all Trey’s name. I would never steal some one’s name like what was done to me with the name Nocturnus. I found the name Nocturnus myself in a dictionary and said man what a great ring. It’s Latin, it has a great ring to it. It has a really great meaning behind it. So I kind of used that whole thing you know to create a whole persona for the band, sound-wise, visual, everything, you know, of what I wanted to do with it. But Morbid Angel that’s completely Trey’s name and completely his idea. I mean, I helped him, you know, with every song that we played. We sat there and arranged these songs together and I wrote a lot of the lyrics. Trey wrote more of the lyrics that I did but overall you know I did write quite a few lyrics over the whole span of the whole album. So and then songs like “Hell Spawn” and “Demon Seed” I pretty much wrote all that. I helped a lot on “Chapel of Ghouls” and some of the other ones I just helped a little bit here and there like “Abominations” – well, “Abominations” and “Angel of Disease”, things like that. There was a few that Trey wrote pretty much himself completely but we always put the songs together. He would come up with a bunch of parts and we would sit there and arrange them until we felt they sounded right and then we’d all fit the lyrics in together. He’d come up with a bunch of lyrics and I would arrange the lyrics to where I could sing and play them. So to me all that old Morbid Angel stuff, every song that you hear that’s on ABOMINATIONS and a few others that were played before that, like the song called “Morbid Angel” that was like a 20-minute piece, all that stuff was really worked on by everybody that was in the band. It wasn’t one person that was writing everything and bringing it in all finished. Nobody ever told me what to play on the drums. So it was always everybody contributing to everything even though like I said the main problem, er, not problem, but the main situation with Morbid Angel was Trey, you know, his ideas, and things like that so it’s complete his and you know I would never try to take that away from anybody. But I do love playing the songs, the ones that I sang and played and worked on and that’s the only stuff I’ll ever do is the stuff that I actually had a hand in writing. This thing with the Nocturnus stuff I don’t really like to do some stuff, much stuff off of THRESHOLDS because I really didn’t have a hand in writing that either, some of it, except for my drum parts which I guess you could say in a way I wrote parts in every song as far as my drums – and some of the arrangements, too. I’d always usually kind of help with that. I’m pretty good, you know, with putting songs together as far as do this eight times, do this four, put a break down in it, you know. There’s a lot of formulas you can kind of follow that but I’ve done it a lot so I’m kind of used to doing that and you know, what effects go in here and there I always have ideas for that, so I kind of did a lot of producing on almost all of the songs, too in some ways of, you know, we need this here – we need this there. So you know the name is Trey’s but a lot of the ideas were co-written by Trey and I and Dallas and people that were in the band back then.
Costa from the German Iron Pegasus Records released a collection of After Death songs on CD, titled RETRONOMICON, last year. Now he also got a double-LP for RETRONOMICON out through his label Iron Pegasus Records, which indeed looks a really damn professional package all in all. Was the layout completely your idea for it, or did Costa had his own fingers in this soup as well, regarding it? Are you 100% satisfied with the whole package anyway?
Actually the whole idea for a double LP and the cover design was actually Costa’s idea, the owner of Iron Pegasus. He came to me and said he would like to release a RETRONOMICON CD you know and then he said I’d also one day like to release it on a double album, you know, with a nice gatefold and that it would look really cool. Maybe we could make it look like an old book, like an old Venom album. Man I was totally thrilled with that idea, having a double LP. I mean, I’d have a couple LPs with the Nocturnus stuff. ABOMINATIONS was on LP but never a double LP. So between him, Costa, and Ryan, the artist who actually did the RETRONOMICON cover and a lot of the artwork in the RETRONOMICON CD booklet, we kind of all three got together and started finding, you know, like pictures of old books and stuff like that. You know, we kind of all worked together on it. I mean, we just barely got it done and sent off like a week before the tour. So the second week into the tour, Costa showed up at one of our shows in Holland and he had the albums with him. He said you wouldn’t believe this but they just came in the mail today at his house. He jumped in the car and drove like three hours to our show. It was just quite amazing, it was the actual day that we were going to play closest to his house is the same day that he got the albums in the mail that day. So he had no chance to listen to it or anything. He basically just grabbed them and he had some shirts that he had made, too, for us. He threw everything in the car and went straight to the show and just kind of… We had no idea he was even going to be there and there he is at the show with like three boxes of albums, you know. And when we looked at it, it was just like the artwork, the way the whole package came out of the gatefold double album was just really amazing. There’s like fifty that are clear vinyl. There’s another fifty that are amber-colored which we haven’t even seen those yet. Those were late. The first ones he got were the clear and the regular black vinyls. All together there are only 777 of these, so I would say get one pretty soon because I think the clear and the orange are going to be gone like really fast. But it was pretty amazing that we got this done in actually two weeks. So I’d definitely say that I couldn’t have asked for anything more than the way it turned out was just absolutely fucking an amazing package.
