INTERVIEW WITH SHAUN GLASS
(REPENTANCE, BROKEN HOPE, SINDROME, SOIL, TERMINAL DEATH)
Shaun Glass has been the part of the Chicago metal scene since the mid-’80s. Bands such as Terminal Death, Sindrome, Broken Hope have all carved the marks and gained the cult status in the thrash/death metal scene. Whereas Soil presented the more modern hard rock approach. Repentance is the new chapter in the man’s long career. The band’s debut album GOD FOR A DAY recently came out on Art Is War Records. Here is a long interview with Shaun Glass…
THE BIRTH OF REPENTANCE
When Dirge Within split up some years ago, you didn’t rest on your laurels. You formed a new band called Repentance and it happened quite quickly. Could you tell a little bit more? How did everything start to roll in the first place when you formed Repentance?
What happened was I was doing the band the Bloodline actually, and the singer was kind of done. He was the only one, Travis Neal. He was the only one that wasn’t based in Chicago in the area. He was sick of traveling back and forth and then we were frustrated at the time with Century Media, because the label merged with Sony. Then they started this whole new division when they signed us. Then they said, “We’re going to put you through to this new division called Another Century”. The album came out and then everything fell apart. We weren’t happy. They weren’t happy and things just kind of fizzled. At the same time, the singer of Dirge Within, Jerms kept reaching out to a few members of the band, which were also in the Bloodline, that were in Dirge Within. Said he really wanted to do a reunion show, and to talk about future albums and stuff. We started getting back together. We got a couple of offers in Wisconsin and some other place to do a couple of Dirge Within shows. They were going to be pretty cool shows and we started rehearsals and things were going great. Then things got more serious and I was like, “Hey. We need to stay on a schedule. This is what we need to do.” I like to keep things professional. He started falling apart again, the same thing. It was like deja vu. Then Dirge Within started crumbling and I was like, “I need to clean the slate and start with a fresh whole new attitude, new people.” The bass player actually, Mike Sylvester, he was the live bass player in Bloodline. He stayed on board with me during all of these transitions. Mike’s like, “Hey, just keep me posted on what’s going on.” I said, “Yeah. Let me re-think what I’m going to do and start writing new material.” The first thing I want to do is find a second guitar player, because I really like having another guy who can play shredding leads. That’s what happened. Dirge Within fizzled after an ill-fated reunion. That’s when the whole thought of starting Repentance began.
Do you feel sometimes frustrating, when you have to start all over again with a new band?
Always, always. It’s a double-edged sword. I hate starting over, but I always look it like, no offense, to some of like hair metal bands that have gone through 50 line ups. I don’t even know. There’s Warrant, or Trixter, or Skid Row. No disrespect to any of those bands. Some of those bands I know of had just multiple lineup changes and if you go on Wikipedia and it’s just insane to look at. I just never wanted to be one of those guys. I felt like, “I’m still young enough that I could keep reinventing, and still have the rocket fuel in my tank to keep writing new music.” I think that ever since I left Soil, all the bands I’ve done pretty much are somewhat in the same food group. I think that hopefully after I left Soil that most of these bands fans can adapt to. It’s not like all of a sudden Repentance is like some jazz band or a rap-rock band. I think that it’s still true to form of what I’ve been doing basically for the last 10 years. So I think that Repentance shouldn’t be a shock to people, especially if they know me.
Do you think that you are more famous than Repentance?
I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m more famous than…
Because of Soil and your background I mean.
I guess I have a little bit of pedigree. I’ve seen a few ball games in my life. Obviously as a kid, when Michael Schenker left UFO, I was a huge fan of Michael Schenker Group. I always thought it’d probably be cool to have a band name. Even like Alcatrazz when they came out, had Graham Bonnet and Yngwie. I thought that was cooler than they were a band name versus the Michael Schenker Group or the Shaun Glass Group. To me that it just reeks of arrogance and a little bit of cheese. If I was a solo artist and I was the frontman singer like Robb Flynn or Matt Heafey, that would probably be a different story. I’m a guitar player and I never really learned how to sing. I probably should have, but I never learned to sing. It just feels more comfortable to call the band under a new moniker. The name Repentance I thought was really cool. I couldn’t believe nobody didn’t use it yet. I was shocked.
Where did you get the name?
A lot of times the band names, I just looked through my iPod for song titles. I’ll sit on my iTunes and just look through song titles. When I named Soil, I named the band after an Entombed song, “Rotten Soil”. I listened to the Entombed CD driving to rehearsal, when we were writing our early Soil demos. We didn’t have a name and then all of a sudden it just hit me. I was like, “Wow.” Repentance actually is a Fear Factory song on DIGIMORTAL. It was funny, because I text Dino when I came up with the idea and he’s like, “That’s a great band name actually”. I’m like, “I got from one of your songs.” He’s like, “I didn’t even think of that.” I was like, “I think I got a name for the new project.” I didn’t tell him. I said, “I think I’m digging Repentance.” He’s like, “It’s a good name.” I’m like, “Dude, it’s a Fear Factory song.” I said that twice in a row, but yeah. It’s cool. It’s funny because Dirge came from an Exhorder song, “Cadence of the Dirge.” Thanks to all these amazing metal bands that I listened to. Thank you for all your great song titles, because I’ve actually found some wisdom in your words.
When you formed Repentance and found the right guys into the lineup, was it the right chemistry that you found immediately with them? How did the working start with them in the first place?
Especially it was me and Markus the lead guitarist first hooked up, because that was the first thing. I was like, “I want to find another guitar player that can shred and it is professional and has it down.” He plays in a European metal band called Them that on SPV and they’re based in Europe mostly, but he’s here. He can flip-flop both bands. Obviously nowadays tons of people are on multiple projects. I knew he was good from a few of my friends that told me that, “You should check Markus out.” I wanted another lead guitar. We started writing and I said, “Let’s meet up and just jam. I’ll show you some riffs I’m working on.” He was like, “Cool”. He grabbed it, got into it and started showing me riffs he has. I was, “All right. This is going to work.” I think he got the style that I was going for. He understood it and he has his own style. Then we got a drummer and Mike the bass player stayed with me and it was easy to bring Mike and he’s so chill. He’s easy to get along with. I don’t think Mike could not get along with anybody. He’s pretty chill. Then we had a drummer and then we went in the studio. We had a drummer and then we couldn’t find a singer. We had like three or four songs under our belt. We couldn’t find a singer. Then we tried out a couple of guys that were really just kind of average.
Then I was talking to Robb Rivera from Nonpoint. He lives here too and Robb was like, “Dude, you should look into Robby from Stuck Mojo.” I was like, “Wow. Where’s he living?” He goes, “He lives in Chicago on the Southside, about an hour from you.” I’m like, “Wow”. I was a little hesitant because Stuck Mojo is more rap. I was like, “I’m not really too familiar with Stuck Mojo’s later stuff with Robby.” They made one album with Robby. I was like, “There’s Robb from Nonpoint.’ I said, “Dude, cool idea. Can he sing like brutal? I want someone more like really heavy.” He was like, “Yeah, dude. He’s totally into heavy stuff and he can sing heavy. Stuck Mojo has some really heavy vocals in a couple of songs.” I was like, “Okay, cool. Let’s check it out.” I reached out to him. Robb gave me his number. I texted Robby. He hit me back. He said, “Hey man, let’s chat later.” We had a phone call. I told him what’s going on. I said, “We got a couple of show offers actually. Still, we haven’t announced our singer.” He’s like, “Really?” I was like, “Yeah.” I said, “Can we send you some songs to listen to first, some really raw demos, and then come out to a rehearsal. Come hang and meet the guys and hear what you sound like on the songs.” We started writing songs. He came to rehearsal and killed it. I could tell he was a little nervous. We were all feeling everybody out, getting a vibe and it was cool. Then after that he really fell into place and grew into the role. I never thought about Stuck Mojo. I never worried that this guy isn’t going to be brutal or metal enough for Repentance. It fell into place. Then the drummer we had at first just wasn’t up to par. He just wasn’t into it. He never really wanted to be in a more serious band.
