INTERVIEW WITH PETE HELMKAMP AND GENE PALUBICKI OF ANGELCORPSE
Angelcorpse is known for its extreme barbaric nihilistic death metal with Pete Helmkamp’s vital raw vocals. Along with the guitarist Gene Palubicki, Angelcorpse has been terrorizing with the barbaric outburst since 1997. The band has spent a quiet era time to time and returned back with the full scale extermination. Both the members of Angelcorpse have carved their marks in the underground and still push the boundaries in other projects. Therefore Metal-Rules.Com sat down with Pete Helmkamp and Gene Palubicki to talk about various topics.
Interview and pictures by Arto Lehtinen
You got together last year. Did you feel it was time again to give another try for Angelcorpse and it’s time to bring the band back to life?
Gene : We’ve been beating around the idea for a few years. But when it came to 2016, we met up and talked about it a little more. We figured if we were going to do it, why not do it this year. Essentially be 20 years after the beginning of the band from the time of the demo tape.
Pete : We also recognized that it was very important to play for an entirely new generation of fans that are younger. We’ve also have the opportunity now to play in many new places. Like Helsinki and some of the other places that we’ve been playing. So they’re new for Angelcorpse and therefore there is a lot of fans that haven’t had the opportunity to see Angelcorpse. So that’s what’s really most important for us, that’s why we’re doing this. Because we love the music and we love the fans, and we appreciate the fact that there are still people that are die-hard about Angelcorpse. We’re happy to be on the stage and to perform for them and for them to have a good time.
Do you view playing gigs and touring is much more important nowadays, than 20 years ago?
Gene : It’s never been less important.
Pete : Exactly, yeah.
Gene : Part of what we’re trying to do here is to hit a lot of regions that we never had the opportunity to do, 17 or 18 years ago. Some of the times, like even around 2000 there were some places we were looking at. At that time if the band stayed together, we might have gone to Brazil. We might have gone to Japan at that time, if the band went one way. It didn’t never happen. Look what we’re doing here. Like this for example, at Finland, next week Norway. Places, we’ve never been on any of Scandinavian countries. So the next handful of days for us is an entirely new thing.It’s great that we’re not just bringing the first generation of fans that knew of us from the time of our demo tape, like yourself. But people that have since then even become musicians themselves and have done bands and have done albums. Now those people have people that are fans of theirs. All those people will be around for these shows that we are doing. So it’s almost with the half life of music, there is almost probably two or three generations of fans and stuff that we’re appealing to now. It’s like perhaps better now than ever.
There was a bunch of younger generation in the audience going crazy in the pit at Brutal Assault.
Gene : Exactly.
Do you find yourself as some kind of idols for the younger generation, who wants to play fast and barbaric death metal?
Pete : I hope I’m an inspiration, because I agree that music should be aggressive and barbaric and that’s the kind of metal that I like. So that’s the kind of metal that I play, Angelcorpse is one of those bands. Sure. I think that that spirit should infuse and should really help a younger generation and their creation of music. We’re at an interesting time in music, where things are coming and going this way and that way. Some stuff is not aggressive anymore and maybe a little more atmospheric. I think it’s time to re-direct metal. Metal, if you really boil it all down is aggressive fuck you music. So if you’re not playing that style, then you’ve kind of diverted from main path of what extreme metal is really supposed to be.
Gene : We’re going into our mid 40s. We’re still basically doing exactly what we were doing at the time when we were in our early 20s. My hope is that that could be a motivator for anybody who wants to take interest in this style or approach to music. Or whatever it is that they do. That find what they like and stay with it and there is always going to be somebody who’s going to recognize it. Obviously making the kind of buzz and blur that we’ve been doing now for 20 years. There is people, 30 years apart in age that recognize something special about it.
Most of the musicians who have started in the ’80s or ’90s have given up or become softer. As to your case you have remained loyal to your roots. What actually motivates you to keep going and being brutal even nowadays- Not getting soft, even though you’re getting old anyway.
