Interview with Mark Riddick

On Thursday, January 19th of 2017 I recorded an interview with Mark Riddick, a local artist who specializes in the gory world of underground death metal and black metal artwork. He’s been creating his illustrations of horror and decay since 1991 and he just released his newest art book (more on that in the interview). I highly recommend you follow his Facebook account and/or Instagram account as he regularly posts his new and old work there. Be sure to check out his band’s lyric video at the end of this post that features his artwork. For now, you can download the 29 minute interview as an mp3 here, stream it below by pressing the orange play button, or just read it (my words are in bold). Even if you listen I highly recommend reading along as I’ve inserting several of his images we discuss throughout this post and, simply put, they look awesome.

This is Metal Chris of DCHeavyMetal.com and for this interview I’ve got Northern Virginia based heavy metal artist Mark Riddick with me. If you’re a metal head then you’ve probably seen his artwork as album covers, merchandise and logos at some point. Bands from Morbid Angel to The Black Dahlia Murder to Absu to Arsis have all commissioned his work before and even more mainstream places like Dethklok from the Cartoon Network have used his artwork. Doomentia Press published Mark’s newest art book, Morbid Visions: The Art Of Mark Riddick [order it here]. Now to get things started here Mark, what vision for this book did you have when you started putting it together?

First of all, thanks for the generous intro. The Morbid Visions book, it probably started about two years ago that I took it on. I published a book through Doomentia Press probably about four or five years ago and that was called Compendium Of Death and that had about 20 years worth of illustration work from the early ’90s up to about 2011 in one giant book so it’s about [a] 600 page tome. That was released and it did pretty well. It sold out in about four months. Over several years I had compiled just a slew of logos from probably about 30 different artists for a book I was putting together called Logos From Hell and that came out in 2015 through Doomentia Press, again another 600 page book. I just felt that heavy metal logos, especially extreme logos, more so the hand drawn ones, needed to be recognized somehow in a uniform way. [I] wanted to really bring attention to the value of heavy metal logo illustration as a legitimate form of expression and logo design. So that was the reasoning for that book and then since that came out last year I thought, you know it’s been about four years, five years maybe since I published an art book so during the last two years, on and off, I was compiling the Morbid Visions book. One of the reasons why I named it Morbid Visions is because it’s a very influential album for me by Sepultura. That was probably one of my all time favorite albums so it seemed appropriate to name it that. It also spoke to the style and content of my work and it’s also more or less the name that I’ve used on some of the branding for the self publishing music that I do for my own band so it seemed like the right choice. But anyhow, it finally came out right at the end of December. [It’s] about 400 pages and it’s all work from the last four years compiled into one book.

Cover of Morbid Visions: The Art of Mark Riddick

Cover of Morbid Visions: The Art of Mark Riddick

You released a series of skateboards with your artwork on them. Did you approach Board Pusher about making them or did they come to you? How did that come about?

I’ve always had an affinity for skateboard art since my youth. I’m not a skater myself by any means but I just remember really appreciating the visuals on skateboards when I was growing up. Looking at Tony Hawk decks or Rob Roskopp, Zorlac I think was the one Pushead had done. I really, really honed in on that in my youth. I always wanted to do a skateboard deck and a couple years back I was solicited by a Swedish skateboard company to do a deck for one of their skaters. I ended up doing that and it was a cool project. [It was] my first time doing that. I’d never done a skateboard deck before. I was really happy with the end result. So I discovered Board Pusher online and submitted some work to them to have some skateboards produced and it just kind of picked up from there and they’ve been great to work with. Their CEO is a very nice guy. He was kind enough to do a couple features about my artwork through the Board Pusher website and media. That was cool. They’re great to work with. I’m really pleased with the quality of their product.

Board Pusher skateboards with Mark Riddick artwork

Board Pusher skateboards with Mark Riddick artwork

A lot of people know your artwork but you’re also a musician. You’re the one behind the one man death metal band Fetid Zombie. As such you released your sixth full length album Epicedia on Transcending Obscurity Records which is your second album in two years, along with several splits that you’ve put out. So why do you think you’ve been releasing so much music in the past couple of years?

With Fetid Zombie I like to try to put out at least one album per year. I’ve been trying to stick to that goal. I’ve also been somewhat prolific with writing and recording so between albums I will tend to release about two or three splits per year and that’s just more or less word of mouth like working with other bands or people contacting me asking to do splits and I usually oblige if I feel like it’s the right fit. Fetid Zombie is essentially a solo project but I do most certainly depend on guest musicians to assist with some of the instrumentation that I can’t do myself or that I envision and know I’m not really capable of. I always rely on other guest musicians to kind of help me see my vision through for the project. I think with Epicedia I really wanted to do something more grandiose so I went for lengthier songs, more epic approach in terms of songwriting, really spent more time on it than anything else I’ve done. I’m happy with the end result. I’m already working on new stuff. I’m hoping to continue in that direction where I combine the core of the band, which is old school death metal because that’s what I grew up on, but also borrowing a lot of elements from traditional heavy metal just to keep the music interesting and captivating.

So is there a reason you don’t really have any other full time band members? It’s just you and guest musicians.

I played in a regular band at least on one occasion with my brother-in-law and a drummer and that was great. It’s just, I have kids now, family, and I just wanted to do something on my own where I can do it on my own time and do it when the inspiration was in place and have more or less full control over how it sounded and how it was represented visually. The entire project is not just about the music for me. It’s [also] about the art and presentation. For me it’s about, how is the end user going to experience this release? That’s important to me so I try to give a little bit of attention to packaging, layout, artwork, things that accompany a music release. But yeah I just like having the conveniences of being able to do all the recording from my home studio at my own leisure and, like I said, when the inspiration is in place. Nothing is forced so I go at my own pace with the project.

Cover of Epicedia by Fetid Zombie

Cover of Epicedia by Fetid Zombie

Do you ever plan on performing live in any kind of capacity?

No I hate playing live. Absolutely hate it. I’m very introverted so it’s extremely difficult for me to get up in front of a crowd let alone play an instrument in front of a crowd and just the whole concept of coordinating such an event, it’s just beyond the amount of time I have in a day. I have way too many obligations on my plate to bother with playing live. I do appreciate that people might be interested in such a thing but I don’t think it’s ever going to happen.

I saw you’ve been getting a lot of press coverage, including an interview in Rolling Stone, for the metal style logos you did for Justin Bieber on his 2016 world tour. It appears you also did some for Rihanna that her backup dancers used during the MTV VMAs last year. Now how exactly did a guy who does all this artwork with skulls and rotting zombies end up working with some of the biggest pop stars in the world?

Haha, I wonder that myself as well. It kind of came out of the blue, I wasn’t expecting it. Regarding the Rihanna stuff, just to clarify, I didn’t do the logos, that was Christophe Szpajdel who, basically if you listen to metal you’ve seen his logos. Emperor, Old Man’s Child, he’s done everything. He handled the logos for that Rihanna performance. I just did the illustrations for the t-shirts that the backup dancers were wearing during the performance. Regarding the Bieber stuff, there’s been some confusion about that too. I just did the Bieber logo stamp. I didn’t do the Pentagram style Purpose Tour logo that a lot of people think I did which I did not do just to clarify. The jobs were pretty much a fluke. It happened after the former creative director for Kanye West had reached out to me regarding some stuff for some kind of show that Kanye was doing. I did a little bit of stuff for them. None of it got published. That project fell through, but one of the people I was working with was one of the guys who helped brand Kanye’s Yeezus Tour. This was all completely new to me because obviously I don’t listen to hip hop music. I don’t know anything about hip hop music but it was an educational experience if you will. Whatever the case, one of the guys involved in that project is the one who contacted me for the Justin Bieber stuff. I was kind of on the fence about it for just a little bit. I thought, I’m going to take a chance on this and let’s see if this starts up a conversation in the metal community and see where it goes. I was really curious and it felt right because a lot of the stuff I’d been seeing in 2016 with the appropriation of heavy metal visuals was kind of getting under my skin a little bit. Not so much that the visuals were being borrowed by hip hop culture, I could care less, but they’re just not doing it right. I kind of was bothering me. It looked too forced so since they were asking me I thought, I don’t want to see any more of this forced stuff out on the market. It was bothering me. So I figured ok, at least they’re asking me because clearly I’m well ingrained in underground metal subculture. So it felt like an interesting test if you will. So I took it on and the end result took place and that’s that.

Justin Bieber logo by Mark Riddick

Justin Bieber logo by Mark Riddick

So do you think you’ll work with any of those guys again?

Well, I’m taking a slightly different approach in 2017 here with my artwork. I actually did get asked last week to do some more stuff for Justin Bieber and I turned it down because in 2017 I want to approach my art differently. I want to do what I want to do. I want to draw what I want to draw this year. So instead of taking guidance from clients and customers about what they want, I just want to do my own thing and then license the drawings out to whomever is interested in the work that I do. That gives me more creative freedom. I’m getting older. I’m 40 now. So by the time nine o’clock rolls around I’m really tired. I just want to watch TV. I’ve had a long day at work, [I want to] hang out with my kids, my wife. I just want to chill out you know? So I figure I still want to draw. I love drawing and I’m still passionate about it but I just want to do my own thing and not feel that sense of obligation. Like oh I’ve got to get this to this band by this time because they’re about to go on tour. I don’t want those pressures right now. 2016 was very productive so 2017 for me, I’m sticking to my guns and just doing what I want to do at my own pace. I’ll still be doing the artwork. I’ll just be approaching it differently.

Now I’d heard that you charged Justin Bieber the same amount as all your other clients. You didn’t raise you rates because he’s really rich or anything. Have you thought about raising your rates after all that exposure?

