Interview with Scott Reigel, Lead Vocals for Brutality
February 6, 2016
Interview by InfamousButhcer
Brutality has been part of the Florida Death Metal scene for nearly 30 years. Although not as well-known as their peers Obituary and Deicide, their albums SCREAMS OF ANGUISH and WHEN THE SKY TURNS BLACK are revered as Death Metal classics. Last month they released SEA OF IGNORANCE, their first full length album in 20 years. Response to the album has been very positive from fans and critics alike. I was lucky enough to catch up with their vocalist Scott Reigel to discuss the new album and some Brutality history.
IB: Sea of Ignorance is Brutality’s first full length album in 20 years! What was your vision for the album and what did you want to achieve?
SR: Our vision was to put another album out for our fans. Maybe get a little recognition for all of the time we have put in the scene. I think we were an underrated band back in the 90s. I’m not thinking we should be on some kind of pedestal, but maybe people should see what we did do for metal in general. We probably would have not done any of it were it not for social media. That showed us how many fans we actually had. You didn’t have Facebook and the internet back in the early 90s. We noticed around 2010 / 2011 on MySpace and Facebook fans were starting their own pages for our band. We didn’t realize we even had the fans that we had. We were used to tape trading, small fanzines. People that put all that stuff together and made Xerox copies and stapled them together and mailed them to each other. We were doing that stuff ourselves with other bands in the Tampa Bay area in the mid to late 80s. That’s how we heard of all the other bands that we grew up with here in Tampa.
IB: Brutality goes way back to the late 80s. When did you join the band and did the sound change after you joined?
SR: The band formed in 1986 and I didn’t start working with them until probably late 1991. That’s when they decided to get rid of one of the guitar players and get Jay Fernandez in the band. I had been friends with Jay since we were teenagers and friends with Jeff (Acres) even before. I would see him in the scene and stuff here whenever they would be playing out. They wanted to have a frontman, and Jeff was singing and he was the only one singing, and they had always been double vocals. One day I was just at practice when they were practicing with Jay, and they said, hey you want to try singing? And I said, sure! So I started practicing with them, and yes, the sound changed after Jay and I joined the band. Jay played a few shows before I actually started performing with them. We had got into the band within a year of each other. The METAMORPHOSIS demo was kind of a turning point for the band. Jeff and Donny (Gates) at the time were kind of progressing into better musicians. That’s when they decided to get rid of Larry (Sapp). Larry wasn’t really moving forward as far as the band’s music was progressing. So that is when they decided to get rid of him and get Jay. At the time they had offered Larry a position to just sing in the band, because there were always 2 singers in the band with Jeff being the other one. But Larry didn’t want to do that.
IB: In the 90’s, Brutality was on Nuclear Blast Records, releasing SCREAMS OF ANGUISH, WHEN THE SKY TURNS BLACK, and IN MOURNING. What are your memories and thoughts of the 90’s?
SR: (laughs) We were probably one of the last bands out of Tampa to actually get signed. We were hungry to put an album out, go on tour, and do all the things that Obituary, Deicide, Morbid Angel, and Nocturnus were already doing. We knew all those guys so I guess that is what we were hoping to do back then.
IB: I first heard of you guys from a Nuclear Blast compilation called DEATH: IS JUST THE BEGINNING II back in late ‘92 that had your song “Cryptorium “on it.
SR: That was probably early ’92. That song we actually recorded for a demo we had done and then eventually it came out on a 7 inch.
IB: The demo version is much heavier and most fans prefer it over the version on SCREAMS OF ANGUISH.
SR: The production on the demo version was much dirtier. We did that on our own. We did it at Morrissound but we were financing it ourselves so we were pressed for time. That was a producer trying to record the best that he could with what you had. (laughs)
IB: In the 90s did you do much touring and did you do any big festivals?
SR: In the 90s we did the Milwaukee Metal Fest. That was the biggest one here in the United States; it was pretty much the only metal fest. We did the International Metal Fest in Tennessee; I think that was in ‘95. That used to be the Michigan Metal Fest. Metal Mom used to put that on. That was the year she decided not to do it in Michigan, but to do it someplace centrally located in the United States so more people could get there. We got to tour in Europe a few times. Once with Hypocrisy in ‘94. The second time we went with Bolt Thrower and Cemetary in ‘95. Bolt Thrower was one of the bigger bands back then, so it was a really good tour.
IB: When you toured with Hypocrisy, was Masse Broberg still on vocals, or had Peter Tagtren taken over?
SR: Peter was on vocals.
IB: After a hiatus, Brutality came back on the scene in 2012. How did the band get back together?