Pete : I don’t think getting old has anything to do with it. I think that’s an excuse for people who want to sell out. The people who want to be commercial and the people who want to make money. This is my career, I’m a teacher. I play metal music, because I love it and so like Gene said. For the same reason that in ’96 or even when we were 15 or 16 years old, we had the idea of we’re going to play this kind of barbaric music. So why should I be any different now than I was then. If I am really still into this and my spirit is true in that direction, then it shouldn’t be any different. I push myself, Gene pushes himself too. We’re playing Angelcorpse now. We’re playing 20 year old music. Which still has relevance today. But Gene and I also have created many other types of music. Gene has Blasphemic Cruelty, Perdition Temple. I’ve had Kerasphorus and now Abhomine, and what we’re doing with those bands is we’re staying in the underground. We’re trying to push our creative energies and our creative styles in ways that we think follows that path of aggression, and that path of barbarism like you said.
Pete : Angelcorpse was actually almost always a three piece. Hammer of Gods is a three piece, Exterminate was we had four, Inexorable was a three piece, Of Lucifer and Lightning was a three piece. I think as a live attack, for Angelcorpse a three piece works perfect. It’s totally over the top and I think it’s more savage and a little more raw and primitive that way.
You mentioned the underground earlier -I have been thinking about what underground is nowadays as it’s very easy to find bands in Internet. Is there any underground left?
Pete : It’s a mentality, it’s a mindset. Its anti-commercialism, its individualism. It’s trying to keep things pure and true. So I think that’s really the underground, is that type of individual mindset.
Gene : It’s the sound and the spirit that comes from the bands themselves. You can tell that the band is just trying to rely on the ease of making Facebook posts or YouTube videos, and they just put up any garbage and they expect that people will hear it. But through the seer of all that, you can still find the quality. Quality in this kind of music has never gone away. Quantity has become astronomical. But when you’re looking forward and you got the ear for good stuff, you’re still going to find as many good bands and artists as you ever did. You might have to look a little bit further and the ones who care are going to be rewarded.
As for other bands, Feldgrau, Abhomine , Blasphemic Cruelty, Kerasphorus. Do you think it’s difficult or easy for you to write the songs for those bands and Angelcorpse or do you have to think of which song is for Angelcorpse or other bands? Is there some logical choice for you?
Gene : There is a clear definition and the choices for each. If I were to approach new Angelcorpse music, I’ve got an idea of what I would do there with something like Perdition Temple. Over the course of time that’s evolved to what it sounds like. Blasphemic Cruelty had its own set of rules, so to speak. That I used for the song writing of that to get a particular sound. So there is a little bit of a different skill-set for each one of the projects. Then working in that frame work it makes each one unique to themselves.
Pete : No. I create music that I enjoy and that sounds excellent to me. So whatever path that I go down, that it takes me down is where I go. With Kerasphorus, I was working at that time in San Francisco and I created that sound. With Abhomine, I was working in Miami and I created that sound. But it’s not something that I say… Obviously what I do with Abhomine is very different than what I’ve done with Angelcorpse. So I recognize that the two will not be the second I… A Keras or Abhomine riff, obviously is not going to be an Angelcorpse riff.
Gene : It’s the same for me. Where I’ve taken the music that I write for like say the Perdition Temple Band. I couldn’t just take new material that I had developed for that and certainly rename it Angelcorpse material, because it wouldn’t fit anymore. It’s stylistically would be just outside of what I would define as Angelcorpse material at this point and the same for Pete. As he evolved the things that became Kerasphorus and Abhomine. He would not be able to simply take songs from those bands, projects and rename them Angelcorpse songs. Or even further, we could dissect new material that we will have in those bands and we manufacture it into something we can call Angelcorpse. So anything that we would have to do to define Angelcorpse, we’d have to start from zero. With nothing and build it as we felt it. We reflect actually what the sound of the Angelcorpse band would be, and be completely a separate entity from what we’re doing with our other projects. It keeps all of them unique.
A couple of albums of Angelcorpse were recorded at Morrisound Studio and the last one was at Audiolab. Do you view the studio environment has to be right for you to have the right sounds for Angelcorpse?
Pete : I don’t think the studio has much to do with it, honestly I think. Getting the proper tones, the proper energy and the proper spirit. Recording is what makes the recording the way it is.
Gene : It can do as much harm as it can help. A lot of the more recordings that we’ve done in say the last six or seven years, between the two of us. A lot of it it’s been home recording, outside of the studios. There are limitations that we might have, where we might have to do some things in a studio environment. But for the most part it’s much more relaxed, controlled by us, directed by us. All the sounds, all the… Whatever we want to do with it, is entirely dictated by us and how we want to do it. We’re not looking at a clock. So we’re able to actually get the natural sounds that we want to get for our projects. I’m sure that whenever we do, come the time for some new materials or anything that we’re going to do for any of our projects. It will be similar to that, because it’s really a modern way of doing things. Because the technology is there to do it, and you can get a lot more quality out of it for a little expense.