No. I’m keeping my rates the same. It’s really important for me to be accessible to even the most underground band from maybe a country that might be struggling financially. It’s important to me because I’ve been so involved in the underground metal scene since the early 90s and I know bands struggle. I play in a band. I don’t make money off my music. I don’t expect to. I don’t care. To me it’s about making music and sharing that music. I feel like creativity should never be left to collect dust. If you’re creative and you have a creative output: share it. Whatever means that takes to share it, just share it. Because other people will appreciate your creativity as well. So for me it’s about being fair so that I can still [be] accessible to a really underground band but I’m still easily accessible to maybe a bigger metal band or something along those lines. So no, I have no intention of raising my rates at all. To me it’s just supplemental income. I do favors on occasion too and it just depends on how I feel, you know? Or who I’m dealing with. But no there’s no intention to raise rates by any means. I do want to be accessible like I said.

So what kind of price range do you charge for some of these things like the logos and album covers and t-shirts and things that you do?

I charge a flat rate for all my work. [I] charge the same amount for a logo as I do [for] a finished illustration. One would think the illustration would cost more because it’s more detailed but to me a logo represents a visual branding that has a much longer shelf life than an illustration would so I keep it all at the same price. I charge a flat rate of $350. To me that’s reasonable. If you’re four guys playing in a band, each guy contributes $75 or so, then you get a nice t-shirt design. You know it’s as simple as that. Like I said I want to be fair and I want to be accessible to whoever wants to work with me.

Metalocalypse - Dethklok artwork by Mark Riddick

Metalocalypse – Dethklok artwork by Mark Riddick

You also did some work for the Cartoon Network show Metalocalypse and I remember the show’s fictitious band came to the Fillmore Silver Spring in November of 2012 and they had a shirt for sale there that had artwork you had done on it and I knew as soon as I saw it [that] it was yours. Your style is very recognizable. It had this big skull on it with curled ram horns coming out the side and it had people impaled on it I think. It was really cool looking, it was very striking. Certainly the coolest piece of merch they had there. So I’m really curious, how did that come about? How did you end up working with this television network?

So that was kind of a random thing also. I find that every year something unusual falls in my lap. When I get work I don’t go out looking for the work. It just kind of comes to me so. I don’t mean to sound cocky but that’s just how it is. Stuff falls in my lap. I can decide whether or not I want to take it or [if I] have the time for it. This was a number of years ago I was sitting at my computer and I was on the phone with the drummer from my band and just checking my email while I was on the phone with him and I got the request for some band called Dethklok and they attached a picture of the band and there was a cartoon drawing and I’m thinking, what the hell? Is this a joke? I don’t understand this. I tried reading the email to my drummer while I was on the phone with him and he said, “You need to take that job. That’s from Metalocalypse.” I didn’t know what it was because I don’t really watch too much Adult Swim and honestly I’ve probably only seen one or two episodes of Metalocalypse. But anyhow, that’s how it came about. The art director on their team for that part of Adult Swim had reached out to me and they wanted me to some poster work or t-shirt artwork for them. So they’ve come back a couple times. The show is now off the air but during its span I probably did about five or six maybe seven pieces for them that ended up being used for various print and merchandise products. But they were great to work with. They were very fair and they were actually very generous. I charged them my rate and they paid me more on some occasions because they just had the budget for it which is really, really nice of them. So yeah they’re a good client to work with I really enjoyed working with Cartoon Network.

I follow your Facebook and Instagram accounts and I always see you posting cool artwork you’re working on or have recently completed. Are there any cool projects for bands or anything else that you’re working on right now?

I’m trying to get past some stuff from 2016 that’s lingering so really I’m just trying to clear my plate. So that’s basically the stuff that’s sitting there. I’ll try to get rid of and like I said for 2017 I’ll just move forward in my own direction with my own work and then if a band inquires about art I’ll just give them some options but right now I am preparing to work on something for Thrash Attack which is an underground fanzine from Germany. Which is cool they cover a lot of the really classic, old school German bands or just metal bands in general. Mostly thrash given the title Thrash Attack. I’m working on, I’m very excited about this, it’s about six or seven pieces that will be for split 7″ EPs that are going to be combined to create one image. So they’re like individual record covers but if you buy all the records you can put them together and you get this really long, elaborate piece of artwork. So that’s pretty cool and I’ve got about two more covers before I’m done with that. That’s for a Swedish label called Sound Of Records and they mostly deal with represses but they have a couple things coming out. And let’s see I have to do something for Horror Of Horrors. I’m pretty excited about that. I did a 7″ EP cover for them probably in like 1993 or something like that. To me this is the kind of stuff I really enjoy doing, is when an old, underground band from years ago comes back and wants something else. That makes me really happy. So I’m looking forward to working on that. I gotta to help out Hell’s Headbangers with the new Hellcast logo. That’s their podcast, so I gotta get that done. There’s a record label that does shred guitar stuff called Crushing Notes, I gotta do some cover stuff for them. And then a label logo for a California based record label called Repugnant Records. I have something in progress for Hate Eternal. That’s been kind of dragging along. [I’m] just waiting to hear back. I also strangely did some stuff for Metallica that I’m waiting to hear back on so I don’t know if that’s going to pan out. My feeling is [that it] probably won’t. But that was kind of a unique opportunity to be asked to do that. That’s it, that’s all I have kind of lingering from this past year but beyond that I’ll just kind of see what comes my way.

Sketches of covers that will combine for Sound Of Records

Sketches of covers that will combine for Sound Of Records

You’ve done artwork for a lot of cool bands over the years. Were there any bands that you got to work for that really kind of made you step back and think like, I can’t believe I get to work with this band.

Yeah well the Metallica gig, haha, obviously is a big deal to me. It’s kind of died down a little bit the excitement because last I heard those sketches were sitting with their management so I don’t know if they’ll be approved or not and I know they’re getting ready to tour so if they do want something I’m at the ready but still I’m not really sure if that’s going to pan out. So there’s that obviously but yeah like working on shirts for Grave. Skull Fist is another band I really like. Getting the chance to do a shirt for them last year was pretty cool. My favorite thing is just doing artwork for bands I really like. Like Horrendous or Deceased. Those are two local bands that I really appreciate, it’s cool to be able to do stuff for them. I can’t think of anything else off the top of my head but there’s certainly stuff that’s come by that is really exciting to work on as a project. Rotting Christ, that’s one. That was cool. I got to do something for Rotting Christ that made me happy. There’s definitely a handful of projects that [I] really have been honored to have worked on.

How did you get into drawing and doing artwork for metal bands in the first place?

I’ve always had a curiosity since my youth, before I even knew what heavy metal music was, just by looking at the album covers in record stores I was always kind of enamored by them. When I was about 10 years old I started getting into hard rock music and then like most metal fans you kind of graduate to the heavier and heavier and heavier so you know I went from hard rock to more traditional heavy metal to thrash to death and black metal so there’s always been that appreciation for the aesthetic. I’ve always had an interest in drawing so to be able to couple those together was enlightening for me. I think when I discovered the underground death metal scene that’s when it really clicked for me. That I knew I had an avenue to exercise my skill set in drawing. Starting to do demo covers and 7″ record covers and fanzine covers. I love fanzines because I know that those editors put a lot of time and effort into their finished product and I respect that. It’s just really the underground metal scene, that’s where I really found my calling.

Artwork for Ominous Hymn

Artwork for Ominous Hymn

Have you ever had any formal training for your artwork?

Yeah I’ve had formal training in the sense that in high school I took all the art courses, took some art history. And then when I reached college I ended up majoring in studio art with a concentration in painting which is kind of funny because I don’t paint so much. That’s actually one of my goals for 2017 is to do some more painting, to get back into that a little bit. So I’ll be spending some time on painting this year. So I do have formal training in regarding taking courses in school. I was really lucky to have great art teachers during my education. When I think of my high school years, the two teachers that I had were very supportive, very encouraging and taught the basics but also steered me in the right direction. I guess it helped me be passionate about the art I was doing. When I reached college I was also fortunate to have three professors who were also very wise and had a bit of a philosophical approach to creativity and to art. I felt that that was extremely valuable in terms of applying that to my own work. So, formal training, that’s about it. I do believe that practice helps. I literally draw every day. An artist never creates his masterpiece, it’s always a journey. It’s always a learning process. The masterpiece is never reached but they just get better.

Are you into comic books or anything? I know a lot of artists that do that stuff are into a lot of, maybe old E.C. stuff or even just modern artists.

Yeah I’d say that some of those old E.C. comics played a role in influencing me. I remember collecting some of those when I was probably about 12 or 13 years old. I always had an interest in comic book art, not necessarily reading the comic books but I always loved looking at the pictures and I think at age six or seven I started collecting. I was really fortunate. My aunt Lee [Marrs] and my uncle Mike [Friedrich] were both extremely involved in the comic book industry. I think my uncle Mike created one of the offshoots of the Comic Con. He also created some of the characters in Guardians Of The Galaxy and my aunt she wrote for like Batman and different kinds of comic books. She even had her own indie comic. She was really involved in the feminist comic book movement. So she is kind of considered one of the progenitors of that genre of comic book. They were both really involved in it. We’d give them our comic books and they’d go get them signed by the artists because they knew the artists. It was really cool for me as a kid to be able to have something like that. I always appreciated that. I always had an appreciation for comic book art. Like I said I never really read the stories but I definitely don’t collect them any more. It’s been years since I’ve purchased a comic book but I do have a respect for that genre of art.

Artwork for Cvlt Nation

Artwork for Cvlt Nation

You almost exclusively work in black and white. Is there any reason for that?