SR: We had tried to do some stuff a couple of times before that with different lineups. Jeff and I, and Jim (Coker) at the time, were not comfortable with some of the people we were working with so we decided to not do it. I think we got back together in 2002 and did a little demo. We just weren’t happy with the results of how it felt so we just decided to close the book and really not do it anymore. Then I guess around 2009 the albums got re-issued through Metal Mind and we started getting some hits from people on Facebook and stuff asking us what we were doing. So we started talking to Jay and Donny who were kind of working together on some things and we decided to just get together and maybe practice a little. Maybe do a reunion show with the original lineup here in Tampa just to see how things went. After we did the reunion show, I think that was in October 2012, we just said let’s see about writing some songs and see what we come up with. That’s when we came up with the RUINS OF HUMANS songs.
IB: Was it cool to go back to Morrisound to record the RUINS OF HUMANS EP?
SR: It was interesting because we went back in a different way. It was the first time we were recording without analog, it was digital. A different way of recording that we weren’t really used to. But Jim Morris he tried to do it as close as possible as we used to do it. We didn’t change how we recorded or anything. It just wasn’t on analog like it usually was. Jim Morris, he knew our sound. He recorded pretty much everything from METAMORPHOSIS all the way to RUINS OF HUMANS. He knew the formula of what we did already.
IB: Morrisound recently closed, right?
SR: Yeah they sold it to Trans Siberian Orchestra. The studio is still open, but not open to the public. It’s not Morrisound anymore it’s TSO’s studio. They bought it from the brothers. Tom and Jim are looking for a location to re-open Morrisound but they don’t need such a big location anymore. They had all of the big rooms and the big boards and they started realizing that you don’t need all that stuff nowadays. They still do mastering. They still do things like that.
IB: Let’s get back to SEA OF IGNORANCE. Response to the album has been very positive. When you wrote the album, did you consider what the fans would like or did you use a different approach?
SR: Yes we did consider the fans. Plus we like what we write. We wanted to write something that we liked listening to as well. The fans were in mind, yes. And I suppose whenever we write our music it just kind of happens. We don’t try to sound a certain way. When Jay does his thing, and Jeff does his, and everybody just kind of puts their input into the music like we always have it ends up sounding like us. We didn’t try to sound like we were back in 1993. We write our own music so no matter how we do it that’s how we are gonna sound. We are not trying to reinvent the wheel. Then you get the reviews that say we are not doing anything innovative. We’re not trying to be innovative. We were innovative when we started back in 1986 to 1997 when we were helping build what is known as Death Metal back in the day.
IB: SEA OF IGNORANCE features a new drummer, Ruston Grosse. How did he join Brutality?
SR: Ruston was a friend of ours and he had done some touring with Master in the U.S. We met him at a show that we played with Master here in Tampa. At the time we had started recording and doing some stuff with Alex Marquez. When we went into the studio to start doing guitar work, Donny had decided to leave in the middle of the album so we decided to scratch everything as far as tracks go and just do it all over again. We then asked Ruston if he wanted to do the album with us. He came to practices and we worked on some newer songs and pretty much rewrote some stuff and got rid of some other songs we were going to put on the album. Because Donny had written some of it and we just wanted a fresh clean slate from here on out. At that point we had ideas just to do a self-titled album and then after Alex and Donny had left the band we decided to name it. That’s where the name SEA OF IGNORANCE came from. We didn’t name it that because of them. The song had already been written. Basically the first song we started working on after RUINS OF HUMANS was “Sea of Ignorance”. So that song was the kind of song that led us into writing all the other songs.
IB: The song “48 to 52” is about the Black Plague during the Middle Ages. What is the significance of the title?
SR: The Black Plague was from 1348 to 1352. That’s actually where 1349 gets their name from. Their band’s name is actually from that year of the Black Plague, which was the first full year of the Black Plague.
IB: It’s one of my favorites on the album. Being about the Black Plague you’d expect it to be brutal, and parts of it are but there are a lot of changes and the guitar solo at the end is very melodic.
SR: That’s Jay Fernandez’s writing. That is one of his songs that he put a lot of time into. It’s one of the songs we started working on after “Sea of Ignorance”. “48 to 52” originally was not the name of it. We definitely like that song. It took Jay a lot of time to figure out exactly what he wanted to do with that song. It’s a good one.
IB: Bathory’s “Shores in Flames” is an interesting cover song. Why did you choose that song and what was the approach?
