Interview with Warchild of Eliminator
Conducted by Robert Williams
Eliminator has already garnered a modest amount of attention for themselves within underground metal circles, due in no small part to the band’s strong work ethic and drive showcased on their debut offering "Breaking The Wheel" an album falling somwhere between technical breakneck thrash and classic speed metal. Eliminator re-emerged earlier this year touting two full length albums of all new material coming in the form of "The One They Were Waiting For" and the aptly named "And The Brokenhearted Balladeers". On the band’s latest material, the Jersey based duo of guitarist and vocalist Warchild and drummer Samus embark on a much different journey than that of their debut, incorporating a wide range of far reaching musical influences outside of the metal spectrum, culminating in the band’s most experimental and bold vision to date. Warchild recently took the time to chat with Metal-Rules.com and give us the lowdown on Eliminator’s new material…
How are you doing today Warchild?
Just enjoying a Saturday night with a cold one, listening to The Replacements “Unsatisfied”.
Let’s start off by talking about the two new full length records released by Eliminator earlier this year. Following up the well received 2008 full length debut "Breaking The Wheel" you opted to take an experimental approach on your latest albums "An The Broken Balladeers" and "The One They Were Waiting For". Why the sudden shift in musical direction within the Eliminator camp?
We decided to shift the sounds very naturally. Certain life experiences led me to actualize musical tendencies that were developing in me for years. When we did “Breaking The Wheel” I was very metal-centric. I don’t think I listened to much of anything besides thrash metal (and mostly German thrash metal like Sodom, Kreator, Destruction, Protector). But my background in metal was well established by the time Eliminator even started. At a certain point I met a few people in my life that helped me realize that I needed to break those chains and push metal to new avenues. I also listened to Frank Zappa till my ears bled! Really, I was in an adolescent prison that could no longer continue. The real fruit of my years of listening to metal was the first record. But after that things needed to change, and they did quite naturally, but definitely not overnight. It took time, experiences, listening to new music, and overall improving my ear. So now I can say that although metal is the substratum of Eliminator, with the new albums we are creating new progeny within the metal paradigm while still maintaining the ethos of metal. In a word: evolving. Make no mistake, what we do is metal. But metal needs to move on from the regurgitation of ideas that it has been sitting on for the past few decades, and it is my goal to pave the way for that process.
"And The Broken Balladeers" opens with "Cuttin’ You Down (Switchblade Fighter)" a tune that carries sort of a Stonesy swagger to it and then the listener is polarized by breakneck thrash on the follow up track "No Answers". Next on "Near Dark" I hear a bit of the clean melodic vocal phrasing of Amorphis. Without any further track by track analysis, how do you plan to market such an eclectic branding of material? Is this kind of a record more for personal satisfaction as an artist than mass consumption?
I mean you could say that it is just for personal satisfaction but ultimately “And the Brokenhearted Balladeers” is a concept album, in that all the songs have a certain unique flavor individually but when put together it makes sense. It’s pop-extreme metal. Even rock n’ metal, if you want to call it that. I don’t really know how we are going to market it, that would really be up to my label and PR. I don’t focus on those sorts of things but that record is certainly an essential part in the corpus of Eliminator’s albums, and although it is probably going to be the most “avante garde” album in our discography, I believe it needed to happen.
This is ambitious material. You open up "The One They Were Waiting For" with "Atish" an eighteen minute exercise in crushing technicality. Walk me through how one goes about writing an epic like "Atish" do the riffs all come to you at once or do you archive them for months on end and then eventually find a way to tie them all together?