Yeah there’s been a couple reasons. I’d say first and foremost my approach to black and white is just a holdover from my early years in the underground metal scene. 1991 was when I first got into that and all the underground magazines and all the demo covers, even some of the 7″ record covers, they were all done on a photocopier. It was kind of rare at the time that you’d see anything with a color copied cover. The quality just wasn’t great and it was sort of an expensive commodity to have a color cover. So the black and white approach speaks to the whole photocopy era of the do-it-yourself attitude the underground metal scene had at the time. I feel like my work really needs to encompass that real visceral, raw, aesthetic from that time period because it played such a pivotal role in my own freelance art career that it seemed a necessity and so it stuck with me and I learned how to manage the pen on paper and I never stopped. I’m still doing it. I feel like it’s become part of my visual brand as an artist and I feel like it’s important. I can’t change. At this point I really don’t want to to be honest with you. I enjoy what I do. It’s, like I said, part of who I am as an artist.

You stopped doing commissions for a while in the early 2000s for maybe about five years or so. Why was that and what made you decide to come back into doing all this artwork for bands.

It’s interesting that you note that. So it’s probably around the time that I finished college up in the late 90s and started my day job work career as a graphic designer. I started learning more about Photoshop and just graphic design in general so I stopped doing the ink work and took an interest in Photoshop. [I was] creating album covers and Photoshop collages and stock imagery and things like that. So during that time period I was active in the sense that I was doing a lot of experimenting on my own. I did a lot of stuff for Willowtip Records I think around that time. Handling graphic design like CD layout and CD designs but they weren’t illustrated they were all like Photoshop collages and things like that. I feel like the metal scene has just become just over saturated with that approach and a lot of the stuff is just not well done so I started to get tired of it and I missed drawing. It had been a couple years since I’d really done a lot of artwork so when Willowtip came to me and said, “Oh I have this new band called Arsis I’m signing. Can you do their logo and their album cover.” So I thought, I’m kind of tired of this Photoshop stuff. I’m gonna pick up my pen and actually draw the album cover this time and then I went back and put some Photoshop stuff in it. But that was kind of what got me back into illustration was doing that A Celebration of Guilt album cover by Arsis. And so around 2005 or 2006 for a holiday gift my twin brother had purchased the domain name for my artwork and that’s what started the whole Riddick Art brand. So it gave me a venue to start publishing my work. Ever since then, so for the past decade or so, it’s just been nonstop. It’s like second nature for me. Drawing for me is like pissing, you know if that makes any sense. It’s just something I do. I have to. It’s therapy for me. It’s meditation for me. So it’s a necessity if you will. But yes since 2006 I just kind of picked it up and didn’t look back.

Cover of A Celebration of Guilt by Arsis

Cover of A Celebration of Guilt by Arsis

Alright well what do you think your biggest artistic influences have been?

I would say in my youth the Iron Maiden album covers. Derek [Riggs], his paintings really resonated with me early on. Obviously Edward J. Repka, all the classic thrash stuff [he painted] and then you know when I got into death metal Dan Seagrave‘s work clearly was inspirational. So some of those album cover painters were the ones who initially got me going and then when I discovered the underground metal scene I really took a liking to an artist named Steve Somers who played bass for an underground band called from Wisconsin called Phantasm. A great band. Some of their stuff just got repressed on cassette again which is awesome. I picked them up even though I have the original demos. But Steve Somers, his artwork was so inspirational for me. It was just better than anything else you’d see in the underground scene. Another artist in the early 90s is Russell Evans. He is no longer active in the scene but he had a lot of great pen and ink work. Obviously Chris Moyen needs to be mentioned here. Chris Moyen, I consider him my European counterpart. He’s been doing the same kind of work since the late 80s and I just absolutely love his style. His stuff is all over the place. If you look at black metal music you’re going to see Chris’s work somewhere. So Chris Moyen is definitely an influence on my own work. Those are some of the first artists that I really looked to for inspiration but there’s so much stuff out there now also. A lot of great artists have been around for a couple years are just starting to do some work. I love Daniel Corcuera from Chile. His stuff is just phenomenal. Probably the best around in my opinion. I like Matt Carr a lot, I like his stuff. He goes by the moniker Putrid. There’s so many artists out there now. I can keep going and going you know like, Halsey Swain. She’s done some great stuff for Toxic Holocaust and a lot of other bands. The list goes on. There’s so many artists out there whose work I love.

Are there any pieces or any projects that are your personal favorites or that you’re just the most proud of?

Not necessarily. I think it would be hard to narrow it down. I guess there are more experiences that I really enjoyed like, I collaborated on a piece with Vince Locke whose done all that Cannibal Corpse artwork. So that was really cool for me to be able to do that. I did a collaboration with [a] Japanese artist named Toshihiro Egawa. He does more of like a brutal slam death metal type artwork but he’s freaking phenomenal so it was cool doing something with him too. I don’t have any real stand outs per se, but there’s certainly pieces I know are more successful in terms of the way they turned out versus others but I don’t have any particular favorites.

Vincent Locke & Mark Riddick collab piece for Loculus

Vincent Locke & Mark Riddick collab piece for Loculus

Most of your artwork seems to be for underground black metal and death metal bands so what is your favorite kind of metal? Do you like death metal or black metal better?

Personally death metal. I tend to be a little bit more picky when it comes to black metal. If you’re talking anything with the Greek or Mediterranean sound like Mortuary Drape or early Rotting Christ or things along those lines, I’m all about it. I love that stuff. But the core of what I’m really into is death metal. Pestilence Consuming Impulse [is] probably one of my favorite death metal albums of all time. Nocturnus, some of the classics. I’m also really into anything underground. I’m always trying to find new and interesting bands. Anything kind of testing the boundaries of the genre a little bit I’m really curious about. So I’m more of a death metal kind of guy but I definitely like black metal, I definitely like thrash. I like a little bit of doom. I like some [traditional] heavy metal. Just the other day [I was] listening to Keel and Ratt and Dokken so, you know, I’m pretty open in terms of my taste but I tend to hone in more so into death metal.

Well thanks a lot Mark. You’ve answered all my questions here and you’ve taken a lot of time and given me some thoughtful answers. I do appreciate it, thank you.

No I appreciate your time and the interest. I’m really grateful for your time and support. I think I mentioned in an email before, what you’re doing for the local metal scene and the metal scene in general is certainly commendable. As a local myself I’m extremely grateful for it. I really appreciate the service that you’re providing on your own time and because it’s something that you’re passionate about. I really respect that.

Well thanks man. I do appreciate it and again thanks for your time and have a good one.

Alright take care man. Have a good night.

Mark Riddick art process

Interview with Abbath

On Tuesday, March 8th of 2016, I was given the chance to interview the legendary Norwegian black metal musician Abbath to help promote his upcoming show in Baltimore. We covered that and so much more in this over 14 minute long interview. Despite his grim appearance he is actually a quite humorous person, though the interview is rather, dare I say, touching, at points. I have been sick all week and my voice is rather flat in much of this interview, but I think the questions were strong enough for you all to get a better idea of the man behind the corpse paint. You can stream the interview below by clicking the orange play button, or you can download it as a 32.63mb mp3 for free here and of course you can read the full transcription below (my words are in bold).

Photo of Abbath by Ester Segarra

Photo of Abbath by Ester Segarra

This is Metal Chris of DCHeavyMetal.com and today I’m speaking with Abbath via Skype all the way from his kingdom cold in Norway. Abbath is probably best known for his time in the Norwegian black metal band Immortal but in January he released an eponymous solo album on Season Of Mist records. Abbath, the band, will be headlining the Decibel Tour with High On Fire, Skeletonwitch and Tribulation also performing. The tour kicks off on St. Patrick’s Day, Thursday, March 17th at the Baltimore Soundstage [tickets available here]. Now to get things started here, am I pronouncing your name correctly?

It’s Abbath [Ah-Baht].

So where exactly did you get the name from? How did you choose the name?

I didn’t choose it, the name chose me. It just appeared in my head.

So what kind of set can fans expect on this tour? Will you be performing any songs from your past bands or all new material?

Not my past bands but my past band, yeah, Immortal, yeah. We’re also going to play a song from the I album, Between Two Worlds album. Yeah and there’s going to be like maybe four Immortal songs and one I song and the rest is going to be new songs.

Now American Gabe Seeber has joined your band as Creature the drummer. How did you find him and how did he end up joining Abbath?

The mighty Creature Gabe yeah. We met this guy in Australia, Brisbane was it? He was an excellent drummer and after the tour Kevin [Foley, original Abbath drummer] left and this guys he told us about Gabriel and he’s just fantastic. He’s just amazing you know. I’m going to meet him in a couple days and [I] can’t wait to do another tour with him you know. He’s the best you know, he’s just amazing and young as well you know. 25 years old and what a fucking talent he is. The best drummer I’ve ever played with. Him and Kevin. I was devastated losing Kevin [but now we] have a kind of a second shot with Gabe.

So the new album has been really well received by fans. What vision did you have for it when you started putting it together and do you think you captured that vision?

It was the carrion call you know? And I was very fortunate to have this great lyricist called Simon Dancaster, who also participated in the early days, who also participated in writing some of the lyrics on Blizzard Beasts. I met him by accident. I haven’t seen him for years and he came to my friend Tore [Bratseth]’s birthday party. Tore from Bömbers my Motörhead tribute band. And we just started working from there you know? I had all these songs, music working and I had these themes and ideas and we just worked around from there.

So what do you think makes Abbath different than Immortal?

Well it’s still my music you know but it’s a different band and it’s different musicians, different lyrics, but it’s still the music you know as it were with Immortal. So it’s just a continuance of myself.

So do you think you’ll ever possibly rejoin Immortal at some point?

Um… I don’t know, you know. I, I, you know, eh… Never say never they say but I don’t, I don’t uh… It’s not a time to think about that right now.