Then Robb from Nonpoint again said, “Hey, you should talk to Kanky. You’ve toured with him with Dirge Within, because he was in Straight Line Stitch”. I knew he was doing like fill-in work for Soulfly, when they needed a drummer here and there. I was like, “Cool. I love Kanky.” I reached out to Kanky. I said, “Hey, this is what’s going on. We’re talking to a couple of labels. We’re going to go record some demos, but we need a new drummer. Here are some songs with some drum machines on to check out.” He was into it. Then we just started jamming and jamming, and then wrote the album. Three or four of the songs were roughly written before him, and then we finished writing basically the other half of the album with him. He actually recorded all his drums at his own home studio. He recorded and tracked all the drums for the album on his own, which is pretty rad. It was cool. Our first show was opening for Trivium. I think everyone who knows me knows we’re tight with Trivium. I love Trivium. They got us on a show. I was like, “All right. We got 30 minutes of music to play. We’re ready to go. I think we actually had 25 minutes of music. We did Entombed “Wolverine Blues” as a closer. That was cool. Then everything just kept moving and we kept writing. Then here we are in the middle of a pandemic, 2020, putting out a killer record.
As for Robby, because he is the Stuck Mojo frontman, what will happen when the whole pandemic is over and Stuck Mojo will get back on tour? How will you share the time-table then?
I don’t know yet. We haven’t figured that out. Stuck Mojo, I don’t know how much they’re really doing because Rich and I think the drummer are in Fozzy full-time with Chris Jericho. I don’t know, but obviously if that ship calls and needs him to come work, we’ll figure it all out. Obviously right now it is really hard to even think about touring. We don’t know when and obviously I think the whole world is waiting to see when the metal can get back to work. The main thing for us is we do live in a cool area. Chicago has a strong long history of metal. We can get doing shows around here hopefully in December. There’s some talk of some shows we got offered. We played a show in the middle of the pandemic in Kenosha, Wisconsin. One week before all that rioting happened. Literally one week before that we played a show.
As you said that you had quite a few songs under your belt before Robby joined. Did you have some songs ready before you even formed Repentance?
I had skeletons for rough songs. I had some riffs. I think a lot of clarity’s intro riff. I record riffs on my phone all the time. I’ll just go through them again with fresh ears and say, “All right, this works.” Usually when I record a song on the phone as a riff reference, I call it, it’s pretty good. It’s a keeper. I don’t really put anything on my phone that I’m just like, “Yeah, that’s crap.” None of this stuff was leftover from Dirge. We didn’t keep Dirge Within material. It’s all fresh. It’s not like, “Oh my God. I had this entire Dirge Within album written and then we just put Robby on it.” That wasn’t the case. Repentance’s definitely is its own entity.
I was coming to that, if you have some leftovers from your past bands but it’s completely new and fresh ones that you have written in Repentance?
Yeah, it’s fresh. That is the one thing I think that I’m proud of, is that the album is pretty new, fresh and that it doesn’t drag. I can’t listen to albums now that have 15 songs and are 55 minutes. I don’t know the time or a day that I did, between life, and also listening to other new albums. I get burnt. I hate to say it, but I look at Slayer as a great reference. REIGN IN BLOOD, HELL AWAITS is 37 minutes. HAUNTING THE CHAPEL was like 18 minutes. SHOW NO MERCY was probably the longest, the first taste of the band. I think they did it right. I think those guys were smart. I’d rather get a meal that just slays you and kills and rules, than be like, “Yeah, I like about eight songs.” Because there’s like three or four there, what’s the point? I don’t think bands should be doing that. Give the listener a better meal. Less is more in some ways, as long as it’s good. When I was a kid, I listened to HAUNTING THE CHAPEL, those three songs, and it just made me want more. I think HAUNTING THE CHAPEL came out before HELL AWAITS. I remember craving the next serving.
You don’t want to make albums that would last one hour with many fillers and stuff like that. You want to have more in-your-face and straightforward stuff.
Yeah. I remember especially the ’90s grunge era – A lot of those bands had like 15 songs and it may have been the record companies pushing it. We have this new product, the compact disc. We can put X amount and charge people $20 for these things. Maybe that was a large part of it. It could have been the industry pushing the artist to do that. Here we are in 2020 with really minimal physical products, and more people are listening to digital and playlist and bouncing around from streaming platforms and stuff like that. I don’t think people need a 55-minute album. I wouldn’t want to listen to a 55-minute album on my band.
What is the biggest challenge for you in creating new songs? Are you afraid of copying yourself from the past or do you try to find new and fresh ideas?
I don’t feel challenged ever. I mean, I don’t want to sound cocky, but I’m not challenged yet. One thing I do is I really do try not to play the same exact riffs. I’ll purposely be working on a riff and I’m like, “I could go into this. This is cool, like a Dirge Within riff or whatever.” I’m like, “Yay.” Or even a Sindrome riff. I’ll be like, “This reminds me of that. I’ll purposely try to stay away from that, because I don’t want that. Note selections sometimes. For me, I could be in my car listening to Testament and all of a sudden be like, I’m totally influenced and come home and grab my guitar and riff out for a half-hour. It probably won’t sound like Testament to anybody else, but to me. I’m like, “It’s cool. It’s got like a Testament vibe or whatever.” I get influenced by other artists all the time.
I guess my big influences are and will always be like Hetfield. Of course, Piggy from Voivod was a huge influence on me. Anytime you hear “Dissonant Tritone” chords in any of the riffs I write. It’s very stem from Piggy. Dimebag, he was such an influence on my playing. Years before that I was a bass player. When I was in Broken Hope and Sindrome I played the bass, but I was always trying to become a guitar player and teach myself. When COWBOYS FROM HELL came out late ’91. I was really, really pushing myself to play the guitar and writing riffs on guitar and he was a really huge influence. Then Chuck, of course Chuck from Death. It’s crazy that I was friends with all those guys except for Hetfield. They all play a huge influence on my playing and sadly three of those guys are gone.
Because you have many influences and a huge background – Are you the main songwriter in the band or do the other guys bring the stuff to the table?
No, no. It’s collaborative joint writing. Markus, one of the songs in the album “Deliverance” is 100% he wrote that whole song. It’s cool. There’s definitely a band vibe. I like that. I love other people contributing, especially when it’s good. I hate to say it. I’ve been in bands in the past where I was not really impressed with other guys songwriting and it sucks when you have to be honest. If something’s not good, you have to say it. If you want to be a professional musician, some people have to put your big boy pants on and deal with it. It’s good. Markus is writing. Mike definitely contributes. The people that play stringed instruments in the band, so it’s cool. Robby wrote all his own lyrics. It’s pretty rad. Kanky wrote all his drum parts. He recorded all his own drum parts. I would say GOD FOR A DAY is a joint effort. It wasn’t just me in the studio dictating. Everybody had their own two cents and obviously contribution.
What about the lyrics? What kind of things influence you to write about and the whole band to deal with and sing about?
