STEVE DIGIORGIO – The man behind the bass
Interview and pics by Arto Lehtinen
Transcription by Martin Heaps aka Psychophobe
Steve DiGiorgio is known for his work with Sadus, Death, Testament, and of course been involved in a plenty of other great outputs. The man has gained the respected status in the metal world amongst musicians. His skill and passion to play various types of music from metal to jazz is nothing short of phenomenal. When Florida’s death metal squad Obituary conquered the European festivals including the Tuska Open Air Steve DiGiorgio had been recruited to handle the bass. Therefore, it was a great opportunity to have a chat with Mr. DiGiorgio.
Welcome to Finland
Last time you played here in Finland with Testament at a big major rock festival…
Up north right?
Now you’re in Obituary, so I can’t help but ask how you ended up playing in Obituary now? I guess you’re a temporary member now?
That’s it, just filling in for these shows for these two weeks, that’s it. They’ve been normally using, well Franks gone – Frank [ Watkins ] – the original, well not the original but the long time bass player, he’s out. So they had been using Terry Butler from Six Feet Under, and right now Six Feet Under have some shows, so basically, they just needed someone to come help them do these shows so they just called me.
I mean, I’ve known these guys for twenty years. It wasn’t like just some, you know, random call these are my old friends and we’ve toured together a lot, off and on, for twenty years so I’m used to travelling with them, used to playing shows with them it’s just that now I play the same songs, that’s all.
The SOS tour (Sepultura- Obituary-Sadus tour app. 20 years ago)
Yeah the first one, but we been around the world – South America, Europe, USA – we played a lot of Obituary shows, a lot of them, so it’s pretty natural.
As far as Frank is concerned, is he out, permanently or temporarily or what?
That’s really all I can confirm I guess, that he’s out for sure. It’s not really my business so I didn’t really ask them what happened, you know. So I can’t really give you any dirt haha, no gossip there cos I honestly don’t know.
He’s with the black metal band Gorgoroth.
Oh is he really? Oh no, OK yeah, I acted like I didn’t know but yeah I saw Frank in maybe January and he was telling me about that.
Then Obscura, you played with them in Japan. A German band, and you’re in, how did that happen?
Haha, well I’m really good friends with their bass player Jeroen [ Paul Thesseling ].
Who’s in now Pestilence.
Yeah right, right I mean me and Jeroen were talking a lot as we’re close friends and he chose me, he chose his own replacement. The band had asked me before when they toured Europe with Cannibal Corpse if I could fill in for Obscura and I wasn’t able to then, so this time they asked if I could do it was only three shows we did in Japan – it was real easy, real short trip. Mainly because of the friendship between us two bass players, but it was a great experience, I mean those three German guys are great guys – awesome musicians, and I love the band, you know, since that album came out I’ve been listening to it all the time.
Their latest album is awesome.
Cosmogenisis is a killer album, I liked it a lot. So when they asked me to play those songs it was like “wow fuck, cool!” so I said “Hell yeah, let’s go!”. Haha.
You’re also in a band of Richard Christy called…
That’s all Richards band, he thought of the name, he wrote all the music, it’s his complete vision, It’s kind of like a solo band but if, you know, when you call someone’s album their solo album you always expect a lot of performance and showing off on the instrument. Richard didn’t want to make it a drum album, he just wanted to write cool metal songs so he just kept it in song format, you know, and brought in all his friends. Me and Jason [ Suecof ] and Tim [ “Ripper” Owens ] are just friends of Richard so, you know, its for him to ask us to come play, you know, it’s no question at all, we just showed up help out a friend but basically it’s his vision, his band, it’s all his ideas.
So you came in and did all the bass lines for the album?
Yeah, yeah went to Orlando, Florida and recorded the bass. They’re touring just now and I think Jason is busy running a studio so I think it’s just Richard and Tim from the album but he has a live line up right now.
Isn’t there some members from Beyond Fear now in the line up?
Honestly I don’t know who’s playing with them right now. I asked Richard who he was going to get for bass and he said “A friend of Tims”. All he said.
How do you find all your time from your family and your personal life – you have a day job – how are you able to share your time and all this between these bands because you’re – ok, don’t kill me – you’re a band whore!
