INTERVIEW WITH LEE HARRISON
The long time Floridian death metal squad Monstrosity recently released the sixth full length called THE PASSAGE OF EXISTENCE. The album is another great masterpiece in the death metal genre. Monstrosity shows the death metal still lives and well. Metal-Rules.Com had a great opportunity to talk to the primusmotor of the band Lee Harrison about the album and his involvement in Terrorizer led by Pete Sandoval
Interview and live pics by Arto Lehtinen
Good day there, how’s it going there in your music world ?
Things are good. The response from the new album has been great and were happy with how it turned out . It took us awhile but we got it finished… We have a new shirt design at the Conquest website so check that out. Plus our back catalog is available there as well. We have some reissues coming on Metal Blade for SPIRITUAL APOCALYPSE and RISE TO POWER doing vinyl for the first time on those. Those are coming out this month so that is kind of cool to finally have. So there is lots of stuff happening.
WORKING ON THE PASSAGE OF EXISTENCE
The previous album SPIRITUAL APOCALYPSE came out in 2007, there was a 11 year gap between the albums. Frankly that is quite a long period, were you ever scared or did it ever occur to your mind if people forget the band or does Monstrosity have such a strong reputation among the metal fans that there was no need to worry about?
I know we have a core of people that will check out the record and give it a chance no matter when it is. Its basically free to check out these days, so I don’t know why they wouldn’t. I never really worried whether “if” it was coming… just when. I kind of threw up my hands at some point and just laughed at all of the obstacles. So many little things just add up with life and other peoples schedules to deal with, so you just go through it. At some point I got tired of being asked where the album was so I just kind of went quiet for awhile. I didn’t want to cry wolf too many times. That was very hard around 2013-2014, because I wanted to share these new songs with everyone, but you just force yourself to wait. We played a couple of the new songs when we did the 70k cruise and we did some Florida shows too, where we played Cosmic Pandemia. Its not the same as having people hear the finished album though, so I just wanted to get it out there, but we had various things that had to be taken care of first. It would seem like it was finally going to happen, but there’s something to get in the way.
The band has been active during the whole time and as far as I know you have played shows time-to-time, but in general how have you spent these years with Monstrosity ?! Did you put Monstrosity on hiatus when you were occupied by other responsibilities?
Well the band is kind of separated now with our singer living in New York and our other guitarist in Alabama. So that’s made things harder. I kind of “ring lead” the writing of the music, so we don’t need everyone in the same room to do all that. I did a lot jamming with Mark English working out the songs in the band room. I organized everything as far as Marks songs and Matt’s songs together with mine. We would just perfect things as we went. We had most of the basic ideas pretty early on. It was just a matter of going through them and making them complete songs. Writing the mid section and finishing it off. I worked with Mike Hrubovcak on the lyrics and doing all of that. As far as being active we are offered a lot more things, but we wanted to wait for the albums release and time it with that. Unfortunately that didn’t work out as some of the guys had other schedules going so not sure, when we will be back out touring again. The plan is for after the New Year sometime.
The current Monstrosity line-up has basically been stable for years; was the writing and composing process for the new album more mellow and easier as you were more familiar with each other’s playing styles and even knew each other better as a person ?
It was smooth as last time except this time we had Matt Barnes, so we had his opinion in there. So that was helpful.
You tell me… Its just the next step in the chain of the bands history for me. I put it all into it and that’s what you get. I like both records.. of course I’m a little sick of hearing them, but I still stand behind them… More than I do for IMPERIAL DOOM. We really liked the SPIRITUAL APOCALYPSE production when it came out, but this new album really has some good sounding drums and the bass is nice and loud for a death metal album. That took us awhile to dial in. We’ve always had that issue where the bass player wants to be turned up and heard. So we focused more on the bass this time.
Did the recording process of THE PASSAGE OF EXISTENCE go smoothly or did you face any unexpected challenges while recording the material for the album?
It was the time. Not really a technical issue with equipment but more from working with other peoples schedules between the bass player scheduling his sessions or the guy who mixed it, to the artist… there were lots of challenges with this one. It goes like this every time really. It just usually goes “a little” quicker.
As for the title of your new album, THE PASSAGE OF EXISTENCE does it describe the content of the album, the brutality of the songs and other things? And how does the cover and the title connect to each other ?!