"Atish" is a unique song for us. I really wrote that song over a period of time. The main riff was written a very long time ago, closely after the release of “Breaking The Wheel”, when I was mastering the downpicking technique. I wanted to write a song that really showcased that technique since I was gaining some attention over the internet for having a world record speed using it. So interestingly, this song was basically written around the technique. But the lyrics and the music really represent something beyond that. I was sitting near a fire pit with my friends in my backyard one night and I had a revelation of sorts. I saw the eternal oneness of things and saw that my mission, and the mission of my Indo-European ancestors (I am of Persian descent) was to spread civilization and morality to deal with abyss of reality. Basically, to overcome the nothingness of the world man must “shoot straight with arrows while telling the truth about the inherent nothingness of things” (as roughly coined by Friedrich Nietzsche). This was a very natural realization, as natural as a flower blooming or gravity pushing down on things. I did not read about this, but felt it in my heart and my blood that night. The next day I was reading “The Birth of Tragedy” by Friedrich Nietzsche, and low and behold, there was a whole passage about the taming of fire in ancient Indo-European societies, namely, the Greeks. Here the taming of fire was characterized as a way of overcoming the Gods. It was the nature of these peoples to worship but yet to overcome and conquer – the impulse to creativity and originality. This was the tragedy of existence for these peoples. I knew after reading that that my mission was to pursue this end, to some degree, and I was further inspired by “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”, the great work by Friedrich Nietzsche, to conceptualize the lyrics for this song. So in every sense lyrically and musically this is an “epic”.
On the musical end, it was written, recorded and revised over a period of weeks in the studio. We kept adding more parts until it turned almost 20 minutes long. It was all very natural, whatever felt right would be written next. I could say this was when I developed my ear for composition and how to piece together a song without being formulaic and using cookie cutter templates.
I think that "The Man In The Picture…To Become What One Is" is another track that is going to blow people’s collective brains out of the back of their heads. For about the first five minutes of a near six minute track your building dynamically with these somber, almost ballad like clean guitar parts and then in the last minute it’s blast beat armageddon and lightning fast riffery. Was it a conscious decision on your part to create these abrupt contrasts in musical styles or did the music just write itself in a sense?
The music really just wrote itself. I just never second guessed my creative instincts. So in a way “The One They Were Waiting For” was very spontaneous and natural, almost whimsical but without losing focus on the goals of each song.
Has their been much backlash amongst your fanbase in regards to the two latest records and if so how do you feel about that in hindsight?
Well we’ve been called sellouts. I don’t know how I feel about it but they will have to get used to us not playing by the rules. There’s a lot of bullshit being written about us and I feel like those people just don’t know what’s good for them yet. But hey, if you’re pushing boundaries you are likely to get crucified until the world catches on or it develops its own niche. I don’t plan on it happening any time soon but I know there are people with an open mind that will enjoy our new material. Unfortunately, right now, that audience has not quite manifested as a cohesive “scene” in the metal world. But it’s undeniable that our new material is metal, and that’s what’s really subconsciously pissing off a lot of people about what we are doing. They just don’t get or don’t want to get what it’s really all about.
So three years go by and you obviously wasted little time stockpiling material in light of the unusual decision to release two full lengths in the same year. Was the decision to unleash that much new material at once an easy decision? Were you at all concerned that it may be a bit much to chew on at one time and in turn lose some of it’s impact in the process?
Back in the 60’s and 70’s bands put out, on average, two records a year. Things changed over time where bands now take 3 years for every album. I don’t ever think there’s an excuse for that on my end. I am constantly in the mood to write music and I think albums are snapshots of where we are in our lives. I would like to take as many pictures as possible, so to speak. But sometimes life circumstances take hold and you just can’t record. That’s the situation we are in right now, where our 4th official LP has taken quite a few months to record due to extra-musical obligations. But when sitting down and producing material we generally get things done quick…in and out. That ideally means we should never be short of material. Frank Zappa, used to put out three records a year with some very challenging music. I really took after him in pursuing the end of producing material nonstop, so long as I am satisfied with it.
There is a good deal of spoken word bits spread out amongst the two new studio albums. Is poetic expressionism something that you would like to incorporate more on future Eliminator releases? Was it challenging to express yourself in the absence of your guitar?
Yes, I have actually written a book of poetry and aphorisms to be published by our label in the coming months a long with a digipack release of “The One They Were Waiting For”. Spoken word poetry will always be a huge part of the Eliminator sound. It was not challenging to express myself outside the guitar at all, in fact as of right now I write more then I play guitar, since I am working on my second book.
Tell me about how Eliminator works in the live atmosphere because I could see the opportunity being there to go play a blues bar one night and a metal club the next by changing up your setlist depending on the venue. Do you ever go out and say "Fuck it" and just play whatever you feel like dishing out that night?
We usually play the brutal numbers live but throw in blues jams in our set as well. We do whatever the fuck we want all the time, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that were to happen in the future.