Yeah, I know, I know, I’ve heard that since the early days so I’m used to it but, you know, people they can say that, but from my point of view, I’m keeping busy. I’m doing what I like to do and I like to play music, and the band I guess you’d call my main band, Sadus, we don’t stay busy all the time so for me it kind of drives me crazy that I cant play, you know. I cant play Sadus by myself – I need the band and if they’re not ready to do something I need to keep busy, I can’t sit still so when another musician or another different band or someone gives me an opportunity to come and play I’m going to jump on the opportunity because that’s, that’s what I like to do. And I’m happy doing it, if it’s a band slut or a band whore, or whatever you want to call it, I don’t care because I’m a happy prostitute! Haha!
I was about to say that you’re hungry for music.
Yeah, it’s just… you know, like you mentioned, you know, I have a full time job, I got kids, you know, I’m paying for a house and I got all that stuff and I’m trying my best to make my way in life just like you do, just like everyone else does, everyone- you know. But, you realize at a certain point if you’re good at something you need to do that, that way it kind of keeps your sanity. You know, and I’ve just realized that I enjoy playing music and people call me all the time so I realized that this where I belong. This is what I’m going to do, and it’s a juggle, you know, between everything in life you really have to just fight the schedule all the time!
You play in different kind of metal bands and progressive rock bands. When you started out back in the heyday of the 80s when playing really intense thrash/death metal, Autopsy, Sadus etc, did you mainly listen to death metal and thrash metal back then?
No not at all! I did listen to them but not mainly, no, in fact I was a little bit late for the scene, you know, Slayer was already on their second album when I discovered them, when I discovered Metallica, Ride the Lightning – those are just light examples but I’m just saying like I wasn’t really submerged in the scene, like I listened to more like Ozzy and Rush, Iron Maiden, you know, just still staying a little bit more with the classic stuff, a little bit more melodic stuff.
So, you know naturally to go off and play in a progressive metal band or play with Sebastian Bach for example I mean to do that stuff is not that far from – where I come from – it is not that far fetched. I’ve kind of made a name for myself in extreme and death metal but you know, I listen to all styles and just try and be like a sponge, just soak up everything where ever I go, you know. And I’m appreciative of that opportunity to play so many different kinds of styles.
Last time I saw you with Sebastian Bach at Swedenrock, playing “18 and Life” and I thought some years have passed by since you played with Autopsy!
Yeah it was a bit different, I had to learn how to, you know, a ballad song is pretty much easy to play, it’s not very technical but you really have to learn how to play one correctly. When I first started playing shows with Sebastian – well I had a little bit of experience with Testament, they have a couple of ballads , they’re more the heavy style of ballad, but it was considered a ballad as far as thrash metal, so I learned a little bit there, but definitely playing songs like “18 & Life” and “I Remember You”, you cant just step up there and just do it you have to really learn how. So, you know, I like to try to see how I can handle something new, you know, challenge myself to do something very different so, it was an experience playing those songs, for sure.
What about the “Memoirs of a Broken Man” you play with Futures End?
Have you heard that?
Yeah, I have heard some songs from Myspace.
Ah the Myspace, yeah.
I guess it’s really hard to get the first album, you know,
I know, that’s not good to hear, we’ve been trying hard to get better licensing deals to get the album out.
But your music taste has expanded over the years because you’re playing thrash now you’re playing Sebastian Bach and Dark Hall etc
Yeah my jazz band, instrumental jazz, sure. And, you know, I played with Artension for one record and, you know, some progressive metal is not new and Futures End is a pretty heavy version of progressive metal, you know, it’s kinda Nevermore-ish, Nevermore are a heavy band but they’re very progressive that’s kinda like Futures End, so, you know that’s, that’s right in the middle of my ability I mean I love playing that kinda stuff thats great, and like you mentioned the past three albums that I’ve done, we’ve talked about almost all of them, Futures End is very progressive, Charred Walls is very classic, very… just very metal, and before that I did an album with an Italian death metal band very very brutal, extremely brutal death metal, it’s called Faust.
So, within just within a years time I went from the most brutal to progressive to classic, you know, fist pumping metal, so and now I go play super-dupa-dupa technical music with Obscura and then two weeks later go through with Obituary which is like the AC/DC of death metal, you know what I mean, they’re brutal and heavy but I mean their stuff really rocks, it’s not technical it’s super catchy super fun to play, because it’s just, it always gets your foot going, your fist, whatever I mean, they have awesome songs – I love it!