OK so in 2006 you had a band simply called I that also had [Abbath bass player] King Ov Hell in the line up. Is Abbath the band something of a continuation of I do you think or do you see it as a separate entity with its own musical direction?

No I mean it’s still my music. It’s just a continuance of my music and with I, I have more old school heavy metal elements, rock and roll, heavy metal elements put into it. I just sit down and make the music I feel like making and if it works for me, it works.

In November of 2015 there was an Old Funeral reunion performance in Bergen, Norway. Is there any chance that another possible Old Funeral show will happen or even new Old Funeral music?

No that was the last Old Funeral performance ever. If I’m ever going to continue it it’s going to be New Funeral. Hahahaha.

What made you decide to go in the direction of black metal instead of a more death metal sound which was definitely more popular in the underground at that time?

No I never, I never follow what’s popular you know. I just do what I like you know. If I wanna do a fucking pop album I’ll do a fucking pop album. That’s simple as that.

Haha.

If I want to do a disco album I’ll do a fucking disco album, it’s as simple as that. I don’t care what’s popular or not out there. I just follow my gut feeling and heart feeling and just make the music I feel like making. That’s what it is you know. Music to me is freedom. It’s the freedom of expression. It’s just me, you know. Maybe I don’t write the lyrics myself but I’m part of it. The music is mine. I make the music and I find the right people to write the lyrics with me. It’s simple as that. It’s just rock and roll isn’t it? Really?

Heh heh. So what is the definition of black metal to you then?

Lay down your souls to the gods rock and roll! Just uh, you know, Venom. Black metal to me is Venom. 1982.

Do you think black metal should just be about the music itself or do you think religious, theistic and political beliefs have a place in it as well? And do you think fans of black metal need to share similar beliefs with the bands they support? For example, can you be a devout Christian that is also a fan of black metal?

You know black metal is, it’s supposed to be rock and roll. It’s the Devil’s music. It’s about freedom and it’s about, fuck off to those who would tell you what to fucking do or whatever the fuck it’s just, be your own god. Work your own mysterious ways. Believe in yourself and have a kick ass fucking time. Bang your fucking head. Be cool, hahaha. It’s rock and roll, yeah, that’s what it is. Without rock and roll you know, without Buddy Holly there would never be a fucking Venom or a Motörhead. It’s just you know, raise your fist and kill.

In March of 2000 I saw Immortal on tour with Satyricon, Angelcorpse and Krisiun in Wheaton, Maryland at a place called Phantasmagoria. I remember seeing you breathe fire on stage and leaving giant black marks on the ceiling and I’d never seen a black metal band put on a show like you guys did that night. You guys really blew me away and I became an instant fan and a couple months ago Satyr of Satyricon, he made some comments in an interview [here] about that tour and he said he disliked playing small bars and clubs in the Midwest on that tour. Do you remember anything about that tour and was it really that bad?

We were touring around the States. We did some shows on the West Coast and we did a couple of shows, we just jumped on the Satyricon tour. We were sharing a van with the Brazilian guys Krisiun. The mighty brothers of Krisiun. And [I] remember Alex [Camargo, bass and vocals for Krisiun] one of his favorite albums, Battles In The North hahaha. And uh we just jumped on the tour, the Satyricon tour, they had their own bus and Angelcorpse they had their van. And I remember, it was alright. It was Satyricon’s gig you know. We didn’t get a sound check or anything but we delivered you know. The show must go on always, whatever. The last show, we’ve been touring a month in Europe and it’s been great and everything. We’ve had a sound check every night and the last show on this tour, Blastfest, we didn’t get a sound check and the sound on stage was horrible but fortunately we know how to play. We didn’t hear jack shit up there. [Abbath makes a lawn mower sound]

Well the Baltimore Soundstage where you’ll be playing on Thursday the 17th, they actually have really good sound. They’re one of the better sounding venues in Baltimore so hopefully that won’t be a problem.

Baltimore, yeah yeah. I’m flying over with my tour manager Steve on Sunday and we fly to Philly to have a couple days of rehearsal there because our bass player is not able to come over so we’re gonna play with another bass player over there.

Oh who’s going to be playing bass on this tour?

Uhh… I don’t remember his name but he’s a friend of Gabe’s and he’s alright.

Abbath performing with Immortal at Sonar in 2011

Abbath performing with Immortal at Sonar in 2011

The last time you performed in Baltimore was when Immortal played at Sonar in February of 2011.

I remember that one, yeah.

Yeah I remember someone threw a bottle on stage during “Grim And Frostbitten Kingdoms” [video here] and I remember you stopped the show and got really mad and yelled at the guy. Did you ever find the guy or anything? Did you ever find out who did that?

No I didn’t.

Do you remember anything else from that show? It was with Absu I believe was the opener.

Yeah Absu yeah. Absulutely! Hahahaha. Uh… that show was alright wasn’t it?

It was a great show, yeah.

Yeah. You never know who’s in the fucking audience. It’s like, that’s a part of the battle isn’t it? It’s the front line, you never know who’s going to show up, what’s going to fucking happen. We were supposed to play in Bataclan [the concert hall in Paris, France, where terrorists killed 90 people while the Eagles Of Death Metal performed there on 13 November 2015]. You know Motörhead was supposed to play there a couple days after that massacre you know. It could have been us, it could have been Motör[head]. You never know but the show must go on. You have to go up there because, it’s your life it’s what you want to do you know. It’s just rock and roll and if that’s what’s going to fucking kill you, alright. So if someone throws a bottle, you know, I’m not fucking Axel Rose alright?

Now you were in a Motörhead cover band called Bömbers for a while and I was curious what kind of effect Lemmy [Kilmister, bass and vocals of Motörhead] had on you musically and how did his passing last December affect you. Did you ever get a chance to meet him?

Yeah several times. What a fucking gentleman he was, yeah. Him and Ronnie Dio, coolest guys I’ve ever met. I love my father but fuckin’ hell those were my fathers too ya know. And [it was] just devastating. It was… I still can’t believe they’re gone ya know. Fuckin’ hell. Me and King you know we went to Greece… a couple days ago we came home recently from Greece finishing the video for “Winterbane” and I bought this Metal Hammer special. I mean I had like a five hour wait in [the] Copenhagen airport and [the] Metal Hammer special, Lemmy special and I just sat… there in the bar reading it and, and uh… you know I… I got this lump in my throat and it just… it just, you know… devastating. He was like a father to us in many ways. Lemmy… he was the best. He was the coolest. He was everything. So where do we go from here you know, yeah. Carry on. Carry fucking on. Rock and roll. Yeah.

Lords Of Chaos movie poster

Lords Of Chaos movie poster

So what do you think about this Lords Of Chaos movie [based on the book Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground by Michael Moynihan and Didrik Søderlind] that is in pre-production right now? Do you know if you will be portrayed in the movie or have you been consulted about it in any way?

Really? I didn’t know, I didn’t know about that.

Apparently it’s not a documentary it’s going to be an actual movie with a script and everything.

Oh yeah, oh yeah.

I think Ridley Scott has attached his name to it, the famous director. I think he’s producing it or he’s somehow tied to it.

Ridley Scott? You’re talking about the Alien director?

Yep. Yeah I don’t think he’s directing it I think he’s like the producer or something like that. He’s been attached to it. I saw his name attached to it [here].

Yesterday in fact I saw this movie with my girlfriend called The Martian [that is directed by Ridley Scott].

Yeah, yeah. The one where they go to Mars and he’s a scientist trying to stay alive.

Yeah, yeah. And there’s a Norwegian actor in that called Aksel Hennie and that was fucking great I mean, Ridley Scott? Wow. It better be good then! Hahaha.

Hahaha. I mean it’s probably a couple years away still or at least a year I would think but I was just curious if you’d heard anything about it.

Whatever, we’ll see! Hahaha.

Now there’s a brewery in Austin, Texas called Jester King that names some of their beers after different heavy metal subgenres and they make a stout named Black Metal and the drawing in the label is a guy that wears corpse paint and he looks pretty similar to you. Have you ever tried that beer and do you like it?

Jester King's Black Metal beer label

Jester King’s Black Metal beer label

Never heard of it, I probably don’t like it. Hahaha.

Do you like craft beer at all? Do you ever drink the micro brews or anything?

I like this… Ringnes!

That’s something we don’t have over here.

This is what I drink mostly. It’s a good Norwegian beer.

Well 1349, they’ve had a couple beers come out with their name on it like official 1349 beers. Do you think there will ever be like an Abbath Ale?

Abbath Ale? Hahaha. I just did a tour with Behemoth recently and they had a couple of beers they wanted me to try. They were actually good, yeah. Pretty good. Yeah. Everybody is doing that now. Nobody sells records so they gotta fucking sell something. Hahaha.

Well thanks so much for your time Abbath. Is there anything else you’d like to tell your fans before your tour starts here on March 17th at the Baltimore Soundstage?

Die hard! …please come to our show. Hahaha. We’re gonna do our damnedest! Yeah. I can’t wait, I can’t wait. Fucking hell.

Awesome.

I’m looking forward to it, yeah.

I’m really excited it should be a great show.

Thank you Metal Chris!

Alright have a good one man and have a good flight over here on Sunday.

Thank you sir.

Alright, take it easy.

You too.

Interview with Steve “Zetro” Souza of Exodus

Last Friday I interviewed another icon of heavy metal, Steve “Zetro” Souza. Zetro is fronting thrash metal band Exodus and they will be playing at the Black Cat on Wednesday. This is one of my shortest interviews but we covered a lot in that time including when we can expect a new Exodus album, what is going on with some of his other projects and how he got the nickname Zetro in the first place. You can stream the six minute interview by pressing the orange button below or download it as a 7.81 mb mp3 here. The transcription is below and my words are in bold.