Robby’s lyrics, I think go all over the place. I think there’s some of the personal about his childhood. He’s got some dark paths from what he had told me and his opinion on the world. He’s from Montreal. He’s not an American, but he lives in America. His wife is the singer of The Agonist and she lives here too. I think they met in Montreal and then she, Vicky, The Agonist singer is from here. Her family lives here. When he got married, he moved here. He has a lot of different influences probably writing lyrics, especially politically probably because he didn’t grow up in America. I’m sure he’s got different views. I tend to shy away from talking to people about politics. It’s not really my thing. I’m not a guy that will go online and bash the Republican or the Democrat. I do see good and bad sometimes in both parties. Neither political man nor woman right now is perfect. I try to see the plus and minuses of both. Obviously right now as everyone knows our country’s in a really weird place. America probably looks like the most unhinged it’s ever had I think to the outside world. It’s sad. Our country really looked at as kind of bulletproof and I think right now with all the chaos and all the stupid violence, and unnecessary police violence. It’s a shame. At the same time some things I’d love to say my opinion on, but I don’t want people to not like my band because I like red M&Ms versus blue M&Ms. If I was Rage Against the Machine and had to yell at you and shove my opinion down your throat, that’d be cool. That’s cool for them. I don’t think for Shaun Glass or Repentance that’s what we’re going for.
What kind of lyrics and topics in general influence you? You have dealt with all kinds of lyrics in Sindrome, then you had the gore stuff in Broken Hope and completely different in Soil.
Soil was probably more the most, I guess life. Ryan McCombs probably wrote more about his life and it was more about out what he’s gone through. I think there’s some dark stuff on there, especially like the song “Unreal”. It’s one of the songs I wrote with them that I thought was pretty dark. I remember Ryan saying, “There’s some personal stuff on this stuff.” Every band is different. Broken Hope’s a little more brutal gore, straight to the point, death metal lyrically. Jeremy and Joe Ptacek rest in peace, wrote a lot of cool sick stuff. A song like “Felching Vampires”, that’s pretty gross. I know what it meant. When I joined them in 93 I was like, “All right, how much is this is real and how much are you guys taking the piss out of things?” It was cool. I think that brutal gore death metal is fun and what people want from that.
Art Is War – that label was completely new to me before, until you told me about it. I checked them out and they have f.ex Skinlab and Combichrist. How do you think that Repentance fits that label ? Did you try to look for other labels and how did Art Is War came into the picture?
I knew the owner because I worked with Skinlab and then Bleed The Sky. I knew those guys and then he signed Bleed the Sky. Then there’s a band from Australia called Eye Of The Enemy that I suggested to the owner of the label. I said, “Hey, you should check out this band from Australia. They’re really killer. They’re called Eye Of The Enemy.” Then he was into it. They were called Eye Of The Enemy. They were kind of like Lamb of God. He was into the band. I said, “Cool. Let’s see how things work out.” Things progressed, our relationship. He was like, “If you need help with Repentance, let’s do this album. I’m into it. I like the band. I like you.” I was like, “Okay.” I told the guys, “We’re a brand new band without a lot of history, even though some members have history.” I was like, “Let’s do this.” I think it’s cool for us to be on a more upstart new label and it helps everybody involved. It helps his label get a little more known, and it helps us work with people who are hungry and don’t have 500 albums coming out this month. Whereas, I think that if you run a metal label nowadays that has extreme amounts of releases, it could hurt each project. I’ve seen that actually. I saw that with the Bloodline, especially. It was cool. It’s more of a boutique thing. He also is involved. The owner of Art is War. He’s involved in the management and other genres. He’ll call me and tell me, “I’m working with this client and it was a little more pop or commercial, or a female-oriented singing stuff.” I’m just like, “Cool. Hey man, whatever you got your hands in is great.” He’s like, Hey, “I believe that Repentance will make a nice dent in the metal community.” When he heard the record, he’s like, “Dude, this thing is slamming.” When he saw the album artwork, he’s like, “This is really cool.” Everything fell into place and it is a new label and we’re happy to be putting our first album out on this label. Let’s see what happens a year from now. Who knows? Hopefully the world’s still here, right?
Combichrist is one of the well-known bands on the roster of Art Is War. They have a label in Europe Out Of Line in Germany. Skinlab is as well as a known band. What about Repentance? You tried to get the deal with a European label, but apparently the whole thing is still up in the air.
There was a couple of European labels that we’re interested in. I thought for us being an American band, it was probably smart to work with a company based here, because right now obviously we come on tour overseas. Especially really focusing on making sure that a product is really here in America, to build it up. Sometimes I’ve seen in the past that when things start buzzing and hyping and getting street buzz. Whether it’s an American band in Europe getting a buzz or a European metal band getting buzz over in the States. People will find it. Nowadays with streaming sites and nowadays with Amazon, being able to deliver at your door, or you guys have EMP I think in Europe and stuff.
Those are all good strong outlets. I was talking to Schmier from Destruction, actually today. We were talking about everything and he’s like, “It’s crazy you’re putting out an album right now.” I was talking about, it’s crazy how they’re touring. They’re doing shows. I and Schmier were talking about how the days of retail are slowly dying. It’s sad. I never would’ve thought especially in Europe, where it’s very still old school metal driven, that people would not really be going to the stores to buy a CD or a vinyl. Schmier was telling me that it’s definitely decreased and how much it’s very similar to here. We have killer mom-and-pop stores all over the United States too. There’s one in Chicago, Rolling Stone Records. That’s the place I grew up going to buy my metal albums at, and they’re selling Repentance CDs and it’s awesome. Hearing people going in my area saying they’re buying our album in our backyard is awesome. I do think that the name of a label isn’t as important to the buyer as it was. When you were a kid and saw the Earache logo or the Roadrunner logo, Noise. You knew 90% of the time what you were buying. There are a couple of clunkers in there always. You knew what you were buying by the brand of the label. I don’t think that’s the case anymore. If records have diversity on the label, fine. I think when anyone sees the people involved or sees our logo or our artwork, they know what they’re going to get.
Do you believe digital marketing and downloading is more important for you and Repentance than physical products?
Of course I think the physical CD sounds the best, and I want the person to get the best audio experience when they listen to our album. Instant gratification. If you can’t find my album and you have Spotify and you’re like, “Hey, I’m going to go listen to this new Repentance album in five minutes, because I can’t find it in my shop.” I’m not upset. I’m happy. I think that it is a benefit. I think those things do help and that is some of the benefits of technology now. I don’t hate it. Do I like how everyone knows how Spotify does not pay artists properly? Of course not. Will it get fixed? Who knows? Are the record companies also in on it and getting more money and us artists aren’t? I don’t know. It always goes back to, “How many hands are in the pot?” I think that that’s a large part of it, but I think that people know if they want to find an album, they know how to get it now. Some people still use torrent sites to download higher quality audio MP3s and you can’t stop it. Once everything hits the internet, it’s peer-to-peer. It’s going to fly and get out there.
You’re using Instagram and Facebook to promote your new CD. Do you think that social media tools are more important to reach people than doing advertising in old school magazines?
Sad, but true. I think print mags especially in America are slowly dying. Revolver was pretty big for a while and they did some great reviews on some of my past bands and it was always cool. You’d walk into the grocery store and look at the magazine section, there was actually a metal magazine. That was awesome. I think that social media reach has dramatically helped artists. You got to embrace it. You got to adapt or die, they say, right? It is what it is. I wish I could still walk into the grocery store and find that magazine. I wish I could say to a record company, “Let’s spend a few 100 bucks on this print ad in this magazine. I think it would be a good awareness.” Is it necessary? No, I’d rather do banner ads on cool websites, like Blabbermouth and Decibel and stuff like that. I think that’s the reality of where we’re at now. I think that more people are reading those websites than going to the store and buying the magazine. Now, I can’t speak for you Europeans, Germany and Finland and UK, if it’s completely dead there. I don’t know. I’m stuck here.
