Interview with Jeff Tandy
Conducted by Robert Williams
Birth A.D. are a crossover thrash metal three-piece comprised of two former members of the late nineties death metal act Death of Millions as well as bassist and vocalist Jeff Tandy of Averse Sefira. The band’s music has been compared to DRI, SOD and Corrosion of Conformity and the ten song self-released EP "Stillbirth Of A Nation" has already garnered some moderate success for the band in underground thrash circles. Bassist and vocalist Jeff Tandy recently took the time to chat with Metal-Rules.com and filled us in on the current activities of this exciting new group.
How are you doing today?
This is always such a surreal interview opener because it’s completely temporal. Right now I’m doing just fine, but by the time you publish it I could be in terrible shape!
Birth A.D. is the name of your new Austin, Texas based crossover thrash band, that alongside yourself, also features two alumni of the late nineties death metal group Death of Millions. Tell me about how Birth A.D. was formed, and what lead you to take a momentary break from writing and performing black metal in favor of music more akin to DRI, SOD, and COC…
It was really something I had wanted to resurrect for many years. The first time around was in 1989 with my first band Afterbirth. I was very young and the band didn’t get any further than the garage, but thrash, particularly crossover, always resonated with me. I liked the compactness of the music and the sheer speed and mania of it all. It was my first love before black and death metal got their hooks into me. As for why it happened the second time, it was just a matter of the primary band being idle for a spell and my decision to give myself and my drummer something to do. I recruited Brian who was late of Death of Millions (which was drummer Mark’s original band), and it came together like a flash of lightning. The whole thing was supposed to be a clandestine little project for Mark and I to stay sharp on performing, but it became more than that overnight.
The self-released "Stillbirth Of A Nation" EP marks the initial offering from Birth A.D. and everything from the cover art to the overall attitude of the disc recall the mid to late eighties hardcore punk/crossover thrash scene. Was it a conscious effort as a band to make the kind of record that looks, feels and sounds like the kind of music you grew up listening to?
< ?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /> Absolutely, because I consider the EP is a continuation of what came before. I was there the first time around, albeit more as a fan than anything else, so I simply went with what I knew to be correct about the sound and style. I came by it honestly, and I think it shows.
Absolutely, because I consider the EP is a continuation of what came before. I was there the first time around, albeit more as a fan than anything else, so I simply went with what I knew to be correct about the sound and style. I came by it honestly, and I think it shows.
On the "Stillbirth Of A Nation" EP your lyrics deal with everything from social issues to political injustices to how your scene "sucks". Let’s talk about the kinds of things that you feel inspired your lyrics for this record...
Your description sounds like I have some kind of idealistic agenda to push, which isn’t accurate at all. The lyrics are rooted in cynicism at the world in general and the complaints of daily life – jobs, idiotic people, and the frustration of living in America in this day and age. I’ve never particularly liked the USA, and I don’t plan to die here. I think complaining about political injustice is pointless. I’m more about looking at it, laughing, and saying, “Holy shit, we’re screwed!”.
The lyrics for "Bring Back The Draft" in particular, are a bit controversial to say the least. Are you a regular customer at Wal-Mart or perhaps use public transportation on a daily basis?
If you’re implying that I’m some kind of redneck war hawk, then you’ve missed the point entirely. “Bring Back the Draft” is simply a suggestion about how to get rid of a lot of useless Millennials in short order. We’ve got two high casualty wars going on, so a draft would be a great way to thin them out. The song was simply an easy way to complain about kids today and be topical at the same time. I could have just advocated pushing them all off a cliff or something, but that wouldn’t be very interesting. Incidentally, it’s funny because plenty of our fans are around 20-25, and they actually like the song. I’ve been told many times, “Yeah, I totally agree! Our generation sucks!”, which isn’t very reassuring!
Considering your other band Averse Sefira is signed to Candlelight Records, has there been any interest from Candlelight in releasing some of your Birth A.D. material?
Nope. They said it was a little too far afield from what they normally release. It was disappointing because we’ve maintained a very friendly working relationship. I plan to make them regret it in any case.
Are there currently any plans to take Birth A.D. on the road for some touring? If so, what markets do you anticipate hitting and do you have any idea who you’ll be touring with?
Yes we’ll probably do a string of dates across the Southwest soon enough. It’s actually hard to plan right now because I’m a guitar tech and stage manager by trade and my touring schedule with other bands is filling up quickly at the moment. I’d like Birth A.D. to go west with Pasadena Napalm Division, which is members of Dead Horse and Verbal Abuse with Kurt from DRI on vocals. We played with them in Austin recently and it was a blast! Perhaps we can get that going soon.