Photo of Zetro Souza by Bruce Getty

Photo of Steve “Zetro” Souza by Bruce Getty

Hello, this is Metal Chris and today I’ve got Zetro Souza, the vocalist of the legendary Bay Area thrash band Exodus, on the phone with me. Exodus is currently on tour with King Diamond however the band is taking a night off from the tour with King Diamond to play at the Black Cat in Washington DC on Wednesday, November 18th. So how’s the tour with King Diamond been going so far?

It’s great. It’s crazy every night. It’s a good package. The King and us [have] been around forever you know I guess you could say and we’ve been good friends a long time so the tour really works really well. We’re good friends with his band and their crew so yeah, it’s kicking ass. It’s definitely kicking ass.

So will Exodus be playing a different set list at all for the headline show at the Black Cat? Any oddball songs maybe thrown in that you might not be doing on the rest of the tour?

Yeah because we only get 45 minutes with King so we’ll play 90 minutes that night so there’ll be a lot of stuff thrown in. Even the set we have with King there’s a couple of songs in there that we haven’t played in a long, long, long time that we’ve brought up so.

Now I remember when Exodus played at Empire in November of last year, I was at that show and I remember seeing you sing some of the songs from the Rob Dukes era of the band like “Children Of A Worthless God” for example. Do you have any problem playing those songs from his time in the band?

No. No they’re actually really good songs. I actually play a couple of different ones on this tour. I think we play “Children [Of A Worthless God]” but we also play two different ones that we didn’t do on that one. They’re good songs. There’s no reason to take Exodus’ history away. Just because I’m back in the band doesn’t mean the last ten years didn’t count or didn’t matter. Those songs are really, really good.

So the 2014 Exodus album Blood In Blood Out has been a hit with the fans. I know the album was written with Rob Dukes in the band. Are there any plans to do another Exodus album in the future with you involved in the writing process?

Oh yeah. All of the few stints that I’ve done with Exodus I’ve always written songs. Obviously we’re going to keep going. This isn’t just like, get in the band and finish it all. We’re going to keep going. This is what we do. We love what we do.

So is there any kind of time frame on that? Have you guys started writing at all or any kind of studio time scheduled?

Well you know we haven’t started writing. [Exodus guitarist] Gary [Holt] also plays in Slayer so Slayer just put out Repentless a few months ago so they’re touring as well. I would say… probably no sooner than 2017 at some point ’cause we still have 2016 all booked up with tours to do as well.

In July it was announced that you are not going to be doing vocals for Hatriot any more. Do you think you’ll ever rejoin your sons in Hatriot?

You know what he wants to do it. My oldest [Cody Souza] wants to be the singer and he sounds really good. He does a really, really good job at it. So him and I are writing songs together ’cause he’s not a lyricist yet but he’s learning and he’s gonna be great. I’m watching over them. I’m making sure they get going.

That’s cool. Do you think we’ll ever be getting any more songs from Dublin Death Patrol?

Nah. Chuck [Billy]’s too busy with Testament and his management company and I’m too busy with Exodus and trying to write songs with Hatriot as well so probably not. That was kind of just supposed to be a one album thing and then we kind of got talked into the second one and we really didn’t have any time to tour ’cause at that time [the Testament album] Dark Roots Of Earth was coming out so [we] just couldn’t do it. So it was alright. It worked out great. It was fun.

Now have you played Washington, DC before? Do you remember anything special from any shows in this area?

Oh yeah well we played there many times. It was a real small room. I can’t remember what it is [named]. [It] probably doesn’t even exist any more. But it’s been a while since I’ve played in DC. It was back in the 80’s and the 90’s it was a tiny little room. I think we played there with Leatherwolf and Cycle Sluts From Hell. It was actually a really cool gig.

Do you have any bands from the DC area that you’re a fan of?

Minor Threat come on.

Yeah.

Everybody loves Minor Threat.

Pentagram is from here.

Oh they are? I didn’t know that.

Yeah, Pentagram, Clutch

I thought they were from Connecticut.

You’re one of the old guard from the old Bay Area thrash scene. Are you a fan of any of the modern thrash bands that have come out in the last maybe ten years or so like Municipal Waste, Power Trip, Skeletonwitch, Vektor?

Yeah because see I was in Hatriot so I was on that level for a while so Havok you know, Hatchet, those bands are all killer you know. [The] Black Dahlia Murder, [The] Faceless, I love those bands.

So are there any new bands that you’ve been listening to a lot like right now like maybe a new album [that has] come out in the last year or two.

Nothing new. I’m more old school like I’ve been slamming the new [Iron] Maiden, the new Slayer and actually the new Soilwork lately.

Okay, where exactly does the nickname “Zetro” come from?

Oh I was taking some drugs, some acid when I was about 17, no 14, and I just blurted out the word “zet” and from zet it turned into zetro. So they started calling me that when I was like 14 so it’s been around for quite some time.

Haha, alright. Um…

Don’t do acid kids!

Haha. Now there’s tons of metal bands that have been getting an official beer made for them by various craft breweries lately. Is there any chance that Exodus might have an official beer coming out at some point?

I don’t know [about an] official [beer]. They’ve been making non-official ones I’ve seen over in Belgium and in Holland but actually Jack [Gibson], our bass player, was telling me that there is actually a brewery up in Northern California that’s going to make an Exodus beer. So we’ll see what happens.

Oh cool, cool.

That’d be great. Those are all the flattering things in life.

Hahaha. Well that’s all my questions. Thanks a lot for your time here it’s been really cool getting a chance to talk to you. Can’t wait to see you perform with Exodus at the Black Cat on Wednesday, November 18th. Anything else you’d like to say to the metal fans in the DC area right now?

The DC and Virginia fans always supported us man we love that pit so come out and see Exodus next Wednesday. We’ll kick your ass for sure.

Alright man. Well thanks a lot.

Thanks Chris. See you then.

Interview with Max Cavalera of Soulfly

Earlier this week I had the chance to talk to another one of the legends of metal, Max Cavalera. He was very laid back and down to Earth and he is the first person I’ve interviewed that has brought up some of our local bands without me asking first! Max talks about Soulfly’s new album and tour as well as his time in Sepultura, the future of Killer Be Killed and he even gave some cool background stories as well. The entire interview lasts a bit under 15 minutes and you can stream it below by pressing the orange play button, download it as a 20mb mp3 here or read the transcription below where my words are the ones in bold. I hope you enjoy this interview as much I did!

Photo of Max Cavalera by Hannah Verbeuren

Photo of Max Cavalera by Hannah Verbeuren

Hello everyone. This is Metal Chris and today I’ve got the honor of interviewing Max Cavalera who is the main man behind Soulfly [and] who is also a current or former member of many other bands including Cavalera Conspiracy, Killer Be Killed, Sepultura and Nailbomb. Soulfly is currently on tour right now and they will be playing at the Ottobar in Baltimore on Wednesday, October 21st. So to start things off here Max, let’s talk about the newest Soulfly album, Archangel, which came out this past August. Can you tell me about the concepts behind it? It seems to have sort of a Biblical feel to it.

It’s a different record for sure you know it’s our tenth album and we are trying to do something a bit different from everything we have done and I decided to call the album Archangel and having a couple of biblical references in some of the songs like “Sodomites,” “Bethlehem’s Blood” and some old Babylonian themes like “Ishtar Rising” and “Shamash.” It was cool. It was a fun record to make. We had a really good procuder, Matt Hyde, he has done Slayer‘s God Hates Us All, and Monster Magnet and Deftones. So he’s a very good guy, very good producer. And we had a good team you know. The artwork was done by Eliran Kantor. He’s a guy from Jerusalem that lives in Germany and does some amazing album covers and the inner sleeve was done by Marcelo Vasco who is a friend of mine from Brazil. [He] does a lot of death metal album covers. He actually did also the new Slayer album cover. So I like the album too. I think the album is extreme. It’s got a lot of influence from the stuff I listen to and I think it is very energetic. It shows a very energetic side of Soulfly that things are not slowing down at all. We’re just getting started you know, even on our tenth album. So it’s pretty exciting.

Cover of Archangel by Soulfly

Cover of Archangel by Soulfly

To my understanding Mike Leon from the band Havok is playing bass on your current tour. So how did he end up joining Soulfly?

Yeah we found out that Mike was not with Havok any more and we thought it would be a great fit for Soulfly because he’s such a good bass player and he’s a good friend too you know. So we knew him, Soulfly did a tour with Havok, we all became friends and he kept in contact with us. When he played near my house with Arsis he came to see me and so we flew him in and did some practice and he’s amazing. And he brought a whole lot of new blood to Soulfly man. A lot of people are saying this line up is the most lethal they’ve seen in a long time man. It’s pretty kick ass. I got somebody I can headbang with now ’cause [Soulfly guitiarist] Marc [Rizzo] doesn’t have any hair. So you know I still got all my dreadlocks and you know Mike has a lot of hair so we can headbang together, haha.

Now I know the guys in Decapitated were having visa problems getting into the country for this tour. Have you heard any update on if they’re going to be on the tour at all or are they still just awaiting to hear anything?

They’re going to be on [the] tour but I just don’t know when. They’re supposed to be getting that cleared out any day now. In fact I heard rumors they were supposed to be here tomorrow or the next day. They’re going to be here. So we just keep our fingers crossed because I love Decapitated and I love to have them. It’s such a good bill with them on it you know it’s a strong four bill tour and it’s a shame that it had to happen to them. I hate those visa things and government things like that so you know it’s like it sucks when that happens. But we are hoping that they will be here soon so we can at least finish the tour with them.