Germany is different.
They still buy Rock Hard and Metal Hammer and that’s awesome. I wish that was the case here, but, “What can you do?” I have to adapt to my surroundings.
INTO THE HALLS OF THRASH … SINDROME
Do you somehow miss the old Sindorome days, because when you released the first demo tape INTO THE HALLS OF EXTERMINATION and you had the huge package and glossy papers? You used to sell a huge amount of tapes at that time too. Frankly do you miss the old days?
Of course – I don’t miss going to Troy’s house and doing mail, let me tell you that. Troy’s one of my closest friends still, so he knows me and he made jokes about that, “Come over and do mail.” I was 18 and 19 years old probably at the time. I wanted to go out and party. We didn’t have pandemics. We didn’t have cell phones. We went to clubs and shows and raged, but of course I miss the magic of that. I think mailing your demo to Metal Forces or Kerrang! or Mega Metal and all those things, and having your band and those magazines were very rewarding. At the same time knowing that you’re in Finland right now and you could call me on this phone and talk to me and listen to my album. Without me mailing you my album, and going to the post office and spending $20, hoping it gets to you. It’s got some perks too man, but it is what it is. We can’t change technology and it keeps growing and growing. When my son’s a teenager, I don’t even know what kind of music is going to be around. I don’t even know what kind of cars are going to be around. I don’t think the flying car is going to exist in the next 10 years, but let’s see what happens. Do I miss the old days? Yeah, man. I don’t miss touring without a GPS. I’ll tell you that. That was calling some people trying to find a club in the middle of the ghetto sometimes. It wasn’t really fun. I do like having the GPS on tour and I do like having instant gratification. I can go on my phone and listen to the first Kreator album in five minutes and have to not go through my garage, looking for the first Kreator album.
The first Sindrome demo tape was absolutely amazing and the second one as well.
Thank you – For a bunch of kids. What’s interesting real quick there are two chapters of Sindrome, the INTO THE HALLS line-up, and the VAULT OF INNER CONSCIENCE -Both EPs I call now. Both EPs were three of us – It was me, Troy and Tony Ochoa the drummer. Then the first EP INTO THE HALLS had Chris Mittelbrun that was in Master and Death Strike. Then when he left, then we regrouped and got a whole new lineup together, with two new guitars that became the new version of sentinel for VAULT OF INNER CONSCIENCE.
When I ordered your first demo tape, it had a glossy booklet as mentioned. Everything was so professional. When you usually ordered a demotape, it had xeroxed covers and a tape. I guess you put a lot of money and effort into your demos, how they looked like?
Yeah, it was important to us. We wanted it to look like it came from a record company. We wanted it to be just as professional as you bought it from Metal Blade or Century Media. We saw, we have a clear cassette. That’s what all the new metal albums have and we have to have a color glossy booklet. I’ll give Troy his props. He was adamant about being professional and not being just that other band. We want to look like a band. We want to sound just as professional as any other band. We wrote the songs that we felt were as good as those bands and not to be cocky. I think INTO THE HALLS OF EXTERMINATION was just as good as a demo or EP as a lot of bands albums that came out in 1989.
You came from Terminal Death and Troy from Devastation.
I and Troy grew up together. When Devastation was being formed, I knew the guys and they were like, “We need a singer.” Terminal Death was already a band. Troy was my childhood friend that used to go to shows and hang with me. I met him in the fifth grade. Grade five I guess you called it. Then I told the Devastation guys, I’m like, “Dude, you should get Troy. He’s always with me and hung out.” They were like, “Are you seeing him?” I’m like, “Yeah, I think so.” Then Troy’s like, “Dude, I could kill that stuff.” He did it. The demo he did with Devastation was CREATION OF RIPPING DEATH. It is pretty well-highly regarded in the death metal underground world. I think Troy was 17 when he sang that.
I remember having an unreleased Devastation album in my tape collection.
That was after Troy. Troy did CREATION OF RIPPING DEATH and then when he bounced from Devastation, I and him started forming Sindrome. Then they got a second singer Duane, and they re-recorded the demo with Troy and just called it A RE-CREATION OF RIPPING DEATH. Then they started writing new material that was going to be a real Devastation album. Then the band I think broke up while recording in the studio. This is without Troy. Then they finally put out like a rough mix of it on numerous independent metal labels over the last few years. I think the drummer keeps re-releasing it on some smaller labels. I’m not sure, but Troy and I were already at that time beginning Sindrome, because Terminal Death, and he exited Devastation.
How much did you rehearse at that time?
Because you sounded so amazing, the structures of songs were complex and you had amazing solos. I guess you spent a lot of time in your rehearsal room.
Yeah, we rehearsed a lot. We were a serious band. We treated it like we were in a real band. We had goals and dreams like every band. INTO THE HALLS line-up we went out and did many tours with Death, Whiplash, and then Chris Mittelbrun the guitar player basically quit on everybody. We didn’t have cell phones. We didn’t have email then. It wasn’t easy to get ahold of a guy that was never home or out doing things that he liked to do. He was older than us too. When Chris left Death Strike Master to join Sindrome, he was the older guy than us. It was just funny. Me and Troy we’d always call him Papa Smurf. He was older than us. We had a different lifestyle. No disrespect to him as a person or a guitar player. I think if Chris would have been a little more dedicated and more professional, and cared more and saw the opportunities that the band already was building off HALLS. Things could have maybe been different, but no use to cry over spilled milk.
You toured with Death and Whiplash. I guess it was the first time when you met Terry Butler and made a lifelong friendship with him.
I and Terry been friends a long time. I met Chuck first through, I think it was Borivoj or John Piotrowski, the singer from Terminal Death first gave me some Death demos. I can’t remember which demos I had. I had a couple of live tapes, like the DEATH BY METAL demos and like LIVE AT RUBIES and all this stuff. I listened to those a lot. I and Chuck used to write to each other when I was in Terminal Death. I sent him a Terminal Death demo and Chuck called me and said, “Dude, is this Shaun?” I was like, “Yeah.” This is Chuck. I got your demo. I love it. I was like, “Wow, this is pretty cool. This guy from Florida.” Then he mailed me a Death shirt and I wore that thing… Obviously I have a newer one, but I wore that shirt like it was the Holy Bible. Then we just became really good friends.
I watched his career grow and my career grow, and we had a really good tight friendship. I flew out there and stayed with him and his family a few times. Chuck flew out here when he put the SCREAM BLOODY GORE lineup together, after the Chris Reifert leaving. Then he got Terry and Rick and Bill in the band while Rick returning and the new guys Terry and Bill. Then they got in the band and they came out here and did some shows. I think it was Milwaukee Metal Fest maybe. They flew out here for and then after the show they came and stayed at my parents’ house with me for a few days. Having Death at my house in the middle of North suburban Highland Park, Illinois was pretty cool. I don’t think anybody knew who they were yet, but now I look at Chuck’s legacy. It’s funny when I see kids at shows, especially now, when I see kids at shows wearing Death shirts. I’m like, “If he only got to see this man.” It sucks.
What about Whiplash? How did you meet them?