It just seemed to write itself. I had to think on it for a week or so. I had the word “Passage” in my head from the start but it was finding the other missing piece. I think it ties the album together nicely with artwork and everything so no complaints here now that its done. lol
Obviously you have been the main composer as far as the writing is concerned, but did other guys bring the input of their own into the process ?!
That’s what I meant earlier about ring leading the writing sessions. Everyone has their own songs they brought into it, but I kind of go through and decide whats going to work for the band and whats too far out or whatever. Or we will deconstruct it and then rebuild it. That happens a lot. Make a bunch of little changes to it. Matt Barnes took a couple of my songs and made the riffs more technical. There were others that were left alone and didn’t need anything. I let them decide on that, since they are the ones who have to play the riffs so if they want to make them more challenging to play then I say go for it. The main melody still remains so I’m happy and they get to play something that is more fun to play for them. They understand where we are going with this so they know not to take it too far out or do anything that wouldn’t work. They are just on board with the vision so they get it in that respect.
There are three songs out in YouTube and to be honest those songs definitely sound splendid and catchy… Do you view having these songs on YouTube is the essential part of the promotion of the new album ?
It definitely helped get the word out. Especially the first song just because I think we surprised everyone with that. You can go into the whole debate about whether giving it away for free is good or bad. Things are pretty screwed up for the music business these days so its hard to say with streaming and all that. I’ve noticed the labels these days seem less and less interested in the cd versus the streaming and the vinyl sales. I know a lot of people were exposed to the band through having those 3 singles up on YouTube. So that begins awareness of the band for a bunch of new people so that is good. Hopefully we can capitalize from that with touring and merchandise sales. Its hard to pinpoint a correlation directly.
The album will be released by the legendary Metal Blade. How did the deal or co-operation with them come about after all ? Did you still have an option left for them because of the previous album SPIRITUAL APOCALYPSE came out via them ?
For those that don’t know, the owner of Nuclear Blast is Markus Staiger and the number two guy, when we were there was Michael Trengert. We had dealt with Michael during the first album and touring cycle so we got to know him pretty good. Michael left Nuclear Blast and years later ended up at the European division of Metal Blade. So in 2004 when we were releasing the RISE TO POWER album on Conquest Music, we needed a label for European distribution so I was talking with Michael and things worked out. We released RISE TO POWER and SPIRITUAL APOCALYPSE in the European territories through Metal Blade. The deal was for 3 albums and PASSAGE is third release except this time Metal Blade offered Conquest Music to release the album worldwide and it seemed to make sense so we went with it. Michael passed away in 2012 so that was unfortunate. He was a good guy and its a shame hes still not around.
You run the Conquest Music label as far as I know, is the label however responsible for the releasing and the distributing of the album even though we have a deal with Metal Blade ?
Like I said in the previous answer, Conquest Music licensed the album to Metal Blade worldwide this time so were not handling the distribution although we are helping to promote the album. We’ve done some additional ads and some work on additional interviews and stuff. So things like that.
USING DIFFERENT STUDIOS
Jason Suecof was the behind the desk, when working on the drum tracks. Did he come up new ideas or other details that you didn’t think in the first place? How long did it take to work on the drums for the albums and what kind of details did you pay attention to when working ?
Yeah he would add small suggestions. For example there’s a blast in The Hive that wasn’t originally going to be there. Same with Dark Matter. The last part that is a blast was just going to be straight double bass but Jason suggested throwing in the blast. Ideas like that are what he had for the music. For the tones we spent a lot of time changing drum heads and switching out toms and going back and forth with different cymbals and stuff. Way more than I would usually do that’s for sure. We took our time on it though and weren’t rushed through the process so that was nice. I’m definitely happy with how the drums came out. They have a full and strong sound to the toms especially. It was recorded in this log cabin type building made of wood so that really helped with the tones too. It just seemed like a natural place for drums.
As far as I know you used three different studios – Jason Suecof’s studio Audiohammer, the Redneck studio run by the Obituary guys and Ascension Sound in Tampa. Could you tell how and why you ended up working in these different studios ?!