Speaking about Obituary and the very brutal stuff, and everyone keeps talking about Sadus, I will come to Sadus later, but firstly Autopsy they have returned, were you asked to rejoin Autopsy?
Errm, well lets say I wasn’t asked officially, I had a conversation with one of the guys. It sounded like maybe they here thinking about me for their reunion -if you call it that – but it didn’t work out with the rest of the guys so that’s fine, I mean, you know, I have a pretty full schedule anyway. I would, of course, it wouldn’t take me one second to decide to play with Autopsy, I’d be there, you know, I’d do it, because those are old friends as well, we hung out when we were younger!
Sadus… I guess the band is not that active, is it?
Sadus is really, really good at taking breaks, haha we do that well. I mean we can put five years in between album releases, we can put nine years in between albums, we’re good at doing nothing man, Haha!
The last album, “Out For Blood” came 2006 and the previous album – “Elements Of Anger” came out in 1997, yeah, that’s about nine years between release, it’s a long time between albums. I guess the band was on hold and you were doing other things, but how did you come up with “Ok lets do another Sadus album” – “Out For Blood”?
Well, the gap between albums really doesn’t have one answer, so many things happened and they all contributed you know, there was, some normal things that where no big deal but there where also some real serious health issues going on with family members, not the band guys but people of the family of the band. So you know, it’s just, the time just wasn’t right, you know, I dunno.
We’re super close friends, we’re still – me and Jon [ Allen ] live next door to each other and Darren [ Travis ] lives right down the street and King [ Rob ] Lewis – our manger – lives down the other direction of the street, so we’re together all the time and I think because we’re so close, sometimes we don’t have this urgency to do music, you know. Some bands don’t see each other unless they’re doing their music, so, you know we have each others brotherhood and friendship to wear – we’re, it’s more like we’re a group of friends who has a band as a hobby. So sometimes we just don’t have the urge to do it, you know, it comes and goes – but unless it comes really strong we just don’t get together and do it. But when we do, when the time feels right and we get into that, you know, get the momentum going with writing songs and performing it, then it feels killer and I think we’re able to put 100% energy into the new songs because of that, because we’re not putting out an album every year or every two years, you know. I think that’s why our albums sound the way they do, we save it up, you know!
I guess you still on Mascot Records – The previous album came out on Mascot I guess.
The last, album four and five came out on Mascot, the first three were on Roadrunner.
Well basically where you some kind of disillusioned with your record label somehow, as you moved from Roadrunner now to Mascot. Did you some kind of feel like record labels were ripping you off?
I guess we kind of felt like that with Roadrunner, because we where younger and when you’re young you have, you know, these big dreams – the rock and roll dream – you know, we where just, and our band was really nobody’s on the label, I mean they promoted us, I’m not saying they did nothing for us, they promoted us, they helped co-ordinate some of the tours we did, they helped us but the bottom line is they had so many bands on their label at that time, and as far as record sales and success we just really weren’t high on the list. And that’s mostly our fault, not even our fault it’s just the way it turns out, you know, the way fans go to some bands and not others. So, we just weren’t a priority for them and so when we where done with Roadrunner we just figured we’d to go to a smaller label and maybe be a little bit more important on a smaller label, you know, that was our aspiration. But the bottom line is Mascot was really the only one that was welcoming us, you know, we’re really appreciative to Mascot for even doing what they do for us, because really no one really wants to touch Sadus, no one cares.
A lot of bands own their own recording equipment and do a lot of stuff themselves. We don’t do that we’re still kinda old dumb guys, you know, we’re a little bit behind the technology wave so none of us record our own stuff so we need the old fashioned recording budget.
As for the latest album “Out For Blood” album, I remember reading a various mix of reviews, some people hate it, some people like it, what kind of reaction have you got from people and have you got pissed off if you’ve got some bad reviews?