I can’t remember how the Whiplash thing came together, but I think it was Troy was talking to their… Maybe they had a manager then and they were booking some dates, and Troy was helping books and shows. He had a little company growing called Midwest Management Exchange that he was starting to book some shows. I think their booking agent or manager reached out to Troy said, “We want to book like three or four Midwest dates with Whiplash.” Troy’s like, “All right. I’d like to put Sindrome on it.” They’re like, “Oh, sure.” Then it was Whiplash, At War and Sindrome through the Midwest and it was cool. We all got along great. We were all young kids, playing thrash metal in the middle of the Midwest. We did those shows as punk rock as you can. It was very bare-bones. There was nothing glamorous about those shows, but it was all from the heart. We were young and hungry and you didn’t have families and you didn’t have really responsibilities. We just wanted to play metal and go and rage and have fun.
Sindrome have more cult status among the old school metal fans nowadays.
You got a lot of promotion help from other bands like Bolt Thrower. I think the drummer used to have a Sindrome t-shirt in the promo pictures. Of course the Forbidden guys used to wear Sindrome shirts.
That helped. I think it got the name out there and we were friends with these bands. If we went to a gig to see Forbidden and met them and party, and then give them a shirt, or the Death Angel or the guys in Bolt Thrower. I think Andy actually used to write to Troy a lot. I think that’s when Troy mailed them off a HALLS shirt. They probably were in Devastation and Terminal Death, and that’s how they started to hear about Sindrome and obviously Master, because we had a guitar player of Master. I think that was a lot of people’s initial reason to reach out to us and we just mailed the stuff. Troy would be like, “I got this Bolt Thrower shirt. You want it? It doesn’t fit me or I got two of them.” All of a sudden I was wearing their shirt and they were wearing our shirt and traveling around the world and vice versa. It was cool. Obviously Craig from Forbidden wore a Sindrome shirt a lot. We became really good friends with him at the time. We were huge – We were really into Forbidden. When we heard FORBIDDEN EVIL, it just blew our minds. It was probably my favorite Bay Area band back then. That first album just blew me away. It was such an eye-opener. We were really influenced. We started wanting to be a little more like that. That’s where Sindrome went more on the VAULT era.
Why did it take five years to release the second tape?
Because we had to rebuild a whole new line-up, because Chris left us high and dry. After losing Chris, we had to find a new guitar player and songwriters and start over and rebuild the whole sound. We had pretty high expectations of finding and we didn’t have the internet. We didn’t have, “Let’s go on Facebook and put an ad or tell 20 people we’re looking for this kind of metal guitar player.” It wasn’t that easy then. We had to basically start talking to people and getting phone numbers from friends. It was way more street level. We didn’t have the advance of technology. I think that hurt us a lot and indefinitely took time out of our project and plan to build Sindrome. Then we finally got Rob and he actually played guitar and Ken Savich was not actually on any recordings. Rob and Mick Vega were the guitar players for the second era of Sindrome for VAULT OF INNER CONSCIENCE.
I remember having got VAULT OF INNER CONSCIENCE by doing the tape trading – A guy from Baltimore sent me the second Sindrome demo to me – I was surprised that Sindrome was still doing demo tapes – All these other bands had deals and you were still doing demo tapes. That demo sounded more thrash and otherwise at the time death metal was a really big thing in the early ’90s. Something happened – I was wondering a lot back then.
We got overlooked, because death metal was so big. VAULT was definitely more thrashy than the HALLS stuff. The riffs were more thrash, more technical. We grew up and got better at playing, but it wasn’t Chris writing anymore. A large part of the writing changed because of a guitar player changed from HALLS to VAULT. I think the timeout and Chris leaving handicapped the project for a while to rebuild Sindrome. I still feel that Vault is the more superior of the two, but I like both. They’re both children of mine, but I always tell Troy this and he laughs. I still think “Astral Projection” is the best Sindrome song ever. That’s my taste. If I put it on in my car, because now the RESURRECTION release came out through Century Media. I could put it on through Spotify in my car and that’s usually the track. If I’m in the mood to like revisit, I’ll put on that song or I’ll put on “Rapture in Blood”. Those two are the songs to me that I think are just pretty rad still.
You made connections and created friendships with the people who are working in the music industry nowadays. Sindrome was a really eye-opening era for you when creating new contacts with people you are working with nowadays. I’m right?
Yeah, of course. Obviously I met Borivoj that runs Blabbermouth. Obviously I met him probably from… Actually he wrote to me in Terminal Death. He ordered a demo for his Violent Noize fanzine. Obviously I knew Monte Connor really well and he was really into Sindrome. When we put VAULT out, Monte was ready to sign us. We were almost ready to get an offer from Roadrunner. I kept telling Troy, “Let’s do it, let’s do it.” There are two sides of the story. Troy was frustrated because we were getting ready to lose guitar players again, because Rob that played and wrote a lot on VAULT was leaving to go into a whole different world. The rest of us were trying to get another second guitarist. That’s when Craig Locicero introduced us to Ken Savich and he was in Laaz RockIt for one album. I don’t know which record he’s on and then Ken moved here. Sad to say, when Ken moved to Chicago from the Bay area, he really did fucking nothing and it was a real disappointment.
I was frustrated. Troy was very frustrated, because here we are after all this time pushing VAULT, and then all of a sudden we go through another lineup change and lose another key songwriter. It just hurt the band and the momentum. That’s when I was talking to other bands. At the time I was talking to James Murphy, because he was putting Disincarnate together. I was like, “Boom.” I was talking to him like, “Hey man, you need a bass player.” He’s like, “What? Are you going to leave Sindrome?” I was like, “I don’t know. Things are frustrated and yada, yada.” Then I went to a Broken Hope show at the Thirsty Whale. They just got signed at Metal Blade. I met Jeremy and met Joe a few times. I met Joe at some funny crazy parties and he was a wild dude. Then I saw them do the record release show for THE BOWELS OF REPUGNANCE at the club in Chicago called the Thirsty Whale. Then things fell into place for me to move into a different project.
One question about Sindrome. One guy, I know very well from early ’90s, late ’80s. He runs a big club in Northern Finland. He asked me, “Ask Shaun one question – Is there any chance if Sindrome will return to the stage”?
No, I don’t think so. Troy and I joke about it. He looks at everything in such a different view than I. He looks at it like, “I don’t want to be that guy on stage that looks like I just got off work and I don’t want to be that’s…” He just doesn’t think it’s worth it. He wants to leave history as is. If people love the band and in the heavy metal world still like the band, he’s like, “Okay, we finally put it out RESURRECTION. That’s it.” We joke. I’m like, “Come on, let’s do a show.” I’ll go get you a wig.” He’s got hair actually. We joke about shit like that. I don’t think he really has it in him to do that, but I do know he’s like, “Dude, I can sing those songs in 10 minutes flat.” I actually believe it. I don’t think he would have a problem singing the stuff. Putting the band back together for one show would probably be more work than it’s really worth. I can’t speak for everybody involved, but I think that Troy would definitely not feel that it’s something that he needs to do in his life. He still listens. He still listens to metal. We can talk all the time. He’s got crazy and funny opinions and definitely very thorough. If anybody that knows Troy. He’s a very strong individual, and that’s probably why I and he gravitated to meeting in fifth grade, because we’re alike in some ways. We’re kind of like a Yin and Yang. I think for your friend in Finland to ask, I don’t see it happening. I’m sorry, but you never say never.
DEATH METAL CALLING – JOINING BROKEN HOPE
Did you get tired of playing thrash metal, because it was fading away and death metal was a big thing and huge and then you joined Broken Hope?