I can’t help asking if you have new material ready for the next Angelcorpse album.
Do you have to be in certain places and certain mood, when creating your music, writing lyrics or text?
Pete : I think we’re all a product of our environment to a certain degree, and that is going to influence to a degree. But I think honestly what’s more important is what’s coming from within the self, as far as the creation of… At least in my case, as far as the lyrics or writing or music – It’s something that I am experiencing, that I’m seeing by the way the world is going in those sorts of things.
How do you see it?
Pete : We’re at a very interesting time in the world right now. Yeah, there is going to be a lot of changes. There has already been many changes and there will continue to be many more changes. So will see what happens.
Do you think those elements inspirited you to write lyrics?
Pete : For Abhomine, that is exactly what lyrics are about. They are about now. What’s happening on the street? What’s happening over there? What happening in the governments? What’s happening in society, etc? That’s what Abhomine is. It’s a natural reaction to this world that we’re living in right now.
In my opinion, Order From Chaos was more about occultism.
Pete : The originally Order From Chaos was a little more… I don’t know how to describe it. Kind of war like and maybe almost societal, political, maybe with Stillbirth Machine. But then you get to Dawn Bringer and An Ending in Fire, and yes there was a lot more occultism involved in those lyrics. We have the Conquer of Fear, Concept. Which then of course I have some writings that kind of explain that in a little more detail. So yeah. For sure, for sure. Order From Chaos moved on in occult nature in about 1992 and ’93.
I read in some interview the lyrics of Angelcorpse are about conquest, destruction and revenge. Right?
Pete : Angelcorpse lyrics are full of hate, full of anger, full of aggression, full of revenge. There is also some historical text that I talk about in some of the albums. So yeah. I wanted to do something that was separate and different from Order From Chaos. I wasn’t going to continue in the same style. So I started writing in a different style with Angelcorpse and that worked very well with the nature of the music. Because obviously the music in Order From Chaos is quite different than Angelcorpse. So I need to have a different lyrical approach that was going to fit that music. Which I think what we achieved is obvious.
Do you consider yourself as a philosopher?
Pete : I suppose I’m a philosopher.
But a teacher anyway.
Pete : Yeah, I’m a teacher. So honestly now I do feel that I am… What I really feel that I am now is a role model. As you were saying earlier about people that might look up to us. But I think that, like Gene said we’re in our 40s. We’ve been doing this for 25 years. We can present and our role model to younger generations that can say, look. You can still do this, you can still be older. You can still push against those boundaries that try to keep everybody inside, and that’s what we’re doing. But you can do it in a smart way and in an intelligent way and in an enlightened way. Not in the self distractive, chaotic, negative way.
The reason why I asked about that as I was referring to your books as I have read some parts. Could you tell a little bit more about your books for the readers? What’s the idea and what inspired you to write them after all?
Pete : As I mentioned earlier, The Conqueror Manifesto is basically a book describing the lyrics and talking a bit about the concepts and the occult notions that are within the lyrics of Conqueror of Fear. But that’s really Order From Chaos.
I remember the old interview in the German music channel in 1998 – You were asked about influences, and at that time Morbid Angel was popping up all the time in several reviews and interviews. But I guess you said that you talked to Pete Sandoval and you found no influences or references to Morbid Angel and Angelcorpse has sound of it’s own.
Pete : I agree. You would certainly agree with that, won’t you?
Gene : Yeah. I actually recall speaking of Morbid Angel, that background at that time. That the guitar player Trey, had seen a lot of that. Where people were saying that our band sounded like his band. The he commented that he didn’t think it sounded like them. So their own fucking band didn’t think that we sounded like them. If people wanted to like pick a part of the fact that it was fast guitar solos and other things like that. They can immediately referred Reign In Blood, doing Hell Awaits from Slayer or Morbid Tales or To Mega Therion, Celtic Frost. The rest of people, for everything that I’ve done with that kind of stuff comes from there. Other content of the guitar stuff can go back to old things like the Scorpions or Judas Priest. So you put the synthesis of that together, you get me.