No, you know, I treat bad reviews and good reviews the same exact way, it’s not – to me, I’m not looking for if someone likes it or doesn’t like it, I look what they say about it. If they just say its bad because they don’t like that kind of music then their opinion is not that important, because we have enough fans, over the years, that I know that we’re not so bad as a fan, we have fans who like our music, so I know there’s something good in it, but if someone wants to say why it’s bad, I’ll listen to that opinion, because if they give me a reason why- or even why they like it – “this is killer 10/10” well, I mean, that’s great but it’s not saying much. So to me I’m really very neutral, I like to know what people like or don’t like about it. Because that helps me picture where they’re coming from and what they’re thinking. Bad reviews don’t bother me, you know, sometimes they’re better they’re more descriptive more objective, they’ll tell you what’s wrong with it. “Oh I don’t like this song it’s too slow” or whatever, any kind of description like that is better. So bad reviews don’t bother me, and like you said it was really mixed reviews for that album and I saved as many as I could, I had somebody at the label – the press guy – help collect everything we can and I put it in a folder and when you read through it I’d say it’s 80-90 percent positive, you know, most people liked to give it great reviews, there where some negative remarks but I think that’s pretty common for all bands, so we’re pretty lucky.
The bottom line is people where talking about us again, you know, we had our CD cover and our band photos in magazines and on websites, and we where part of shows again and that’s really all that mattered to us, that we felt like a band again, because when you take such a long break you can’t just come where you left off you have to build it back up again, and I think that’s why some people didn’t like the sound, is because the scene has so many new people, so many young kids have grown up and they’re the core of the scene now and they weren’t around when we where doing out thing, they weren’t really following our progression. Our fans are old fat guys like us! You know, those are the real Sadus fans, are the ones that are, you know, grey and loosing their hair and everything, and those people always come back for more, always. That’s our cult, you know.
Actually, if you want to try the new “Out For Blood” album I guess you didn’t want to repeat the same thing what you have done in the past?
You know, it’s funny, honestly, we had no control, you can just say, you know, “lets write it this way” “lets not do that”, but really it just comes out the way it comes out, because me and Darren [ Travis ] where laughing because we did have a small goal for the album, we said “let’s write it as fucking fast as we can” and most of the songs aren’t of the fast style, and when we listen back to it we said “wow, so much for the plan of writing fast” ! He just laughed and said “yeah but the songs are good anyway, so” you know, it’s hard to control exactly what you’re going to write, especially with Sadus where everyone in the line up is involved in arranging the song, so you just kind of go with what happens, and just make it the best you can.
And some reviews will say “oh I love this album except for,” – I dunno – “song number five is the worst fucking song in the world” and the next review will say “Oh the album is OK, my favourite is song number five”, so when I see that some people hate the same thing as the other people love, I say, well good, we got a little something for everybody!
You played with Sadus at different festivals and gigs around the States and in Europe…
… South America
I remember seeing the set list the most of the songs that people want to hear are from the past, they’re not willing to hear new stuff, does that bother you?
Yeah, usually the attitude of the band is, you know, our new album is us now, this is what we’re selling now, we want to promote the album we want to be playing the album. But the people, you know, don’t see you as much as, you know, – we see each other in the rehearsal room every day, so, it’s their only chance to see us so they want an attachment to what, you know, made us relevant, what made our name, they want to see that stuff, they want to see the songs, you know, that everyone likes.
It’s the same for every band, it’s the same when I was playing for Sebastian, he really didn’t want to play so many Skid Row songs, you know, don’t get the wrong impression he’s still attached to a lot of those songs, and he’ll always play certain Skid Row songs that are part of him, but he just says he’s pressured by his audience to play so many that he has to try to push them in with his new stuff. Same with Testament, when I was playing with them, they always play songs off their first two albums like they can’t leave those out of the set,
Yeah that’s true.
You know, and that’s true for all bands, anybody you see,
Slayer and stuff like that.
Exactly, everybody wants to see “Die by the Sword” and “Evil” and, you know, so it’s same with any band I think, same with Sadus, we try to promote the new stuff and mix in old stuff as well.
Actually, going back to Sadus and gigs, have you ever been asked to play with Sadus in Finland?