UPDATE FROM THE AFTER DEATH CAMP
Talking about After Death, I gotta assume you´ve been working with some new After Death stuff lately. Is there going to be any significant difference between this new stuff and the stuff you have done earlier with After Death?
Well, we do have a full CD worth of songs already and a few new ones, too. And of course a bunch of ideas between Damien and I that are still in the works. Since the beginning it’s pretty much when I, when I got started jamming with Damien about three years ago we just started working on some songs together and we found a bass player and then we found a second guitar player. And then we found a keyboard player but then the keyboard player was like had been here for a little while in Tampa but was already kind of had plans to move and join the Navy. So when he did we found another keyboard player and then the bass player went on to join another band. He wanted to do something a little more ´grindcore heavy´. So I mean we’ve had some people come and go and all I can say is good luck to whatever they want to do in the future. I know After Death is a band that’s not super, super grindcore, death metal heavy and it’s not the most technical band out there. It’s just that it is what it is and it doesn’t sound like anything else. A lot of people just aren’t into sounding totally original. They want to have this certain type of sound for their music, whether it’s grindcore or really fast, technical, death metal or doom, you know. Some people with their bands, they kind of stick to one genre of style and I just want to do all kinds of different stuff with After Death. A lot of that, you know, they kind of get, you know, wanting to do their own thing. And I don’t ever blame anybody for wanting to do their own thing in music. I think everybody should have their own situation but if you can work with other people, too, and still be happy then obviously, you know, it’s nice to be able to work with, you know, other bands and expand what you can do, you know. But people seem to think also that there’s a lot of money involved in this kid of music because like oh, you know, you played in Morbid Angel, you played in Nocturnus. So they kind of join, thinking, oh man, I’m going to make a lot of money playing in this band. And after they find out that there isn’t that kind of money because After Death, especially as you know, is an occult band so it’s not going to really ever be huge. That’s OK with me because what I want to do as far as music and I’m not going to change that. You know, in my own situation, like After Death is, to, you know, to do what the record company would want or what it would be to get popular. So these people in the band they wind of getting discouraged and they try to look for something better, you know, that’s more along the lines of something more, you know, commercial that’ll get signed real quick. All I can say is good luck to them because the way the world moves these days, you know, these bands are big and popular for one record, maybe two, and then you just never hear from them again. And you know it happens every day. I would have to say that the new stuff as well as the older songs have been sped up a lot and are much heavier in general than what’s on the RETRONOMICON CD. My vocals have gotten a little heavier again. So I don’t mind singing heavy at all. I like it, you know. I just had to sort of get back into all the mentality that I used to have when I used to sing these kind of songs. So the RETRONOMICON CD was just basically a collection of three demos and an unreleased EP all on one CD. I think by the time we actually find the right situation and label and record our first real debut full length it’s gonna be, you know, way beyond what the RETRONOMICON stuff is. It’ll still have that style to it but I think it’s going to be a lot better. There’s going to be more technical stuff, there’s going to heavier stuff, there’s going to be weirder stuff. The new keyboard player we have, he’s really good at crazy sounds, too, as well as traditional sounds. So there’s going to be more of that than ever before. You know, there’s going to be a really good mix of a lot of different keyboard stuff, a lot of different vocal styles on there. You know, and the music is going to get, you know, it’s tuned down a half step from what Nocturnus was so it’s generally already heavier, it makes my voice a little heavier. So I think by the time we get around to putting out an After Death, actually the debut CD, we’re going to have a really good amount of songs to choose from, to record. It’s just going to be overall, it’s going to be way more intense that what RETRONOMICON was.
PROBLEMS WITH THE AFTER DEATH WEBSITE
What´s going on with your official After Death website anyway? It hasn´t been updated since 19th of December 2006 as far as I can remember?
