Death SS – Steve Sylvester

Death SS
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INTERVIEW WITH STEVE SYLVESTER OF DEATH SS

Formed in 1977, the Italian legendary horror/occult group Death SS has released ten full-length outputs by now. The band’s tenth opus simply called X was unleashed by Lucifer Rising run by the band’s mastermind Steve Sylvester. The album is the pure evil and horror done in the Death SS way. Therefore it was about to talk to Steve Sylvester about the new album. 

Interview and pics by Arto Lehtinen


How’s it going in Death SS at the moment during this eccentric era

At the moment, I’m reorganizing the band waiting for the concert situation to normalize since here in Italy it is still all closed due to this fucking Covid …

NEW ALBUM – X 

Death SS has released a brand new opus simply called X. Did you have more downtime to compose and write X’s material because of Covid-19 shut everything down?

Of course! I started writing the new record just shortly before this whole situation happened, so the times for composition, arrangement and recording have expanded a lot and the whole artistic and creative process has been significantly affected by this.

X is the tenth album by Death SS, was it a logical choice to name the album after X or did you have another option for album titles on your mind ?!

“X”, the number ten in the Roman numerical system, chosen to name my last album, is not a random title. The number Ten symbolizes perfection, as well as the cancellation of all things. 10 = (1 + 0) = 1, illustrates the eternal starting over. Ten is the total of the first four numbers (and in our case the first four Albums / Seals) and therefore contains within itself the entirety of the universal and artistic principles contained in each of them.

The X album contains quite a few guests, such as Andy Panigada, the original Bulldozer guitarist. How did you pick up and select all the guests for the album and what kind of role and input did each of them has on the album ?!

Andy Panigada is a longtime friend of mine and I often compose new songs with him. We understand each other on the fly and have a lot of musical tastes in common, so I decided to work with him again this time. Other guests are JJ Masini, who is an excellent composer with a very goth style. Other guests were instead called as additional musicians such as the great guitarist Ghiulz Borroni or to enrich the sound of some songs with instruments such as the accordion and the violin that we could not play alone …

You have worked with different producers such as Neil Kernon. As for the new album, as far as I know, you have mostly worked on your own, am I mistaken ?! Could you reveal a bit more about the working and producing process of X ?!

For some years I have preferred to work on the production of my records alone, in the recording studio of my keyboardist, Freddy Delirio, who is a very good sound engineer. We have all the means and the experience to be able to record and produce a disc in complete autonomy, and this allows us to work free whenever we want, without any pressure …

The previous album ROCK’N’ROLL ARMAGEDDON came out into the dark back in 2018 and this most recent one X emerged out into the light last year. There was just a three-year gap between those albums, whereas there was a five-year gap between RESURRECTION and ROCK’N’ROLL albums. Did you already have platforms ready or some un-used idea and leftovers from the previous album sessions that you used for the X album ?! Or do you start on a clean table so to say ?!

No, all the songs prepared for “X” have been composed ex-new in the last two years, directly for this occasion. In addition to the ten songs on the album, we recorded some other unreleased songs that we used and will use as B-Side of the singles.

Did this new album X challenge you as an artist, knowing that you need to work within timetables to make things work or have a more flexible schedule?

Each new album is a challenge for me, but luckily I have no pressure to schedule a new release and therefore I only release a new work when I feel I have great material available.

What could you tell about the front cover of the album? Is there some symbolic meaning in the front cover artwork?

The cover of “X” portrays the 5 characters of the band drawn by the great artist Alex Horley in a post-apocalyptic hellish landscape, together with two characters from the Italian sexy-horror comics, namely Zora the Vampire and Suspiria. There is no particular hidden symbolism behind this cover, other than the great visual impact that Horley’s design arouses.

As for the X album, how did the material get shaped, did you process the material on your own or were all the members of Death SS involved in the song-making process?

I worked out all the material myself and then the other guys in the band arranged it separately, each with regards to their musical skills.

As far as the lyrics of Death SS are concerned, as primarily based on your own experiences and beliefs of occultism. As far as I know, you draw other issues and influences to the lyric writing process… Could you shed a little bit of light on your lyrics on the X album? What are they all about?

” TEN” is almost a sort of concept album because all his songs are connected to each other by a common feeling, related to this particular historical period, dominated by the terror, that we have all lived and that in part we are still living today …. Both lyrically and musically there is therefore an alternation of lights and shadows, even if the latter often seem to prevail over the first. The mood is very “doomy”, even if there is no lack of power and energy and the desire to rebel and fight, which is the characteristic of all the “heretics” of the Rock people.

RITUAL SHOWS OF DEATH SS

How much of the new material of the X album are you going to play live? Half ? Do you try to mix the old classic ones with the new ones or how do you create setlists for gigs ?!

We will certainly try to insert some songs taken from our latest album in the next live set-list, which we will place together with other indispensable classics from our previous discography.

Gigs and shows are always spectacles and memorable ones that a gig-goer won’t forget that easily. As a matter of fact, could you describe a Death SS show for a person not having witnessed you live yet ?!