Pete : Angelcorpse was never a Tampa Death Metal band, ever. Gene is from Minnesota, I am from Missouri. We put the Angelcorpse music together in Kansas City, Missouri. Which is where I was living, Gene moved down. It was only after Tony Laureano joined the band, that we moved to Tampa. So Hammer Of Gods and Exterminate were created in Kansas City, and probably half the songs on the Inexorable as well. So that’s another reason why people have that misconception about Morbid Angel, Angelcorpse. Because “Angelcorpse is from Tampa”, we’re not from Tampa. We just happened to live there and so people looking in from the outside could see… Made the incorrect conclusion at all -” This is another Tampa, Florida death metal band”. But obviously Angelcorpse doesn’t sound like a Florida death metal band.
In my opinion Angelcorpse has a trademark in the sounds, because it’s very easy to recognize the band immediately. Because of the sound and another thing is your voice. That’s why it’s very easy to recognize Angelcorpse, besides your stuff is really rough and as I said before, barbaric.
Pete : Exactly.
Gene : We were foreign to the Florida death metal sound, black metal, death metal sound before we lived there. Even after all the years that we’ve lived in that region of the United States. We’re still just as foreign as we were ever then, to the people and to the bands and all of that. There has never been a connection. They’ve never wanted anything to do with us, nothing good to do with us. Not until this day. We have less relationship with the Florida element. What’s perceived as the Florida element of metal entirely.
Pete : We’re more interested in what’s going on in the rest of the world. Because there is great music everywhere and there is great singers everywhere. We feel that what Angelcorpse is doing, obviously is something very individualistic and very different from anything that came out of Florida.
Speaking of Order From Chaos, when I got the newsletter of Wild Rag Records, and there was a Stillbirth Machine album on the front cover. They got really weird reputation, because they worked like by ripping off bands.
Pete : Yeah, absolutely.
How badly did you get ripped off by them?
Pete : How bad did we get ripped off by Wild Rag? I don’t know.
Gene : I don’t even think you knew when your album came out.
Pete : It took two years for the Order From Chaos album to be released. I don’t need to share any more details. When you are young, you don’t understand how things work and you don’t maybe have as many opportunities. As you do when you’re older and when your bands are more known and that sort of thing. So you take what you can get, you make those steps. But in the end I’ve actually been able to… Osmose released, Stillbirth Machine and then Nuclear War Now put out the box set. So ultimately, the album has been released and released properly finally. Overall these years.
Speaking of the box that Nuclear War Now released. Do you have all the legal rights to your old stuff, with the Order From Chaos?
Pete : Yes, I have all the legal rights to the Order From Chaos.
What’s the next step for Angelcorpse? Touring, touring, touring.
Where are you going to after Helsinki?
Pete : Stockholm, Oslo.
Before concluding the interview. This is a very hard question. Can you name five albums, which have been really important for you in your life?
Pete : Sodom’s Obsessed by Cruelty, the US version. Morbid Tales, Hell Awaits, Show No Mercy. No, not Show No Mercy. Let’s take that way. Melissa, excuse me….And At War With Satan.. I’m sorry. I took all the good ones.
Gene : But I think I’ve already mentioned some of them like To Mega Therion, Celtic Frost. The sounds of their guitars and the sound of that and the sound of the abstract solo albums on that. The whole of that was also a big deal to me. I guess like Slayer’s Reign In Blood, especially for the solos and so much the songs. Because the songs were kind of generic with say Hell Awaits. Sad Wings Of Destiny from Judas Priest. Pretty much the start of everything that I think defines what became heavy metal for the British and the rest of the world, even above and beyond anything. Black Sabbath, they sure did. The guitars, I mean that was… The blueprint is all there. That’s what? Was that three? There was a time when I was a teenager, very pivotal moment. I used to go to a record store and buy maybe two cassette tapes every couple of weeks with $20 that I might have. I think I was about 13 years old at the time and I had one of those old cassette recorders, like you would have in school.They just played one tape and I happened to buy the Pleasure To Kill and the Darkness Descends albums, from Kreator and Dark Angel. It was the first time I had ever heard both of them, and I heard them back to back together. So it was very influential. It was like, this is eating me alive. So whatever I’m going to do it’s going to be speed, speed, violence. Any kind of terror that can be put into the music at all, that was the ground work. So I don’t know if that’s five or six.
All right guys. I thank you for your time and it was a pleasure to talk to you.
Pete : Awesome man, thank you.
Gene : All right.