Yeah, the website. The actual After Death website, afterdeath666.com… There’s been a huge problem with that. A long time ago, when the website got put up, we had a guy from Poland come to me and say, ´Hey, I’ll do the site for you… I’ll do it for free. I have free space here at my work, through my work and whatever you want, you just send me the ideas and I’ll put it together´. If you like it, you know, it’s cool, and I’ll maintain it and it’s a great thing and the guy Michael, from Poland, he did a fantastic job. The website looks completely amazing. But now, for the past like year or even more, I haven’t been able to get a hold of him. He has the password and all the data and the website, you know, is on his server. So basically it’s kind of dead for about two years now without us having any way to get into it to update it or the files to change things. So we just kind of use our Myspace page, you know, After Death. It’s just myspace.com/afterdeath, so if you search in the music for After Death ours is the first on that’ll come up. So pretty much for everything we do nowadays the Myspace page seems to do quite well. It seems to get more people. And we’re still keeping the After Death website in case if Michael comes back around and fixes it for us again. But it’s just going to be kind of hard to keep updating it unless we actually figure out a way to get the website back to ourselves and have somebody that can work on the same programs that he’d built that website with because it really looks good. It’s still got some information, some really good information on it that you can go look at. It’s just afterdeath666.com. Real easy. We’ll have to see what happens. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a hold of him again and he’ll pop into the picture again and just sort of update it and let me know how I can fix it myself, you know, change things, stuff like that. So we’ll see what the future holds on that. For right now I would tell people mainly just check the After Death Myspace page because that’s going to have all the information, music, and everything else on it. So it’s pretty much updated all the time, so all our shows are always on there and everything else.
PLANS TO BRING NOCTURNUS BACK TO THE ROAD AGAIN
Back to Nocturnus again. As for next year´s plans, you already told me that you have some plans to bring Nocturnus back on the road again, and play possibly at some of the European metal festivals if everything works as planned?
The tour we just did went really well overall and the promoters and all the people were very satisfied. And see what the future can bring if they bring us back on a larger scale I think that, you know, that once the news gets around from the people that were at the shows and really enjoyed it, I mean, I think that we might have some really good possibilities for next year. I’d like to at least do one really big festival even if it’s on the small change or whatever, I don’t care. I’d like to just get my foot in the door and be able do one. That’s one thing. I mean I’ve done some really small festivals, you know, over in Europe and over here but as far as one of the really, really big festivals with like you know, 10,000 people or more, I’ve never even come close to doing anything like that. So there’s been some talking about doing a couple festivals next year and everybody in the band and myself, you know, would definitely want to come back to Europe again next year even if we couldn’t do festivals, you know, at least for some really good shows that we can pick and choose and maybe even come a few different times over the summer on the weekends instead of coming for two weeks at a time. You know, playing some places on Mondays and Tuesday nights that, you know, where people have to drive so far just to get to the show or take trains so far to get to the show and during the week the trains don’t run that late so they don’t go. So I think, you know, to try to do stuff like over the weekend with the festival involved in it, you know, or not more than a week, once or twice, then we can, I think we can do a lot better that way. It’ll actually, you know, boost everything, you know, if we can do that next year. I think hopefully we’ll be able t come back next year and hopefully we can still use the name Nocturnus. So people have another chance to see it again if they did see if the first time and heard about it from other people.
MORBID ANGEL OVER NOCTURNUS
If you are looking back in time, what is that band out of all your bands you have played with, that you consider the most rewarding and satisfying band in your whole career and why exactly? Most of us know by now anyway that you have played in bands like Incubus, Morbid Angel, Nocturnus, Acheron and so on…
I would say that the band that started it all, Morbid Angel, would still have to be my favorite. And the way things were back then with the band as not as compared to the way things are now with any bands. But back then, you know, it was much more real. The whole band was really into doing rituals and magic and it was a real part of the band. It was an unification there. Everybody was into it that was in the band. And even some other people that kind of hung around us. And that’s something that I’ve never really had since and I don’t think they have either as far as Morbid Angel. I mean, there have been some people into the occult and some of the other bands that I’ve been in but nothing like what is was back in like, you know, ’80, ’84, ’85, and ’86 with Morbid Angel. That’s where the whole band was into everything very seriously. It’d be a great experience to able to experience that again because I think it’s really a feeling that comes through with the music you create, too, which has kind of been lost and to a certain point with the bands. So, you know, you kind of put that old feeling back together and it kind of comes back and it’s always a great thing, you know, to play in different bands and have these different feelings, different, you know, attitudes and stuff of what the band’s about. Just the band in general having its own persona, so, you know, it’s great that you can, you know, create these things with these different bands and they all sound different. That’s why I really like, you know, working with different people because it just seems that you can create totally different projects, and you know, make your stuff sound different as well every time you do it with somebody else. So it’s a great thing I think, you know. But I would definitely have to say I think Morbid Angel was definitely the crazy start of it all and I always have to respect that.
THE KEY – PART II – TASK THAT WAS NEVER COMPLETED
If you had managed to keep Nocturnus going on for all these years up to this very day, do you believe that you could have had a chance even to top THE KEY for what it was both music- and lyric-wise as well?