SR: (laughs) For us Bathory was one of the first bands for us to listen to while we were teenagers in the 80s. We would listen to Bathory, Possessed, Celtic Frost, Venom, stuff like that. For us it was all metal. We just really like that style of metal from back then. The HAMMERHEART album is slow and dreary but I don’t want to say doomy. It’s one of those more musical albums. It had a lot of feel in it and it wasn’t just fast like some of the other Bathory stuff. It was a big influence for us like Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and all those other bands that had more musical feeling. We just felt that Bathory would kind of fit in with us. Some reviewers don’t understand why we did it. They don’t know us. That’s one of the albums and one of the bands that influenced us. We just wanted to do something that was fun for us. We all got to do vocals. Jay sang the clean ones at the beginning. We all had a good time doing it. When we were recording it we were all looking at each other going, we don’t know about this song. Even our producer Jarrett Pritchard was like, I don’t know guys about how this song is gonna come out. When we were done we all looked at each other and were like, Holy shit this is pretty freaking heavy! So we decided let’s put it on the album, what the hell. We didn’t put it on there because it fits with the rest of the songs. And that is what people are saying, that it doesn’t fit with the rest of the album. Well any cover song we do from the 80s isn’t going to fit. Like when we did “Electric Funeral” on the album WHEN THE SKY TURNS BLACK, that didn’t exactly fit either.
IB: SEA OF IGNORANCE is on Ceremonial Records in the US and Repulsive Echo in Europe. How did those record deals come about?
SR: Ceremonial is our own record label. We started that so we could start re-releasing our older albums. We put RUINS OF HUMANS out on it. We re-released SCREAMS OF ANGUISH and WHEN THE SKY TURNS BLACK. We did the ORCHESTRATED DEVASTATION compilation. We just kind of got hooked up with certain people. Distribution and stuff like that goes through friends. We had talked with Kostas over there in Greece with Repulsive Echo. He was doing re-releases of albums and he was talking to us about re-releasing some of our stuff, and we said would you be interested in just releasing our new album? It’s their first full release from a band. We had offers from other European labels to do stuff but they always want you to sign contracts so they can own your rights to your music. We just weren’t into that. We had already done that once. If we stay small, every dollar that comes in is ours. We have all the rights to the music. We are not looking to make a fortune here. We just wanted to make sure once again that our fans were able to get it. We figured that our fans that really wanted this album are already in touch with social media sites, and we would be able to get it out to them. It is also going to be released through Stillborn Sounds in Indonesia. So we will have three different labels at this point that are gonna be doing it.
IB: Florida is synonymous with American Death Metal. Why do you think Florida is such a hotbed for Death Metal?
SR: I really don’t know. For us back in the 80s we were watching bands like Morbid Angel, Savatage, Nasty Savage, and Iced Earth. They were all from this area. We were watching them do their thing. There are just a lot of people here that were playing music and wanted to be heavier than the last band. While we were growing up Savatage was pretty heavy, Metallica was pretty heavy, we always wanted to be a little bit heavier than them. A lot of band came down here for the scene. Cannibal Corpse came down here from Buffalo for the scene. So did Malevolent Creation. I don’t think it was anything in the water (laughs). Tampa used to have a metal awards ceremony. 1500-2000 people would show up every year for this. Now we don’t have anything even compared to that. Last week we had the first Florida Metal Fest here. That was a pretty big success. I would say there were probably a little over a thousand people there. For a first metal fest they had some great bands. There are probably only a handful of clubs down here nowadays that will even entertain the idea of a heavy metal band. Whenever they do, they screw you over. Why would you want to play here or be a band here at this point? You’re not going to make anything, or nobody’s going to show up.
IB: Now that SEA OF IGNORANCE is released, what are your plans for the rest of 2016? Will there be a tour?
SR: We are waiting to see how this album goes. As far as a tour goes, we don’t anticipate anything like that. We all have jobs and responsibilities at home that we can’t just go away for a month. Especially the way the tours go. Financially this wouldn’t be plausible to do such a thing. We are hoping that we get some interest from festivals. But most of those are already booked for this year. We get offers from people, but they ask us what we need, and we tell them what we would need, and they we either don’t hear back from them or they respond and say they can’t do it. Promoters and booking agencies are all out to make money too. We have tried to get on 70000 tons but some of it has to do with us not being active for 20 years. So maybe this new album will open some doors. Maybe we’ll do 70000 tons or maybe some of the other festivals. We are not holding our breath. It had taken us years to even get on the Milwaukee Metal Fest. A lot of other bands came out a year, year and a half before us and they caught that bigger part of the wave for promoters, for fans. We just kind of got pushed to the side when we were just coming out. Oh just another band from Tampa. That’s how a lot of people still think of us. A lot of people still don’t put us in that same category as all the bands we grew up here playing with. I used to see Deicide when they were Amon, Obituary when they were Xecutioner, Death when they were Mantas. And Brutality was right there with them playing with all those bands, and ones like Massacre and Hellwitch.
IB: Well, I hope to catch you guys at a festival again like I did in 2013. I hope Brutality starts to get some long deserved recognition with SEA OF IGNORANCE. Thanks very much for your time Scott. It’s been a great interview.
SG: Thank you sir.