We did the drums at Audiohammer.. and then took that back to Tampa and began recording the strings at Ascension Sound. That’s not really a live room so we needed a place to do vocals so the Obituary studio seemed like a good idea. I work with them on the Tardy Brothers project they have and I have been filling in with Obituary on and off through the years so I know them pretty good and they offered me their studio anytime I need it so it worked out to do it that way. After we had the tracks all recorded we sent it all back to Mark Lewis and he did the mix on the record and we more or less worked on it through the internet which was nice. We didn’t have to sit through the tedium of going through all the eq ing process and all of that. It was a case of they understood what were looking for so it came in almost finished. The big adjustments were mainly regarding the bass levels.
PLAYING IN OTHER BANDS
Each member of Monstrosity plays in other bands as well; you are in Terrorizer, Mark English in Deicide and so on.. Is it one hell of a task to sort out all the schedules for Monstrosity and other bands, or how are you going to arrange this?!
Its like this… normally we would be on different cycles and there is plenty of time for everyone. Its a little tighter because everyone is releasing albums at the same time. I pretty much have replacements for each member in case something happens. I always have a short list of players to call in case I need them so it just depends what the offers are and what is coinciding. Like I said for Mark when he is off with Deicide I have Justin Walker who plays with the Tardy Brothers project and I have some other guys if he happens to be busy so I have back up plans for all of this. Like I was saying before the guys have scheduling issues that have nothing to do with other bands so were already going through it anyway and that doesn’t even involve touring. We want to be selective as well and not just play any old gig offered. We want good lights, good stage etc so were kinda being picky too. We want to step it up on the live front in our sound and in our presentation so we wont be playing every dive bar like the old days.
Is there any chance or just wishful thinking Monstrosity/Deicide/Terrorizer could share the same touring bus ?
It wouldn’t be impossible. It would be a lot work for me and Mark English, but depends. Its been offered as far as Monstrosity and Terrorizer, but I just hate to get into doing that. I’m tired and sweaty after playing with Terrorizer. I cant imagine having to then get on the drums and do a full set. I’m not saying its impossible, but its not advised. Ill just say that. lol Maybe if it were festivals where we were playing on different days. Something like that could happen.
WORKING PETE SANDOVAL AND TERRORIZER
When or how did you end up working with Pete Sandoval ?
I’ve known Pete since his early days with Morbid Angel when they first were coming out. I’ve hung out with him through the years at different shows and party’s around Tampa and at festivals here and there. In 2013 I think it was, we reconnected outside of a show and just started talking about jamming. I knew some of the Terrorizer World Downfall stuff, so I just wanted to start with that as a point of reference. It really wasn’t my original goal to become a member of Terrorizer and actually we didn’t even use that name at first. We started with the Sandoval, Harrison, Molina name it was the fans and the promoters who pushed for us to take the name for this project. They were calling us Terrorizer regardless of what we were saying, so when we did the Jersey Deathfest we officially changed over to Terrorizer. Pete talked with the crew out in California and told him what he was doing. Not Oscar but the other guy. Anthony Rezhawk. Pete had a few songs with them for a new album but they didn’t get very far with it and then I came along. We were open to working with them but they dropped all communication with Pete and he hasn’t heard from them since. They lived in California and he lives in Florida so it was tough and I live like 20 minutes away from Pete so its easy for us to get together and jam. Sam lives 2 hours so hes the far one and he makes it to practice every week so it has been working out.
When you started working with Pete Sandoval which turned out Terrorizer, did you have plans in the early of the incarnation of Terrorizer you will start writing new songs, or was the whole idea of playing together more about touring and playing gigs ?!