Not so much, because when I joined Broken Hope, I still listen to the same stuff. It wasn’t like, “I’m not listening to my Forbidden cassettes anymore.” It was still in me. I also did like Suffocation and Morbid Angel a lot, Vader and stuff like that. It felt like I was still in the same swimming pool. I didn’t feel I was in a different territory. Joe’s vocals of Broken Hope are way different than Troy’s obviously. Joe was extremely brutal, guttural death metal vocals. The bands riffing and styling from Brian Griffin and Jeremy – they had a totally different style to what we played in Sindrome. When you break it down, it’s not too far off, actually to be honest, some of the riffs were a little more simple than Sindrome. For me, it was fun. I learned a couple of songs off their first album, SWAMPED IN GORE, like right away. They were really simple and fun to play songs. Coming from being in Sindrome, just getting off the VAULT OF INNER CONSCIENCE, which is more of a techie thrash; Coroner, Forbidden, King Diamond type riffs. It was cool to change into just like a little more straight forward and groove. At the same time, Joe Ptacek’s vocals were so extreme and brutal, that it made the band yourselves so fricking heavy. I never looked at it like I was leaving the thrash world. When we were on tour, I would still listen to the same stuff. I still put on RIDE THE LIGHTING. It wasn’t like, “Oh my God, I hate thrash.”
Death metal hit big-time for me. I instantly became a huge fan of death metal. When you joined Broken Hope, did you pay attention to the difference between US death metal and European death metal?
In my opinion Cannibal Corpse and Broken Hope had the sound of the USA death metal, whereas we’re talking for example about Swedish bands like Entombed and Unleashed or British bands. There was a huge difference anyway.
Yeah, of course. I think every band from every different area had their own influences and sound. You look at Death and Obituary from Tampa, they all had that more of Florida, American death metal sound. Also a large part of, they were all going to the same studio. They were using Scott Burns and Tom Morris. I think that those guys were getting those bands their sound. Then the bands like you said like Entombed and Grave and Unleashed and Dismember. They were all going to Sunlight studios and getting that chainsaw guitar sound, which I love. I think the bands were all in the same ballpark. I think a large part of the sounds were different, because of their studios and producers they were working with. I think Morrisound, Sunlight and whatever studios for extreme metal at the time had their kind of recipe, and that’s what made those bands. Obviously I think that if Obituary recorded in Sweden, would they have sounded more Entombed? Maybe. I think Slowly We Rot sounds like Obituary because they recorded Florida.
Did you know Amorphis recorded the first album at Sunlight as well?
Which is the first Amorphis album?
That is their first record?
That’s such a weird name for a record, but I remember it. They had a huge push from Relapse back then. Yeah, but I can’t remember because I’m not a huge Amorphis fan. I can’t remember how much that record sounded death metal. Did it? Karelian?
The first one sounded like pure death metal, but the second one didn’t sound like that much death metal as it had more progressive rock elements on the TALES FROM THE THOUSAND LAKES album.
I remember those bands, especially like Morgoth. They were all getting away from death metal and listening to…
Yeah. Like the ODIUM record, which was a cool record actually. Morgoth went more into the extreme. They were more of a brutal death metal band. Then they went a little more left field. I think bands were doing that then, because the alternative rock was slipping in. Every band was starting to listen to Alice In Chains. I think those influences started creeping into extreme metal.
Well Broken hope didn’t sound like Alice In Chains, when you played the stuff from REPULSIVE CONCEPTION and LOATHING – How do you look at those albums nowadays?
There are good songs, bad songs. I think that REPULSIVE CONCEPTION, I like most of the album. There are a couple of songs I think that probably back to what we talked about earlier. We didn’t need to put 15 songs and a couple of intros, and we probably could’ve trimmed the fat on that record. LOATHING, I think we nailed it. I think with that line-up, especially with Joe and Brian. I think that me Griffin and Jeremy wrote some really cool songs on LOATHING and we toured hard.
We really did work it out, but there were some politics that started falling into place and Metal Blade wasn’t feeling the band anymore. I think that it started to disintegrate and fall apart. At the same time, I started getting sick of competing with European black metal bands. That would get flown to the States for one show and getting paid $10,000. I was like, “What’s going on here?” These guys are dressing up like Kiss and playing extreme black metal and everyone’s just worshiping them, and all of a sudden here we are. Broken Hopes, three albums into it. I’m only on two of those. Here we are three albums into our career with Broken Hope and we’re not getting that kind of love and recognition or being the cool kid on block anymore. I was frustrated and that was right around like LOATHING. I wasn’t happy with certain business things going on with Broken Hope. That’s when Soil really started to planted seed.
You never got into black metal at all?
Not really. I grew up seeing the Venom and Hellhammer, and I do like some Dimmu Borgir. I never got into Mayhem actually. The amount of black metal I listen to is pretty, pretty slim. I like some Samael. CEREMONY OF OPPOSITES I thought was a really great album. Then they went all weirdo too. They lost me. They like turned into techno stuff all of a sudden. I was like, “I’m not really into this militant, dark industrial stuff.” I listened to some Cradle of Filth. I thought was pretty cool. The VAMPIRE EP, I think it was. I was just more into thrash and death metal and rock. Obviously I grew up on Motorhead and Priest and Maiden and Kiss and Saxon and Tank and Raven. That’s my roots. Of course right after that I fell right into Voivod and Celtic Frost and Possessed. My extreme metal DNA is pretty true to form with the birth of it I guess.
GETTING THE ROCKING MOOD – SOIL
Did you pay attention or notice that there was some kind of change in extreme metal, because death metal started to lose the grip in the mid-’90s, and black metal became more dominating? Power metal was also becoming a big thing in Europe at that time. Then you joined Soil.
We formed Soil.
Formed Soil, sorry.
I named the band too.
Tell the history.
What happened was I was frustrated with some business stuff in Broken Hope. Then I was friends with Tim, Adam and Tom, and they were in another death metal band in our area.
Oppressor, yeah. I didn’t know many people know them actually. I used to hang out with them a lot, because they lived near me. I and Tim used to just always go out and get lunch. I’d go to their practice spot and just pick up a guitar or jamming. When there wasn’t Oppressor and we were all listening… We were listening to a lot of different stuff. We were getting really into Life of Agony, Down, Alice In Chains, COC. The more the rock stuff like DELIVERANCE. We were really listening to that more than say Satyricon. We weren’t really listening to that. Extreme metal like you said, was getting more dominated by black metal. We were all like, “This really isn’t us. I’m not going to put on corpse print in a bullet belt and pretend I’m from fucking some Nordic Island.”
We wanted to write more rock and it was a side project at first. We recorded the very first demo, which we call the worm demo. It has a little worm on the cover and actually recorded it at Brian Griffin’s studio and he produced it. We did our first four or five-song demo with Brian Griffin. I was technically still in Broken Hope when we did the demo. I was juggling two bands at the same time, and obviously after a while, your heart starts to fall into place more with one than the other. That’s when those guys were like, “We’re going to put on Oppressor on ice after this last album tour.” I think it was ELEMENTS OF CORROSION was the record for Oppressor. Then I was leaving Broken Hope. I didn’t have another band yet. I was just going to focus on Soil. Then I just started telling people in Chicago about my new band and talking to promoters, getting the shows. We played with Stuck Mojo and Nothingface at the Metro in Chicago, a really big show. Then I got us on a show with Incubus, which is really weird. These shows just started building our fan base and was like, “Have you heard that new rock band Soil.” People were into it, because it was a little more like the times. People started joking like, “Have you heard these ex-death metal guys new rock band?” At the time, we still kind of looked a little more death metal. Tim had long hair. Adam’s hair was down to his ass. Tom had really long hair still. We still looked a little more like a brutal band than say a Stone Temple Pilots type band. We just started writing material. We put out our first EP demo and then we got labels talking to us. Then we had an offer from a really new upstart label called MIA Records from New York run by Steve Sinclair that used to run Combat records.