As I mentioned before, you’re in a bunch of bands and after this Soulfly tour ends, which band are you going to be focusing on?

Well right now I’m focused on Soulfly for a long time ’cause the album just came out and I’m really excited for Archangel. I think it’s an album that we can do a lot with you know we can really tour a lot for it and we are going to try to tour a lot. We have two tours right now. This one with Soilwork and Shattered Sun and then we have another one in November with Crowbar and Incite and Shattered Sun and then we have some shows already in Australia early next year and Europe and some invitations to do some other stuff that we are looking at right now and hopefully we can go [to] South America, Australia, China and Japan, Middle East I hope you know and another US run because we didn’t do a lot of the big markets like Detroit, Philadelphia. We didn’t do that on this tour yet so there’s still places to play in the US so for another tour so we are hoping that we can get another one of those tours next year.

That’s really cool you’re going to be playing on this for a while too but I guess that means no new Cavalera Conspiracy or Killer Be Killed any time soon?

No, not for a while. Cavalera [Conspiracy] is on a big break. I will not probably touch Cavalera [Conspiracy] for a long, long time and Killer Be Killed maybe. We [will] see where we [are] at next year. We maybe do some riffing and get some song ideas started for the next record and see where we are at. Where every band member is at the time. Troy [Sanders] had a little bit of family problems early with his wife having cancer and had to cancel a bunch of Mastodon dates so we’re hoping that things get better on his camp and then he can come back and do some more stuff with Killer Be Killed. I’m in contact with Greg [Puciato] all the time. He’s super excited for another record. We’re going to do it, it’s just, we don’t know when or where, but it is going to happen at some point. I think we are going to work a little bit on it next year and then eventually get it out there some time in the future.

Have you ever thought of doing a solo Max Cavalera album or do you sort of see Soulfly as your solo project?

Soulfly is kind of my thing like, ’cause I have all the guests on every album. You know we had Todd [Jones] from Nails and Matt [Young] from King Parrot on Archangel and I had David Vincent from Morbid Angel and Tom Araya from Slayer and Chino [Moreno] from Deftones and Corey [Taylor] from Slipknot and the list of people that I work with is real long but I would like to tour more with other bands. Especially I’ve got a lot of bands that I like. I like a lot of new bands you know like Homewrecker and Genocide Pact and…

Oh yeah, Genocide Pact is from here.

Yeah. Xibalba, Young And In The Way, you know I like a lot of this new stuff man. You know it’s great. The new Genocide Pact album [titled Forged Through Domination] is insane. I’ve been listening to that a lot and I love it and hopefully [Soulfly will] get one of those bands to tour with us next year. Would be great.

So are there any other DC area bands you might be into? We’ve got a bunch from here. Like you said Genocide Pact but also you know Pig Destroyer, Dying Fetus, Pentagram, Deceased.

All of those are great, haha. Me and my son Igor we really like them a lot. You know Igor is a guitar player [in] Lody Kong and they’re really good friends with the Noisem guys and the Full Of Hell guys so they’ve been to our houses a bunch of times and I never actually met Dom [Romeo] from A389 Records but my son Igor has met him. Hopefully he can come to the Ottobar show. I’m really dying to meet him and finally get to know him in person. I’m a big Pulling Teeth fan. I love Pulling Teeth man you know. I mean they were just an amazing, amazing hardcore band, grindcore band you know so I’m very excited to be out to the Baltimore show. I think it’s going to be a great show.

You’re kind of talking about some of like the hardcore bands, you know I remember back in the day when you were back in Sepultura, Jello Biafra helped you guys write the “Biotech Is Godzilla” song and I was always kind of curious, how did that happen?

I’m not sure if I remember exactly how but I think we kind of hand picked him out of our idols that we had growing up in Brazil. Dead Kennedys was a huge, huge band that me and [Max’s brother and former Sepultura band mate] Igor [Cavalera] listened to a lot. I especially loved the lyrics. I love Jello’s black humor on stuff like “Holiday In Cambodia” and “California Über Alles,” “Kill The Poor,” “Drug Me.” So we had the idea to let him to write the lyrics for the song and he did it and sent it on a cassette tape and I ended up using the growl that he did on the cassette tape. I put that on the record. And he was pretty surprised when he heard that. He wasn’t expecting it. He told me like, if I would have told him he would have made a better growl and I told him, “No, no but that’s what’s cool that you’re not thinking that was going to go on the record. That’s why I like it ’cause you weren’t really prepared for it.” You know so, I gave him that excuse and he was cool with that and you know I’ve always been into the whole punk scene. A lot of European punk stuff, Discharge, GBH, Exploited and on the American side of course Black Flag and Minor Threat and Bad Brains of course, one of my favorites. Amazing, amazing. I think they’re pioneers of so much of the stuff. Even some of the ideas that I’ve brought into Soulfly some of the stuff like doing kind of like the metal reggae versions of songs like “Bring It” and “I And I” are heavily, heavily based on the actual original idea of Bad Brains which was mixing hardcore and reggae and I love that mix. I think it’s a great mix. I still think more can be done with it and I think it’s something to dwell with in the future, to do more stuff with that.

You worked with another guy from the DC area in a project. That was when you worked with David Grohl in the Probot project. How did he contact you about that or were you already friends with him? How did you get involved in that project with him?

Yeah Dave used to come see all the Sepultura shows all the time. He was a big fan. When he was living in Seattle he came a lot to the Sepul shows and we struck a friendship and we got contacted from him out of the blue about this Probot project and he sent me five songs actually and he told me to pick one and I love “Red War.” It reminds me of [the Sepultura song] “Territory” the beginning and I even told him that. “Like that’s cool man. Sounds kind of like ‘Territory.'” I love the beginning of the song and so I went in the studio and put the vocals on it but I love the idea [of] an album with his favorite metal singers and I love the record I think that the King Diamond song is excellent, the Cronos song, the Lemmy [Kilmister] song. It is a very, very cool record. A very cool idea and I think he pulled it off man. He’s such a good drummer and the music on it is really good. The Probot music is actually really, really powerful and we actually played “Red War” live with Soulfly a couple times on a European tour and it was really fun. I did a book last year [titled My Bloody Roots: From Sepultura to Soulfly and Beyond] and we actually asked Dave to do the introduction of the book and he was very, very honored and he did it for me and gave me the coolest introduction ever about his speakers that cost twenty thousand dollars getting blown up by the Roots album [by Sepultura]. I thought that was such a great story and it was really cool you know so I was really glad that he got to do the introduction of the book and he’s such a huge fan and loves Roots so much so it was great having him do that for the book and I was very excited.

I’ve always thought you’ve had a really cool story too. You guys came out of Brazil almost out of nowhere out of this underground metal scene that was pretty much unheard of until you guys took the world by storm. It must have been really hard finding an underground metal scene at all in those days. You know this was way before the internet. How exactly did you get into metal in those days back then?

It was very different. Like you said it was before internet. We used to do tape trading and sending tapes out and painting our own t-shirts and sending them out and we were in contact with a lot of underground bands. I remember being in contact with Death, Morbid Angel, Obituary and Kreator and Destruction, Dark Angel, Possessed and all those bands wrote back to me and in fact my first time I saw the name Sepultura was on the first Death album Scream Bloody Gore that he thanked Max and Sepultura. That was really cool for me to see that for the first time. So yeah it was a different time, different era but I look [at] it both ways. It was exciting at the time but I think it’s cool now too because I think you can find a lot of cool stuff on the internet. You can look for bands from different parts of the world. You find Psycroptic from Tasmania and Nervecell from Dubai and Melechesh from Israel. I use Spotify a lot and find a lot of cool bands on it myself so I think it’s cool.

So you live in the Phoenix, Arizona area now right? So do you ever think of going back to Brazil to like live back in Brazil do you ever visit there or anything?

Nah I go there to play and my mom lives there. I get to see her and I do a lot of shows there. I did a big, big Cavalera [Conspiracy] tour. We played everywhere. We had a tour bus even for the first time ever and we went from city to city and went to some really obscure cities of Brazil and it was a great tour and I have been going to Brazil more often than ever the last three, four years. I’ve been there quite a lot, quite massively. It’s great you know. So I don’t really plan to move there. I love Phoenix. I love Arizona. For writing it’s really good where I am. I write my music in peace and it’s really good you know so I love going to Brazil to play but that’s about it.

Now I think I already know the answer to this but I feel like I have to ask. Do you think there’s any kind of way that there will ever be any kind of Sepultura reunion with you. Even just a one-off live show or anything?

Probably not you know. I mean I don’t see it happening and I don’t really care much about it. I think the time has gone when it was exciting to do it was like ten years ago it would have been cool but not now. And we all moved on from everything. You know I got a lot of projects. I got Cavalera [Conspiracy], Killer Be Killed, Soulfly is doing great so I don’t really need it you know it’s like, kind of let it become a, kind of a cult thing as it was. You know when I was with them we did great stuff. The records were amazing and live shows were killer and a lot of that is captured on video and people can see it. We can not live it up to, um, not to ruin it because a lot of those reunions they’re not really good you know so it’s like why ruin something that was good? So I think it’s kind of better to leave it like that you know.

You know I feel lucky I actually got to see you guys on the Roots tour with Ozzy and Danzig out here in like ’96 or something. Well thanks so much for your time today Max. If you’ve got anything else you’d like to tell the fans out here in the Washington DC, Baltimore, Virginia area now’s your chance.

I’m really excited for the show. It’s going to be a great show. You know keep supporting metal and we’ll see everybody at the show. It’s going to be an amazing night. You know I can’t wait. Can’t wait at the Ottobar. It’s going to be a great, great night for metal and we’re going to try to play as hard as we can play. Try to give them the best show possible they can get.