Like I said, Sadus is doing nothing right now, you know, but I always follow that up and say but we’re still hanging out. You know when people say “did you guys break up?” “did you get back together?” it doesn’t matter because we, you know, we hang out so much, we’ll never break up ‘cos’ we’re best buddies ’til the end. But as far as band activity – that’s all we’re talking about – we’re doing nothing right now, and it’s hard to commit to something, especially a big festival like that-
For example Possessed came over for one single gig and went back to California.
Yeah, it’s not impossible but they’re kind of an active band, we have to find a room, set up our equipment, and start relearning our songs. It’s a long process, just to get to where we can perform again, and we’re not ready for that. So, you know, I hate to turn down these great offers but we really don’t have the product they’re asking for right now.
Well it’s for next year actually?
Maybe. I’ve learned after so many years not to try to predict the future of Sadus, I used to say, you know, when I was touring with Death everyone wanted to know what’s Sadus going to do and I would have all these answers, “Oh we’re going to! When I get off tour we’re going to write new songs!” and we didn’t do it, you know, and then sometimes I’d say “Oh, you know, I don’t know if we’ll ever do the band again.” and all of a sudden we come out with something really strong, so, fuck every time I say something it’s wrong, so now I just don’t say anything!
Back to Obituary, if they ask you to join the band permanently, as a permanent member what would you do?
That’s easy to answer, because they don’t really need, don’t need a permanent member and the bottom line is I don’t join any band permanently, nothing’s permanent. We started the interview saying I’ve been friends with these guys since the late 80s, Sadus first tour ever was with Obituary.
That SOS tour?
Yeah, we shared the bus with Obituary, and instead of being these jerks, you know, treating us like rookies to the scene, they took us under their wing and showed us how to do things the right way, so we’ve always been tight with them we’ve always been really appreciative of them. So they’re really, really close friends of mine and if they ever call and want me to play with them of course I’ll say yes, I mean that’s an easy answer, so… But there’s no need for a permanent member now anything, I mean, they’re in Florida, I’m in California, it’s not very close at all – it’s a six hour flight.
They have people in Tampa they can borrow or use or whatever, and I’m sure there’s millions of musicians in that area if they need a permanent guy, I’m sure they’ll find someone there. But, you know, they ever call, of course I’ll be there, I love it.
One more thing, what do you think about all these reunions that have happened over the last decade, the list is endless. What is your impression of that, you have been apart of the Music scene for years and seen big trends went down and small ones came up, and you have played with big bands like Testament and etc.. ?
Well, because it seemed like when that first wave of bands went through a certain amount of time, you know, and it seemed the cycle was ready to come up with the young bands, but none of them really stick as well, so I think the old bands came back to reclaim and show the strength of what they did back in the days, you know, because it’s easy to play an instrument, get some guys together write some songs, draw a logo that no one can read, put some of your mums make up on your face, you know, that’s all easy and stuff.. But I mean it’s really not that easy, is it. Because you see how the older guys are coming back and still dominating.
You know, just like the wave before us is doing – Judas Priest, Black Sabbath,you know, Iron Maiden – all those bands kinda went through the same cycle, it’s like they where old they figured “Well we’re in our 40s now that’s too old to rock let’s, see what the new kids can do?” and none of the bands – Sound garden, Nirvana project – they made it big for a short while but they didn’t stay around like those bands, so those bands said “Well, lets get back together and maybe have fun with it!” Be old guys but, man, even for the young kids they’re still so awesome. So it just shows you that, you know, they where really onto something for their time and they’re still here. You know, I dunno how many of these new bands will really be around in 15 or 25 years.
That’s an interesting question actually.
You never know which ones will stay, it just seems like everything changes so quick now, it’s the new age of recycling, not only products but, you know – And I’m a part of it too, people change line ups, musicians change, bands names change, the sounds change, it’s the new ways, there’s less permanency now.
I was about to bring in an old flier from the 80s, which I got from the editor of Morbid Mag Ronny Eide
Yeah Ronny Eide was an important part of the history of Sadus, for sure.
Alright, I thank you for your time, I’m sure you’ll post something as “Hippie of Doom” to your fans on your forum?
I kind of started with it because I was kind of in the background, was timid with it at first but now I’m more active and people appreciate my updates all the time, so I just keep the old nickname, it’s a nickname Chuck [ Schuldiner ] gave me from Death, you know, it’s just for fun.
No problem, no problem.
The official Steve DiGiorgio sites