The first album was THROTTLE JUNKIES. Did you get really surprised that Soil was all of a sudden getting good reviews and a lot of attention, and you were going everywhere at that time? Especially when the SCARS album came out and “Halo” became a really big hit.
There was a whole period where we were on an independent label for THROTTLE JUNKIES, and the label did Jack shit for us. We were really frustrated and wanted to get off that label. We were writing new material that we felt was so much better and a little more heavy, a little more modern, probably less shit kicker, I call it. A little less shit kicker than the THROTTLE JUNKIES songs. We just overhauled and started working on these new materials. Different influences were coming into play, but we got off MIA Records, thank God. That label did nothing for us. They had another band called Roadsaw I think and some other bands. Right before that label folded, they put out Darkest Hour, which I actually liked a lot. Then that label folded and Darkest Hour got out of their contract. We started writing new material and I was invited to a party by the Disturbed guys, by Dan and David Draiman. They were having a listening party for their new album and it was at the studio video by the producer, Johnny K at his studio Groove Master. Then we ventured off and had fun and went to the party. I told them that I and Johnny K were talking that night. I brought a demo of new material. I said, “I want you to check out my new band Soil.” He’s like, “I heard of you guys.” Then I said, “I want you to hear this new material. It’s nothing like our album, don’t even listen to our record. I’m going to let you have these demos, like two or three new songs we’re working on.” I gave him the demo and he listened to it and reached out to me after the party. He was like, “Wow, this is really cool. I think you guys got something special. This is what I’ll charge you. I’ll record three songs for X amount of dollars. I got to produce them and work on them.” I told the guys, “I went to this party with Disturbed guys and let Johnny K, here’s some new material. He wants us to record. We got to get some money up to go do this three-song demo.” Everybody was driven. We were like, “Thank God there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.” Because we just got screwed over by this label, MIA Records for THROTTLE JUNKIES. We were free and clear, no contracts. We could spread our wings just went in and Johnny K really worked with us, and really just started to reinvent and redefine the Soil song.
I came across the name of Soil in early 2000 in some magazine. At that time, let’s say now to be honest with you, “no metal” thing was coming really big thing back then. Soil was mentioned along with all these Korn, Limp Bizkit, Mudvayne and the stuff like that.
I never saw that. We didn’t sound anything like Korn. We never had a DJ. Ryan had long hair and looked like a rock singer. I think that…
It was that era.
Yeah, it was the era. We got signed to a major label during the whole thing. Our manager even told the label like, “This band’s way more in the Metallica, Alice In Chains world than they are Korn. They’re not going to all of a sudden get pink mohawks and stuff like that.” That wasn’t really our trip. We were very fortunate that we did write some cool songs, and did have a huge major label machine behind us, to get our foot in the door. To get onto radio and to really finally get a taste of what we were trying so hard to do on THROTTLE JUNKIES. We didn’t have the muscle. We didn’t have the machine and to be truthful, we didn’t have the songs yet. Not until we went in and started demoing with Johnny K after THROTTLE JUNKIES, is really when the new re-birth of Soil and finding our own sound and identity really took place.
When Ryan left the band and joined Drowning Pool a little bit later. When he left, did you feel that this is over now or focused on finding a new singer to replace Ryan?
I didn’t look at it. I was like, “The train ain’t stopping. Let’s keep going.” For the most part, the whole band was in agreement, and I thought we should keep moving. We just spent all these years building this brand from 1997 to 2003, touring the world.
In Europe and USA all the time.
Nonstop. Having songs on the radio and played on big festivals, and having people that have our band name tattooed on them. Why give up on the fans? I didn’t want to give up on myself. We worked so hard to form the band and get where we were and one guy gave up on it and didn’t want to do it anymore. Then why should the other four?
Soil toured very heavily in the USA and Europe. You toured with Damageplan, HIM, of course from Finland.
Yeah, Yeah. They were great guys. That was awesome.
Then you played at the same festival with Ozzy Osbourne. Did you feel that “I’m a rock star now, I’m in a big name band right now, now finally I made it”?
No, because it wasn’t like we were all of a sudden headlining arenas. We weren’t Linkin Park. We were still fighting to get “Halo” as big as we could. We weren’t a platinum band. As big as the song was or people’s perception and it was what it was, but I never felt like, “I fucking made it now and I’m living in a mansion and fucking throwing grapes in the air.” It wasn’t that way, but there were some perks.
We got a good record deal. We all got some decent money to do and live comfortably to be professional musicians. We were very fortunate with that and thank God we had good management, which helped fight on our behalf to get us where we were. I guess it’s my work ethic and how my father raised me. It was, “You’re never done.” Don’t ever be satisfied. You can always do better. You can always strive to work hard. That was some of my disabilities, I think with some of the Soil guys, was my work ethic was a little more aggressive and driven. I felt that when I finally bowed out and we didn’t see eye to eye anymore, that was a large part of it. After Ryan left, we made a killer album TRUE SELF with AJ Cavalier, who was in Diesel Machine and Wayne Static and a few other people suggested AJ.
Then for the TRUE SELF album, we toured a lot. We did big shows. We were out with Staind in America. We did a headline tour in Europe. We did big festivals. That was around 2007, 2006 I think, TRUE SELF. We really worked hard on that album.I felt that we did a pretty good job re-establishing the band, but AJ was really nothing like Ryan. Certain tonalities, he sounded similar, and he could sing the old songs fine. He could sing “Halo” fine and obviously that was important. On TRUE SELF , I would say a large chunk of the material, in that record, had his own identity. He didn’t try to sound or look like Ryan. Now was that the right thing to do? Should we have found someone that looked like Ryan and had long blonde hair? Maybe. Should we have found Ripper Owens? Maybe that would have been a smarter move, but we weren’t really thinking of that. We were just trying to find someone that could fuck and sing the catalog, and make sure that they could sing the SCARS and REDEFINE album songs good enough. Yet, the new material we were writing with them was also awesome. I still tell people when they ask me. I’ll tell them like, “I think TRUE SELF is one of the best Soil albums.” My opinion.
When you left Soil – did you start feeling uncomfortable in the band or did something fall apart?
Yeah. There was starting to be some disconnection. I didn’t agree with certain things. I was frustrated. I did want to play heavier stuff. I was writing. I did start writing some new material that definitely wasn’t built for Soil. I was listening to more metal stuff again, came back into my life. I wanted to write more modern metal. I just started writing material that I knew wasn’t right for Soil. One of the songs I wrote was the first Dirge Within song was called “Forever the Martyr.” I had basically that whole song demoed and ready to go, even before I had a band. Then I got with a drummer, a local guy. He was a friend of mine named Jimmy, and I and him just started jamming on the side before I was technically leaving Soil.
RE-JOINING BROKEN HOPE
When you pulled out of Soil, a couple of years later, you re-joined Broken Hope and made one album, then you skipped the band once again.
Yeah. I left Soil and formed Dirge Within. Dirge Within put out FORCED FED LIES and THERE WILL BE BLOOD. We toured a lot. We did some great tours, Gwar, Trivium. We did shows with Static-X. Our first tour with Dirge Within was with Static-X. Wayne was totally supportive of it. It was great. We just kept hammering it and touring. Then after a while, when Dirge Within started falling apart, Jeremy and I reconnected. We had a couple of people who were just in managing the band, because we talked about putting Broken Hope back together. My lead guitar player and friend Chuck Wepfer was the second guitar player in Dirge Within. He played the lead guitar on the second album, THERE WILL BE BLOOD. Chuck and me, we were really tight at the time and I said, “There’s situation coming about with Broken Hope. We’ve got labels. We’ve got management, blah, blah, blah. Dirge Within is falling apart, because of Jeremy’s quit. I’m going to do this Broken Hope thing where it’s like a reunion with Jeremy, but it’s going to be a whole new line up, except for Jeremy and me.