Considering that Eliminator now consists solely of yourself on guitar and vocals and Samus battering the drums do you have a session bassist accompany you for live performances or is that even necessary in your opinion?
So far on shows we’ve had mostly fill in guys because we are essentially a two piece. We are making a lot of adjustments to our sound after the fourth album currently being recorded. The reason is that we have so far used a lot of outside instruments, mostly unconventional within the paradigm of metal and punk. For example, “And the Brokenhearted Balladeers” features the saxophone on a few numbers and piano in the context of basically punk or rock n’ thrash tunes. As a result we have really sort of become a studio band in the past few years, although we did play a few gigs last summer. Right now we are currently auditioning bassists to start a proper live lineup that will last us into the future.
I’m going to go out on a limb and just assume that you stay pretty active as a song writing musician and having said that have you already begun writing material for the next Eliminator record and if so, would you describe it to be as bold and eclectic an undertaking as your current material? How would you describe what’s coming next?
The next album will definitely be as bold as our previous releases. In many ways I see this current album as a culmination of the avant garde influences into cohesive songs that people will remember. I think the new album is also our most melodic and pop influenced, yet a return to our speed black and punk roots. It finds a nice middle ground between those opposites that we have never really done before.
It’s interesting to me that you have this drummer Samus so well versed in extreme metal that has basically stood by your side and taken this musical journey with you when a lot of other drummers in a similar position would have backed out in favor of something more generic or safe. Do the two of you share the same kind of influences not just as far as metal is concerned, but everything else musically speaking?
Yeah Samus and I have been together for a while now. What has kept us together despite these new directions that I have pushed us into is that we are musical soul mates. We never second guess each other’s creativity and are always musically on the same page. Our relationship is very similar to perhaps Peter Steele and Josh Silver from Type O Negative. Josh was in charge of the production aspect where as Peter was in charge of the compositions and the music. Samus is a master at recording and he has turned his room into a real professional unit. Outside of metal we listen to a lot of music. I myself mostly listen to new wave, shoegaze, goth, 80’s hardcore/UK82, independent music from the 80’s and some old school rock n’ roll/rhythm and blues. Sam likes the same music I do, and listens to a lot of classic metal such as Judas Priest and Sabbath. After “Breaking The Wheel” are tastes both naturally expanded.
Tell me about the early days of the band. I’ve noted that you had a previous bassist/drummer prior to Samus that went by Barbarian de Milo. At what point did Samus enter the picture and how did the two of you originally meet?
Eliminator started in a garage with Barbarian, the old drummer, sometime back in late 2006. We had a few bands before that, but none that are worth mentioning. From the start we had a knack for putting together good old school sounds, whether it was 80’s grindcore, doom metal, Norwegian black metal…we sort of did it all in various bands. But Eliminator was our first real attempt at doing something serious within the underground metal scene. Coincidentally the world was experiencing this new thrash resurgence movement and we happened to luckily have some sort of marketable niche. We wrote about 3 songs together, where I came up with the music and we worked together on the lyrics during late nights in that garage with Barbarian’s portable 8 track digital recorder. We recorded a demo entitled “…Will Kill You” pissing off our neighbors in the process and not being allowed to play in my parent’s garage anymore. We then moved our gear into my apartment in New Brunswick and Barbarian shortly quit thereafter. We basically had a falling out and were not so keen on working together after that. I was also interested in getting a more technical drummer, since Barbarian really just picked up the drums out of necessity. He was much better at playing bass and rhythm guitar. Samus entered the picture a few months after I went searching for a suitable drummer to record our first album. In around December of 2007 I got a hold of his number and contacted him. He agreed to do the record, and ended up mixing and helping produce the tracks I recorded at another studio with Jon Norberg. He really gave “Breaking The Wheel” its distinct modern yet totally raw sound. From then on we decided to continue as a unit, since we worked well together and both knew that we were on to something cool.
A lot of people will recall the killer cover art famed artist Ed Repka supplied for the debut full length "Breaking The Wheel" did Ed become involved on account of the band or the record label? Were you a huge fan of his previous works? You must have been very proud of how the album cover turned out…
I contacted Ed before we had a record label arranged for the first record. Both Barbarian and I were quite well versed in the old school records he did, and really grew up on them. We wanted him when we noticed he was still alive and kicking. I am very proud of what he did for Eliminator.