I always try to represent on stage the atmospheres that our songs and our lyrics suggest, even theatrically. For this we make use of giant screens with projections dedicated to every single song played and we have sets and performers who interact with us and the audience during the show. This is how I consider a rock show must be! On this Alice Cooper teaches …

What kind of plans do you have for upcoming gigs to promote X ?!

It all depends on how the pandemic situation will evolve and the associated restrictions. In each case we have long ago decided to do only a few concerts in full production, that is only when there will be the possibility of performing on great and worthy occasions. Each DEATH SS concert will be a unique and special event!

LUCIFER RISING AND LABELS

Lucifer Rising label is run by you, Steve Sylvester. Do you Steve view having rights and controlling all the Death SS releases and merchandise is easier via your own label than making a deal with different kinds of labels?

Certainly, managing your own label allows you to have more freedom of action throughout the recording sector. In any case, I always have to consult with my executive producer and management in order to optimize every detail of the production phase. I have been doing this job for many years and I believe I have acquired the skills by now. Of course, collaborations and licenses with other labels are always welcome.

When releasing a new Death SS album, how do you take care of the distribution or do you invest more in the digital format ?! In general how do you view these digital platforms like Deezer, Tidal, Spotify ?! Do you find them more beneficial for Death SS to reach out to more audiences?!

The recording market has now changed radically compared to when I started doing this job. Today you absolutely cannot do without digital platforms representing almost the entire market. Personally, however, I will never give up on making limited editions for collectors in various physical media, CDs, vinyl, box-sets as well as 7 “and audiotapes. I am first of all a fan and a collector of these items and I love that they are also created for my band!

During the past few years, vinyls have made a triumphant return into the music market. Does this bring or cause any kind of challenge for you or do you appreciate the ongoing vinyl boom ?!

As I told you before, I really appreciate this thing, being a vinyl collector. The vinyl charm has always been and will always be timeless for any true music user!

 

OTHER BANDS OF MEMBERS

Do other members of DeathSS have or run side projects and play in other bands while being a member of Death SS ?! I assume Death SS is the number Uno for everyone in the band, but do you have to sort out any schedule problems ?!

Yes, any musician involved in the DEATH SS project is free to have other bands as well. Then we try to manage it internally, so as not to create work overlaps…

Members have come and gone quite a few during these years of existence. When looking for and recruiting a new member for Death SS, what kind of abilities and aspects are the most important ones that a musician needs when joining Death SS ?

It is true! In all these years of careers, there have been many musicians who have held the role of Death, mummy, werewolf, zombie and phantom of the opera. DEATH SS is like a big family open to any good musician who has the right attitude and open-mindedness and who is able to interpret the roles that have been assigned to him worthily. However, it is not a very simple thing! I am very demanding and I always ask for the utmost commitment and feeling from those who decide to be part of this band.

When a member leaves the band, is the total end of friendship and contacts or do you leave a door open and a chance if a guy wants to rejoin the band ?!
I always leave a door open to anyone who becomes part of my family. In general, I have always remained in contact and on excellent terms with each ex-member of the band.

A BIT OF CENSORSHIP AND OTHER TOPICS

I have been following Death SS for decades and seen Death SS has been in the teeth of censorship in your home country Italy because of your image, lyrics and videos. Do you view the censorship of your art has been a humiliating, witch-hunt in some cases?

More than anything else, I think it’s a really ridiculous thing! I have always been subjected to censorship for my shows which are considered unacceptable by some stupid bigots. In today’s world I think there are many other things that are really shocking, certainly not a healthy theatrical representation with a horror-fantasy theme…

Are there some religious organizations that constantly try to put you or Death SS down, boycotting your concerts or getting names for petitions to prevent you from entering other countries?

Of course! I’ve gotten used to it now! In any case, I have almost always managed to win out!

Have you got problems in other countries or has it been kind of easier to play and release albums outside of Italy?

The great difficulty I have always encountered in releasing my albums outside Italy is always due to the double letters “S” in our name. I still have to keep explaining that DEATH SS is not a group of Nazis but that the SS is simply the initials of my name …

When the Finnish monster combo Lordi won the Eurovision Song contest in 2007. It could be noticed that Lordi’s mummy figure had an obvious reminiscent of the mummy figure of Death SS, well the Swedish rock/metal whatsoever group Ghost and its frontman Tobias Forge has mentioned Death SS as one of the important influences on Ghost. How do you take these mentions? Do you view Death SS as an important name in the extreme metal underground?

Well, there are many who say that …! In fact, we started doing these things, with this look and talking about certain horror-esoteric themes, as early as 1977. At the time, neither Venom nor Mercyful Fate, nor Lordi and Ghosts, did not exist yet … I’m proud to have been an influence for many bands !

How much do you follow and pay attention to the current metal/rock genre? Does it tempt you to check out ?!

I have to tell you that I don’t follow the current rock-metal scene very much. I usually listen to any kind of music, at 360 degrees. Also when I want to relax I almost always tend to listen to music that belongs to my past, to my musical roots….

All right I for one thank you for your time for answering the interview for Metal-Rules.Com

Thanks to you!

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