It’s kind of hard to say that because I don’t mind playing these old songs again and it’s actually quite cool that I can still do it after all these years. But I think that whatever I do now contains the experience of all the projects and bands I’ve done all rolled into one. That’s what I wanted to bring to the people of Europe on this last tour by playing three different decades of music, you know, altogether in one set. You know, whether I could accomplish this or not on a recording or aim for the future to tell, but I think that live, people have seen that the old spirit still remains in me and for right now that works really well for me. So, you know, I think at the time when we did THE KEY that possibly if things had stayed the same and I was able to write more stuff because I was constantly learning more stuff on the occult and therefore expanding what I could write lyrically, so I do believe that if we could’ve put out, with the same exact people, the same exact writing, schedule type of thing… You know, like I still would’ve done like 90% of the lyrics or so or at least 70% or 80% of the lyrics for the second album, it probably wouldn’t have been called THRESHOLDS and it probably wouldn’t have had half the songs on it that it did. But I do believe it would’ve been much more of a heavy album. It would’ve been, probably you know, even in some ways faster and in some ways slower. I think I would’ve started doing both, you know, like speeding things up. Yeah, slowing other parts down to make them you know, like really, really impacted. Kind of like the “Star Chamber of Isis” song in After Death, you know, those really fast parts, blast beats, and there’s a really slow part, you know, so sort of like, that’s what I think I would’ve done, you know, to top THE KEY. I would have had to write songs that were just like, totally, you know, would top THE KEY, which would be really, really hard to do but you know, not impossible. It definitely could have happened that way and especially at the time with all the same people after we got off a tour we were even better, I thought, as a band, so, I mean, which usually does happen. So I was kind of looking forward to, you know, writing another album after THE KEY and making it even more blasphemous, even more crazy, maybe even taking one side of the album or whatever you want to call it back then, you know, like half of the recording, and you know, making that into another part of the story of THE KEY, you know, a continuation, and then just having some other songs. Or maybe even doing a whole other concept, you know, that stems off THE KEY, you know, like where THE KEY left off, you know, how history completely changes, this guy does this or that. It really could’ve gone several ways from there. But I mean things happen the way they do and, well, THRESHOLDS came out – and a THE KEY – Part II didn’t.
Ok, I guess that´s it for now Mike. At last I wanna just say it was cool meeting you briefly in London and hopefully we can witness some more Nocturnus next year as far as some summer festivals here in Europe are concerned. Thanks Mike again – and all the best in the future (any last words, perhaps?).
I just wanna say, of course, I’m honored to meet you, Luxi and all the people that I talked to and kept in touch with over the last 24 years of my musical existence. Hard to believe it’s been that long but it has and if it wasn’t for the people like you and everybody else that came and supported this tour, it would’ve never happened. And so I have to say it was as much of an honor for me to play in front of everyone that came out to these shows as it was for, you know, them to be there. So, and we couldn’t have done it without an audience and some nights we had some awesome audiences. I really hope that we can do this again next year and I will say that you will see even more of the old songs and news songs that we didn’t do. This time, you know, we’re gonna to add more Nocturnus songs. We’re gonna drop ones that people were like, ´Yaaaa, but you know, that’s a good song but I would rather heard this one´. You know, we listen to what people have to say as far as the old stuff when it comes to that. You know, I want people to come again and see new stuff that they haven’t seen before. I don’t want to go back next year and play the same set. That’s why in a way it was kind of good that we didn’t do every single song off THE KEY and we didn’t do anything off of THRESHOLDS which there may be a couple songs off of THRESHOLDS you might see us play next year. You know, maybe an old version of some even older songs, you know, that were After Death, I mean Nocturnus songs. So you never know what we’re gonna do. Like I said, you know, some other stuff off of ABOMINATIONS, we’ll probably throw that in at the end of the show just so it won’t be the same set that you saw at all. You know, I mean, we could almost make it completely different except for maybe just a few songs here and there. We’ll have new After Death songs to throw in and so you won’t hear those same songs. Who knows, we may even have, you know, an actual debut, After Death CD by then available for people, too. So all I can say is, you know, um, I hope we can do it again next year and thanks to everybody for coming out. And check out our Myspace page, After Death. I have a regular page, too, mikebrowning666 or it’s right there in the top friends list of After Death. It’s not hidden anywhere so everybody can write and hello. I usually try to answer all the emails that I can. So it’s been an awesome couple of weeks on tour and you know we hope to see everybody again next year. Thanks again Luxi, the great interview man, it was great meeting you after all these years.
Me and Mike at the Underworld in London on October 18th 2008