Keeping in mind that "Breaking The Wheel" was released by both Suffering Jesus Productions on CD and a pressing of 500 vinyls by Blood Harvest this initial release must have garnered a lot of attention for Eliminator. Do you still receive a lot of feedback from your fans about this record?
Yeah I mean it was our first record and it sort of broke out in the international underground metal scene in a way I didn’t expect. There’s always a new youtube vid coming up from a fan posting one of the songs on that record, to the point where there are multiple videos of the same song. We definitely get mostly feedback from this album, and it’s the album we are associated with internationally. Perhaps we painted a very skewed picture of what Eliminator actually is, because at the time we didn’t even know what would happen to our sound. But when we did that record I was totally a “fuck you, speed metal is the shit bullet belts or death by bullet” kind of thrash guy. I was really angry and really wanted to make some kind statement and the fans didn’t totally catch on right away, a lot are just catching on about the old me now, where I currently have short hair and unfortunately know better!
Eliminator released a couple of demo’s in 2007 and by the following year you had inked your first record deal and released your debut album. What advice if any would you offer to up and coming metal musicians looking to do the same?
Make sure you have good songs. Too many bands are up there just trying to make it big, but they are regurgitating material poorly or just being totally unoriginal. Listen to good music and learn to use your ears. For me, metal needs to evolve now, and the age is most ripe for it. I would recommend that bands listen to genres outside of metal and really figure out how to push metal into new boundaries without hodgepodging outside influences in some kind of mixed salad, jazz-metal boring hybrid. Maintain the ethos of true metal but expand it with other music and visions. That is the future of metal, and that is the flag that Eliminator waves and would want others to pursue, otherwise the genre will continue in a dire state. There’s a reason why I stuck with metal, it is one of the highest genres created in music. However, it has maxed out. If new bands just want to make it big playing in subgenres that are already maxed out, go ahead. That’s easy if you are decent at writing a few riffs and playing some flashy solos. But I don’t support that.
You are obviously a very talented songwriter and musician. At what age did you first pick up a six string and what originally prompted you to do so?
I started playing when I was 8 or 9 but didn’t really get serious about it until I was at least 12. I originally took some piano lessons across the street from my house. I was pretty bad at it, and quickly knew that I wanted to play some guitar. I mean, it just looked so cool. I asked my dad and eventually they got me an electric guitar with a practice amp. It really wasn’t until I got into Eddie Van Halen in 6th grade that I started to develop some technique. Metal and rock music was so flashy, I just wanted to be able to play like those guys so I got into that music very early on. I took guitar lessons at this place in the mall staffed by a bunch of metal heads. All they did was play metal and shoot the shit with me. I was just this kid totally floored by these guys and this ridiculous music with great guitar playing. I always had an attraction for things that are offensive to conformist norms, and this required skill, so I was hooked early on.
On a similar note I’d be interested in hearing how you originally got into metal music and who were the bands that inspired you then versus now?
The early bands I got into were bands I was introduced to at the music store I took lessons at while in elementary school. Metallica was the first, then Guns N’ Roses. By middle school I got into harder stuff like Megadeth, Slayer, and Venom. I was just really into Metallica for a while and they laid the foundation for me (the old stuff). But my tastes gradually progressed into really enjoying all the subgenres of metal. I used to be a huge black metal and death metal fanatic, particularly the old school stuff. Now I really don’t listen to much metal at all, but rather new wave, shoegaze and lots of old school hardcore. If I do listen to metal I mostly like NWOBHM bands like Witchfinder General, or maybe some doom like Saint Vitus. I’m a huge fan of Type O Negative as well.
I’d like to thank you for taking the time to talk metal with me Warchild before we wrap this up do you have any last words for your fans reading at home?
To quote Chazz from the movie “Airheads”: “We don’t like to limit ourselves to labels. You know there’s always some meatspanker out there who always wants to lump you together with all the other long hair buttholes but this is one of the things that we are struggling against. I’m telling you it’s tough." The age is ripe for change, ye metalheads, will you wave the banner of fate or continue to avoid the burden of its weight? Love you all, stay true to yourselves and most of all follow your own law.