I’ve watched some videos on YouTube of Birth A.D. performing in Tokyo, Japan. How did you guys enjoy performing for the Japanese headbangers? I’ve heard Japanese crowds are starting to get a little rowdier nowadays…
It was an unparalleled experience. We had such an amazing time, even at the shows that weren’t well attended (Monday night is Monday night the world over). The crowds were fun, though it was really the other bands who were terrifying. We played a killer Friday night show with a bunch of amazing hardcore bands – Flipout AA, Danmush, Cheerio, and Mind of Asian, and they really forced us to bring an “A+” game to the stage. Danmush and Mind of Asian were all-girl acts, and they were really intense. People treated us like superheroes everywhere we went, which was a nice change of pace. I’d go back any time, and we’re talking about doing more over there. It’s kind of addictive.
A music video was filmed at the HeadHunters venue for the track "Parasites Die" from the debut EP "Stillbirth Of A Nation". In your opinion, has this video generated a lot of outside attention for the band?
Definitely. When I’m on the road doing tech work, people at the shows recognize me on the spot because of the video. I even had a guy recognize me at a metal festival in northern Finland. The video reached people in the way I hoped it would, but it made it further than I expected.
In this current age of digital downloads, do you still see avenues like music videos and releasing full-length albums as opposed to singles relevant? How do you feel about this, as both a fan and a musician?
I like albums and complete products from bands, so I think it’s relevant. As said above, our video went everywhere, but keep in mind I made it specifically to put on Youtube. And we’re doing brisk business on both the CD and LP edition of the EP, so it seems I’m not the only one who still wants a physical product.
It’s been about two years since the debut EP was released, since that time has Birth A.D. written or recorded any new music for a follow up? How would you describe your new material?
I’ve written a lot of new songs, and we perform three of them live at the moment. We haven’t recorded anything new yet, because we’re trying to avoid putting the cart before the horse in terms of getting label support. I’m starting to think we should release a single or a flexidisc with a couple of the new tracks just to hold people over for the full length.
At what age did you begin to learn to play the bass guitar? Were there any bass players in particular that made you want to pick up a bass and give it your best shot?
I started playing guitar and bass at age 13, though I’m no virtuoso. I can learn just about anything by ear in short order, but I play bass like a guitar. I use a pick and just hammer away. I don’t like “real” bassists because they’re sterile and safe for the most part. Blacky from Voivod was always an inspiration, as well as David Vincent from Morbid Angel and Dan Lilker in his SOD/Nuclear Assault days.
Tell me about how you originally got into metal music. Who were the metal bands you grew up listening to, who paved the path for you, so to speak…
It’s mostly the standard story of an ’80s metal kid. I got turned on to Metallica, Anthrax, and Iron Maiden, then quickly DRI, COC, Nuclear Assault, Celtic Frost, Voivod, Slayer, SOD, Sodom and early Prong. Then death metal exploded and I ran headlong into that and formed a death metal band with members of Afterbirth circa 1990. Deicide, Morbid Angel, Pestilence, Napalm Death, Entombed, and countless others were mainstays for me. A lot of bands I cite as favorites are death metal, actually, though Slayer and DRI are at the top of the list as well. I think every band of note from that era had at least one album that was damn near perfect. There was so much to choose from back then!
We already mentioned that in addition to the crossover thrash of Birth A.D. you also act as the frontman for the cult black metal group Averse Sefira, are there any other metal subgenres out there that you hope to pay tribute to one day? I’ve heard some rumblings about a Celtic Frost tribute act…
I’m not the frontman for Averse Sefira. Our guitarist is, and I back him up as part of our trio. And no, I don’t plan to delve into anything else. I’m not trying to have a band for every season, and as I said I didn’t even plan on making Birth A.D. into a big deal. And I don’t know how in the hell you heard about the Celtic Frost thing already. We haven’t even officially started that yet, and it’s not going to be a mainstay band by any means. It’s just me and a couple of friends from other bands getting together to do a proper tribute to one of our favorite bands. Austin has tons of tribute acts, so we wanted to do one of our own every so often.
What’s next for Birth A.D. ? Is there anything else you’d like to plug or address?
We just announced our first hoodie design. A lot of people have asked for one, so we did a limited run. Check that out, along with everything else we’re doing at www.birthad.com. We’re also opening for Destruction here in Austin in May. Past that, new material will show up in some form before long, as will show dates outside of Texas.
Thanks for taking the time to talk metal with me. Before we wrap this up do you have any last words for your fans reading at home?