Did I plan on this? No… I could kind of see it coming though just because I knew the songs. Its a little strange being the Monstrosity drummer playing guitar for Terrorizer. When you see that I’ve actually written a lot of material for Monstrosity on guitar going back to early Imperial Doom. I wrote Imperial Doom on guitar and showed it to Jon Rubin. I told him to play the one riff and then “double time” it… so those were my ideas and riffs. So I’m not a stranger to writing and playing guitar. Saying that, I’m not Yngwie or anything I have a pretty strong picking hand and tend to come up with rhythms pretty easily. Once I began working and writing with Pete I wanted to get him on board with Audiohammer and the studio over there and how we were recording the drums with natural tones and real toms instead of triggered toms. Its ok to do that stuff live with these meager PA’s but in the studio you have time to get a “real” sound, so why not??. I kind of created a new challenge in that I’m a drummer and to kind of push Pete to his limit. I got him playing with a click track. We were having issues with the tempos being one speed at practice and then during the shows they would be way faster. So what we do now is we start the show with the click and kind of find our bearings and then the rest of the show goes smooth even when were not on the click. Its something I was doing with Monstrosity since 2006 so I know it just makes everything smoothed out. There’s no complaints from anyone regarding the speed since its a set thing it can sound exactly like the album does. As a drummer myself, I can relate to being all pumped up with adrenaline before the show and then playing things too fast. So I wanted to kind of bring Pete into playing with the click and he likes it I think. Its made his playing better for sure. I think it is safe to say his best work ever is on this on this album. He was a trooper and put up with my crazy demands lol
I would say maybe two years. It took us a while to get started writing. We were going back and forth on the material but once we got going things happened pretty quick. I was coming up with songs left and right. We did a 4 song demo/ play through video that we decided not to release in 2014. We wanted our first impression to be the album not a rough demo. We also did a pre-production demo / play through video for the whole album in March of 2016. So we demoed everything so we knew what we were going to do when we went in the studio for real. It was good to go through the motions. I like being prepared as much as I can. You have to be careful not to drain the life from the songs but it was a lot of hours of work I did on those recordings but I look at it as practice for when we did the real album.
Did you work as a team when writing the new material for Caustic Attack or did Pete Sandoval have some material left in his drawer ?
I wrote all of the guitar riffs and Pete helped me with arranging and made suggestions and would add things in the fills. Sam wrote the words and then I put them to the patterns I had in my head. So it was pretty much a team effort. All the material was from us and nothing from any of the old lineups was used at all. We had songs that were primarily based on the old Terrorizer style and then others that drew from Pete’s Morbid Angel days and I’m sure Monstrosity fans will hear something since I write for Monstrosity as well. Its kind of a combination of those 3 things. So that brings a new element. For example a song like “Poison Gas Tsunami” is just total slide riffs with old school blasting and has a real grindcore feel. Whereas a song like “Terror Cycles” has kind of that Morbid Angel “Pain Divine” feel with the super fast skank beat. Or “Crisis” which has that Rapture 3/4 blast feel. There is 2 seven string songs on the album. Those songs close out the sides of the vinyl. “Wasteland” is just a full on rager. Most likely Pete’s fastest song ever and with the seven string it just adds that heaviness. I kept the rest of the album at “D” standard tuning which is what the first album was at. I wanted to retain that sound plus to me it can get to be a little much when every song is down tuned so low. The riffs turn to mush after awhile. So I liked mixing it up
It was recorded at Audiohammer. It was the last album recorded in that drum room I was telling you about. They had that log cabin but it was sold so they moved the drum room back over to the other building so this was the last drum tracks recorded in that room. I did the guitars, bass, and vocals in my studio and then we sent all that in to Jason Suecof to mix and it worked out great. I had already worked with him on the Monstrosity so it seemed natural to do the Terrorizer too.
As working for two bands at the same time, do you know exactly, when creating new riffs and songs, what is for Terrorizer and Monstrosity ?
Monstrosity I can experiment a little more. Terrorizer is expected to be a certain way so I can tell which riff is going where pretty quickly. These albums were written at different times so it wasn’t really an issue though.
Terrorizer has a massive legacy and reputation so does Monstrosity as well. Do you ever feel any kind of pressure on your shoulder, while writing, brought by the metal crowd expecting the new deadly outputs from both the bands ?
I’m pretty demanding in what I put out so I want it to be good too so I’m right there with whoever would be criticizing. I figure if I like it then the fans will too and if they don’t that is ok. I did what I set out to do so once I get that, whatever happens I can accept because it was on my terms.
Before concluding the interview, can you name the five most important death metal albums released by the Floridian death metal bands ?!
01. Monstrosity Passage of Existence. lol
02. Morbid Angel Altars
03. Atheist Piece Of Time
04. Obituary Slowly We Rot
05. Death Scream Bloody/ Leprosy
I for one thank you for your time to do the interview and as usual, the last words are yours…
Thanks for the support. Check the website for merch. We have the old albums and more so check it. See you on tour !!!
Official Sites :