Alright well thanks so much again for your time man. I’ll be seeing you on October 21st at the Ottobar with Soulfly. Thanks again Max.

Alright, thank you man.

Soulfly At The Ottobar on 21 October 2015

Interview with Marty Friedman

Last week I was given the opportunity to interview Marty Friedman. Marty is probably best known for playing guitar in Megadeth through the 90s although since then he relocated to Japan and has played in many bands there since then, including his eponymous solo project. I asked him a lot about his latest solo record, his upcoming tour and even his time living in the DMV area, but unfortunately he didn’t want to talk much about Megadeth and quickly ended the interview when I started asking about it. So I didn’t get to ask everything I wanted to (including lots more non-Megadeth stuff too) but there’s still some interesting info in this eight minute interview and you can stream it by pressing the orange play button below, download it as an 18mb mp3 here, or read the transcription below. As usual, my words are in bold.

Hello this is Metal Chris from DCHeavyMetal.com and I’m talking to the legendary guitarist Marty Friedman via Skype from Japan right now. Marty released a solo album in 2014 titled Inferno and he’ll be kicking off his US tour in our area at the Baltimore Soundstage on September 9th. Now Marty, you have eleven solo albums to choose material from and songs from other bands as well that you’ve been in. So what kind of set list can fans expect to see on this tour?

It’s going to have a little bit of everything in there. Obviously it’s a lot of stuff to choose from. There’s only about two hours to play. I think we’re shooting for like a two hour show, give or take a few minutes either way but there’s going to be a lot of surprises, a lot of things that people don’t expect. The stuff that’s worked best live in the past and the stuff that I’ve been wanting to play from my new album Inferno is going to get the most air time during the concerts.

So can fans expect anything from your older bands like Cacophony or Megadeth or Metal Clone X or anything like that?

Hahaha. Um, Metal Clone X maybe. Yeah I wouldn’t expect anything from the other bands really. I’ve got twelve albums of solo stuff to choose from. Yeah I really wouldn’t expect stuff from other bands. It could happen but I wouldn’t go counting on it.

So are you going to have a vocalist for these shows on this tour?

No, but there might be vocals anyway.

So maybe a couple guests might come out or something?

That could happen. There could be guests. There could be a surprise vocal by myself or someone else from the band. [There is] going to be a lot of different things that you wouldn’t really expect but the main focus is probably going to be on overall adrenaline and overall, wow I can’t believe it was this intense you know, and kind of surprise. That’s the kind of reaction that I think we’re going to get.

Marty Friedman

In May of 2014 you released Inferno and that is your first solo album to be released in the US in I think a decade or so here. Is there a reason you didn’t release anything to us in the US here for so long?

Yeah I’ve been really pretty much tied up in Japan with my activities over here and I’ve released several albums here in Japan. It was just a, you know, too much… I didn’t have the time or ability to cultivate the world outside of Japan so much and to do stuff like that right you really have to spend a lot of time touring and doing press and stuff like that and there just wasn’t enough hours in the day because I was so incredibly busy in Japan with everything here that I couldn’t give the albums the, you know, cultivation that they deserved outside of Japan. And then Prosthetic Records came up with the idea of reissuing all of my Japan only albums in America and topping it off with a new worldwide release called Inferno. I thought that was a fantastic idea and it allowed me to reissue my old stuff, not really old but my stuff that was only in Japan, and also let people see what I’m doing exactly right now all around the world so I really have to thank Prosthetic for that.

So is this going to lead to more releases here in the West and more touring?

Definitely. Definitely. This first tour is really just to kind of get my feet wet and introduce my Japanese band to people in America and I think they’re going to think it’s super fresh. It’s really exciting and it’s different you know. I really don’t know what to expect from the audiences in America as I haven’t played there in forever. But that’s the whole thing you know. The album got wonderful attention in America. Fantastic reviews in places like Rolling Stone and Grammy.com and Billboard. Places that usually completely ignore anything I do. It seemed to be a good sign to take it to America and go on tour. We’re already talking about a second leg of this thing in America and we haven’t even started the first one yet so that’s a good sign. It’s my home country and especially Baltimore is my hometown so I’m really super excited to kick off the tour there.

Why exactly did you name the album Inferno? Are you a Dante fan or does it have some other meaning to you?

Haha. Actually I wanted to have kind of a cliché heavy metal title. I had the concept for the cover way before I really had finished all the music. I wanted people to know that it was a heavy record and I wanted a really super cliché heavy metal word. But I wanted the photo, or the graphics on the cover to be like really artistic and non-cliché. So I wanted that kind of a opposite contrast. I wanted a super, almost corny title, but you know it’s metal. But I wanted to have the front cover, the whole entire cover, look like a gorgeous piece of art. Not a terribly typical heavy metal cover at all. That’s kind of where the title came from.

Cover of Inferno by Marty Friedman

Now like you said before, you used to live in this area. You lived in Laurel, Maryland then I think right?

That’s right. Yep, Laurel.

So when exactly was that and were you in any local metal bands here or anything?

Yeah I grew up in Laurel all the way through my teens and I was in a band called Deuce. We were uh, I don’t know if you’d call it metal but maybe metal, punk, rock and roll. And we played in the area. We played as far as New York and Delaware and Virginia and DC and all that kind of stuff. Really intense, kind of punk, kind of metal.

So did you ever go to Hammerjacks or some of the other venues around here back then?

Where did we play? We played at Louie’s Rock City. Is that even still there?

No. Most of the older venues are gone. 9:30 Club is still around.

We didn’t play there.

Black Cat, but a lot of the older ones they’ve gone under or moved or whatever. There’s new ones that have taken a lot of their places too.

Yeah, I really wouldn’t… it’s been a while man, it’s been a while. But it was absolutely great times and a lot of the guys from the band are hopefully going to be at this Baltimore show and we’re going to have a good time.

So why did you end up leaving the area?

My dad got transferred. His job got transferred to Hawaii. And which I loved going to Hawaii but it sucked leaving my band and it sucks for music in Hawaii so it was a double edged sword type of thing.

At some point though you ended up out in the San Francisco Bay Area or something right?

Right, that’s right.

Is that when you started Cacophony?

Yeah that’s where we put that together.

Cool, cool. Now how did you end up going from Cacophony to Megadeth? They were a fairly obscure band, to a much bigger name band?

Yeah you know what we’re going to, we’re going to have to like end this interview really quickly because the next one is up so if you have like one last final question you want to ask I can get to that but the next one is already on the line here so I’m already holding him on.

Marty Friedman at the Baltimore Soundstage

Alright I was told I had 15 minutes but alright um… why did you decide to move to Japan?

The Japan thing happened completely because I just got way into Japanese domestic music, or J-pop so to speak, which sounds like pop but it really includes rock and metal and dance music and electro music and everything. I just started listening to it 100% of the time and I’m like, you know this is where I want to make music so it was really that simple.

Alright now are there any songs or albums in your career that you would say that you’re the most proud of?

Definitely Inferno. I mean, hey it’s a common question but like if you can’t say your most recent album, if you have to say well I like my first album or my third album the best then you’re doing something wrong. Of course I like everything I’ve done but you know I wouldn’t bother releasing something if I didn’t think it was the best I could possibly do ever so I would have to say Inferno and we’ll play a lot of that at the show in Baltimore.

Cool. Well is there anything else you’d like to say to your metal fans in the DC/Baltimore, Maryland area?

I can’t wait to see what [the] DC/Baltimore area is like now. I haven’t been there in a long time and that’s where I grew up so I can’t wait to get back.

We’ve got a lot of metal heads and I know a lot of people are excited for this show.

Thank you very much. It’s so nice talking to you Chris.

Alright, thank you so much for your time.

Cool, take care.

Interview with Tom Warrior

On Sunday, May 24th of 2015 I interviewed Tom G. Warrior of Triptykon (and formerly Celtic Frost and Hellhammer). It was the final day of Maryland Deathfest XIII and I had to miss a couple bands that I wanted to see because of it, but it was definitely worth it. Tom’s people had arranged for us to use a small conference room in the hotel for the interview. I basically just sat down in a small room with just Tom, myself and my recorder on the table between us. The following 19 minute interview is the result of that conversation. I hope you all enjoy this interview with one of metal’s legendary pioneers.

You can stream the interview by clicking the orange play button below, download it as an mp3 here, or read the following transcription. My words are in bold.

Tom Warrior of Triptykon

Hello this is Metal Chris from DCHeavyMetal.com and today, this is the last day of Maryland Deathfest, I’m lucky enough to have with me one of the true originators of underground heavy metal, Tom Warrior, from Triptykon who played yesterday at the festival and people also know him from Hellhammer and Celtic Frost. Thank you very much for talking with me today Tom.

I’m grateful.

So the first thing I wanted to ask you is what exactly does the name Triptykon mean?

It’s the third occult metal band that I’ve formed in my life and as I’m mildly obsessed with the concept of a triptych it just seemed to fit perfectly. The first part of course being Hellhammer and the second part being Celtic Frost, Triptkyon being probably the bookend.

Triptykon was supposed to play last year at Deathfest. You guys were going to headline I believe at Rams Head Live one night and I know that you couldn’t make the show because your good friend HR Giger had just passed away and you had to go to the funeral instead.

We didn’t cancel lightheartedly but there was just no way that I could have left the widow and the other close friends. The week that we would have appeared here in Baltimore was both the memorial service and the burial which were two separate events and I couldn’t have possibly have left them alone for that. Not only because I was close to Giger but I owe him so much that there was just no question and I counted on the understanding of our fans. That’s why I made a lengthy statement (here) hoping that most people would understand what we were experiencing.