I definitely need a killer lead guitar player, because Jeremy is just a rhythm guitarist and I’m going to go back to playing bass to keep it true to form. Because that’s what I did and Broken Hope, was played bass. Then Chuck said, “Cool man, I’m down. I don’t want to stop jamming. I want to keep working. Let’s keep going. Me and you are bros. Let’s keep doing it.” I told Jeremy, “Let’s check out Chuck. I’m going to teach him a couple of songs, come down to rehearse.” We started putting the line up together for the OMEN OF DISEASE album and the reunion tour. The first tour was with Obituary, was called the “Carnival of Death.” It was a great tour, awesome run. We all had a blast and things kept evolving and growing and things were awesome. We got an offer to do an album and then all of a sudden Century Media wanted to do a record.
That’s when we were like, “Okay.” Chuck and I just focused on Broken Hope. We were like, “We started something new that was kind of like out of the remains of Dirge Within, but we were getting a new singer, Travis Neal. We started doing both bands at the same time. We started doing Broken Hope and then we were creating something new from the ashes of Dirge Within.
Did you feel Broken Hope wasn’t the same band as it was in the mid-’90s, because of a couple of guys…
Yeah, of course.
You left the band.
It was different at the same time in certain ways to be brutally honest, it was better. We had a little more people that were a little more serious and dedicated. Damian from Gorgasm became the vocalist. He was awesome at it. He could sound very similar to the style that Joe Ptacek did on the past albums. He was really into death metal. Damian was very, very true death metal. He was or still is obviously in Gorgasm, where he played guitar and sings. I knew he could handle singing on stage, no problem. It was going to be interesting for him not to have a guitar in his hand, but it felt fine. Especially like once Chuck got in, and I and him have such a great camaraderie that it was really fun again. The band was sounding great and. Jeremy was just very determined to bring it back to life and it was his baby. He was doing Broken Hope, when I was in Sindrome. It was his baby, but I was also a part of the band’s history as well.
METAL IS MY FUEL
How do you look at your career, all the way from Terminal Death up till now – There are different metal and rock bands, I guess you have had a very good position to see trends coming and going and of course meeting fans.
For me, it’s smart to be current. I still listen to all the stuff I grew up on and all the stuff I’ve listened to in between and after. I always do try to stay current and listen to new bands. I’ll listen to As I Lay Dying and understand why kids get into that. Not anymore. That’s not even really a new band. I listen to the current stuff, but also that I can relate to. That’s what I think keeps me fresh and writing. Probably when I pick up my guitar I’m not just writing riffs that sound like Terminal Death anymore. I guess I stay with the times. Do I think Repentance is the freshest current modern metal out there? I don’t know. Judging from the response to the album’s getting, I’m totally stoked and overwhelmed with the response. I feel that we did hit home with people that listen to current metal, because I don’t think anyone that’s listening to Repentance, for the most part, listen to Sindrome and Terminal Death and Broken Hope really.
Maybe a handful of people that follow me are, but I would think that the majority of people that I’m reading on social media that are into Repentance, aren’t really familiar or even into those bands and that’s cool. For me, it’s about reinventing man and staying current. Leaving some impression in the metal world. If this band gets even bigger and bigger, awesome. Bring it, I’m ready. I want to do it. First, let’s get over this pandemic and see what happens with our country, the president.
Which are the catalyst or elements keeping your metal flame still flaming inside you that you haven’t given up? Most people at our age – you’re a little bit over 50 – have already given up and started doing something else.
Someone even like Troy, he’s got a very good job. He always laughs like, “Dude, how do you keep doing it?” I’m just like, “I don’t know man. I still got the metal fucking heart. I still got the flame.” It’s funny I’m not out of rocket fuel. Some of my friends in the industry say like, “You know when certain bands run out of that fucking rocket fuel, the tank is empty.” This tank ain’t empty yet. I still got it in me to create and still can go on stage and kill it. I’m healthy, for the most part I feel.I get to still play it with people that want to play brutal music and it’s the flaming going. I could probably play 50 shows this year and be fine and not feel a thing. Again, let’s hope we get through all this. I feel that it’s in me. It’s in my DNA. It’s like ever since I was a kid and discovered Kiss and UFO and Judas Priest. It’s what I love to do. There are other things I do in life that make me happy, obviously I’m a father. I have an awesome goofy seven-year-old son that’s downstairs having dinner right now. Stuff like that. It takes me away from the metal. I still am that stupid 28-year-old kid in my mind, that wants to play fucking Slayer riffs.
When going to festivals, I have seen many people of different ages, but most of the people are middle-aged. Sometimes I wonder if the metal has become more like a playground for middle-aged men who are still having the dream and are having the teenage year from the ’80s.
I don’t know. In Europe I always saw the festivals, it was very diverse. I saw girls that were 18 or 19 wearing Cradle of Filth shirts. Guys wearing an entire battle vest of their entire discography of what CDs they have at home on their jacket. It seems pretty diverse age group, but I don’t know if young kids are getting into metal as much as they should. In America it’s very different than Europe. I can’t speak on behalf of Europe, but it’s a shame. I feel that young kids in America are definitely listening to more of the pop and hip hop and rap and no disrespect, not my thing at all. I do listen to some pop, as long as there are female vocals. I cannot listen to any pop with male vocals. It’s an instant turn off. A good pop song with a girl that’s got a cool voice.
Not Billie Eilish. Not really. I like some Britney Spears. I like some Christina Aguilera. I like some… What’s her name? She always has a ponytail. I forgot her name. It’s a Latin girl. I forgot. I like some of her stuff. In the States, I think it’s a shame that some of these kids are being so dominated by pop, rap and guys with tattoos on their faces that look like they just got out of jail. I think that parents should make their kids listen a little more to AC/DC. They should put on some Motorhead or some Pantera in the house and teach your kids some good rock and roll, good metal and some Beatles or whatever, Led Zeppelin. I’m not a big Zeppelin fan, but the stuff like that. I think it’s cool. My kid yet, he’s definitely not even into music yet. He thinks every band’s Metallica. He doesn’t even know Metallica, but he’s like, “Daddy, you’re a Metallica band.” At first my son thought I was in Metallica, because I listened to them and he’d seen the shirts. He’s like, “Daddy, your band Metallica.” I’m like, “I’m not in Metallica.” He would see funny stuff like that, but he is seven.
Okay Shaun. Thanks for your time. Before concluding the interview, name your five favorite metal albums.
My God. My five favorite metal albums? This is really hard to do… Well… Can I consider rock stuff metal too, right?
Okay – Go ahead
Kiss – ALIVE! ONE. It’s like the first record I really worshiped and owned. I would have to also throw in UFO – STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT. Another live album that was really important to me. Michael Schenker and Pete Way and Paul Raymond and Phil Mogg. Those guys. Kiss – ALIVE ONE and UFO – Strangers in the Night. Then I’ll have to go to Metallica – RIDE THE LIGHTNING. I’ll go with Slayer – REIGN IN BLOOD and VoiVod – DIMENSION HATRÖSS.
All right Shaun. It was a pleasure to talk to you and I have to go back to sleep. Thank you for your time.
Awesome. I hope this answered all your questions and everything you needed to know. Have a great day and stay healthy, man.