Yeah I think most people did. I think sometimes people forget that, you know we have these big ideas of the musicians in these bands that we look up to that we forget that they’re people too and they have commitments they have to do outside of music.

Well yeah. This was also related to music and it was much, much more than that. Giger was also a very close personal friend, and his wife was a very personal friend. There’s so many connections and I’ve always been there for them. They’ve been there for me. There was no way I could have said, “well goodbye, I’m playing a show” you know?

Yeah, completely understandable. Now [last year] you were supposed to play at Rams Head Live which is an indoor venue though and then yesterday you played outdoors on the big main stage. Which do you really prefer to have Triptkyon in because it was kind of weird seeing you guys with all that sunlight on you I have to admit.

Basically I don’t really care as long as we get a good connection with our audience and yesterday was fantastic. The audience were very exceptional. Of course I prefer Triptkyon in the dark and usually that’s a stipulation that we have but I understand that if you play outdoors here there’s a certain curfew because it’s in the middle of the city and we were the second to last band and it was only like seven o’clock or something. The whole thing is much earlier than like for example a European festival and we have no problem with that. We don’t have to enforce some stupid star trip you know? If it’s not possible any other way here then we do it. The most important thing is that we finally came here and that the people got to see us and we had a very good stage sound, we had a fantastic audience so there was some sunlight, tough shit.

It was a great show anyway. So back to Giger, I think fans know your relationship the most just from seeing the album cover art that he’s done for your bands over the years and I was kind of curious any other ways he may have influenced your music or your artistic development aside from just that that we’ve mostly seen.

Well the album covers, especially the first one of To Mega Therion, those are the visual tokens but the mere fact that Giger believed in us in 1983 when we first contacted him when we were nobodies, we didn’t even have a record deal. We had like two miserable demos. Nobody knew us. The few people who had heard us laughed about us in our own scene. I’m not talking about regular people I’m talking about the metal scene, they laughed at us, nobody gave us a chance. Everybody we approached wouldn’t touch us with a stick, promoters and record companies. The only person that took us serious was Giger who was at the pinnacle of his fame. He had just won the Academy Award and had just done Alien, and it gave us a tremendous boost that somebody of his format would actually believe in us and work together with us when everybody else wouldn’t take us serious. So it had a far larger implication to us than just the cover, which of course was a huge honor but it also made it easier for us to believe in ourselves if Giger, our idol for many years believed in us and he became our mentor. What can I say? That influenced just about everything else that came afterwards. And of course the To Mega Therion album became legendary, not the least by means of the cover so that was the beginning of a very long relationship that has implications to this day.

Tom Warrior's HR Giger Ibanez Iceman

I saw you had the bio-mech guitar that you were playing yesterday as well. That was pretty cool.

Of course. It’s the best sounding Iceman, it’s actually a coincidence. When we brought back Celtic Frost in the early 2000’s and we were working on the album, of course I’ve been playing Ibanez Icemans for forever, but just around that time Ibanez collaborated with Giger and created this Iceman model. And Martin Ain gave me one of those on my birthday in 2005. He surprised me with one of those and we played it during rehearsals and it turned out to sound better than any other Iceman I had. I had pretty much every Iceman model in my life and this one sounded so aggressive that we knew we have to have more of those. I’ve owned four of those in addition to the other Icemans and the other Icemans cannot compete. And of course its highly symbolic. It’s the Giger Iceman. It’s the best sounding and suits our sound perfectly. But there’s no design behind that, it’s just mere coincidence.

That’s a cool coincidence.

It fits perfectly, what can I say?

Cool. So have you written any songs to commemorate or as in a tribute to Giger at all?

No… I don’t know if I could write an appropriate song for that. What I intend to do is dedicate the next Triptykon album. The first one after his death, dedicate that to him. And the fact of the matter is that we designed three albums together while he was still alive. The cover, the booklet and everything for the third album from Triptykon, it has been designed, it has been approved by him. So it will be a memento to him at any rate and we plan on dedicating it to him. It’s going to be the very last cover that he was ever actively involved in. That’s basically our tribute, to realize that album that he was still involved in.

That’s really cool. During your live set you guys play a lot of the old Celtic Frost and Hellhammer songs as well.

It’s just about half/half. We always try to have it roughly half/half.

Do you prefer playing the older songs or do you like playing the Triptykon stuff more or is it all just kind of the same to you?

It’s exactly the same to me. If I had my way Celtic Frost would have existed for many more albums. Unfortunately certain people’s grand designs on their own fame and certain egotistical stunts interfered with that. And eventually the band became so unworkable that I personally said the only option that was left was leaving it. I formed Triptykon but in essence it’s exactly the same thing I did with Celtic Frost. It’s simply minus the egotism and the personality stunts. Even though it’s younger people, behind the scenes Triptykon is far more mature than Celtic Frost ever was. But musically the whole infrastructure around the band and my approach and the way I produce and everything it’s exactly the same. It’s basically what I would have done had Celtic Frost persevered. So to me the Celtic Frost songs merge perfectly with the Triptykon songs. I really don’t see a difference. We try to strike a balance because Triptykon is not just me, it’s four people and I don’t just want to be a Celtic Frost cover band. I think it’s fair enough to play half/half. Half newer songs, half older songs, but I think we’re doing fine with that.

So here’s one thing during your set also, you guys introduced yourselves [as being] from Sweden. Now I thought you were from Switzerland.

We are but just about maybe 70% of all Americans say, “well you’re from Sweden” so we said, “yeah, we’re from Sweden.”

So it’s sort of a joke on the audience then?

It wasn’t a joke on the audience. Nobody in the audience has any responsibility for that but it’s just, I’ve been playing, for the first time in North America in ’85, and ever since then I’ve been named a Swede uncounted times so yesterday yeah, we were Swedish.

Well a few of us around me, we all noticed for sure.

Pete Beste, the famous black metal photographer, [was] standing right in front of me when I said that and I saw his puzzled face because we are friends and he was looking at me like, “what the hell?”

Do you think there will be a full US tour from Triptykon any time soon?

It remains to be seen. I really don’t know. I’ve been becoming a bit of a recluse in recent years. I’ve toured so much and I’ve played so many concerts in my 33 years as a musician that I don’t want to endlessly repeat myself. I’d like to keep it, this is a really overused word, authentic. I’d like to still be excited when I go on stage and not just play a conveyor belt set. I’ve been shooting down so many things in New York and elsewhere when it doesn’t seem right. I want to play concerts that are still honest and I don’t want to do it like a job. I don’t want to come on stage and just be a routine. As for the United States there’s even more ??? Since I first played over here in 1985 the bureaucracy to obtain the necessary visas has multiplied and it has become very difficult, very expensive, the whole process and also [some] parts that are very humiliating for a 52 year old man who doesn’t really have to submit to all this stuff. So if we get a reasonable offer [then] yes of course we’re coming over but it really has to make sense for us to go through all of this. This time for 60 minutes on stage we went through months, months and months of visa petition process and interviews and payments. There’s no relation to the actual show time so next time if we come over here we would love to do that. It’s always been a high point for me for every album to come to the states but it’s got to make sense on some level given the time you invest and the nerves and bureaucracy and everything.

I know you saw Goatsnake today.

I interrupted the interviews today because I love Goatsnake.

I was supposed to interview you earlier today. They moved it back. It’s ok, I don’t mind.

That’s why I told you I’m grateful for all your understanding, your commuting and everything. I don’t take that for granted.

It’s no problem.

I saw Goatsnake in 2010 at the Roadburn Festival. They were monumental. I went back stage and I told them its one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen, and I really meant that. So we were all dying to see them today. Today it didn’t sound as good as back then for probably many reasons. But they’re still friends of mine and I really wanted to see them and I’m very, very glad that you made this possible by being so flexible.

No problem. Were there any other bands that you caught at Deathfest this year that you really enjoyed?

I don’t really listen to so much metal. I’ve been listening to metal since 1973 and I… I find that I fare much better if I listen to some of the other music that I passionately enjoy such as jazz music and old hippie music and all kinds of stuff. Because I’m doing this every day with the band and I’ve listened to 45 years or whatever it is of hard music and I don’t want to get tired of the music. I don’t want to get saturated to the point of not being able to be creative any more. You need some other horizons too and that’s not me blasting metal. Metal is my life and my life has been lived as part of the metal scene but as somebody who’s creative you have to have some other input as well and there’s so much good music out there. I love 70’s or late 60’s swing and so there’s just so much music that moves me, you know? After so many years I listen to that a lot because when I’m with the band or when I’m on stage we play very loud, very heavy and that’s already saturating enough.

Sometimes you need a little break, you know?

Well that’s just how it works for me, you know?

No I think it is for most people to be honest.

I listen to a lot of heavy rock but it’s mostly heavy rock from the 70’s and the first half of the 80’s.

Well that sort of leads into my next question anyway. Now you’ve been a big influence on, I don’t even know how many metal bands and musicians over the years, are there any newer bands that have come out in the last maybe five years or so that are any kind of influence on you?

Well maybe not an influence. I think I’m too old for that. I have crafted my style and I play the music that is inside of me. I don’t really need an influence. But there’s bands that I honestly look up to. Portal [who are] from Australia I believe.

They’re playing tonight, yup.

They’re sensational. Or the Wounded Kings from England. I’ve found that the albums they did with their female singer, they’re sensational. So there’s the occasional band that catches my attention, of course.

And I’m guessing from some of your earlier comments that there will probably never be any kind of Celtic Frost reunion or anything like that.

I’m afraid that’s impossible, yeah. I mean there’s no more animosity between me and Martin, we just met actually a few weeks ago as we do from time to time but I think that window has closed. Even though Martin once said, “yeah we’ll play music together again” but after that gargantuan disappointment I don’t think I want to set myself up for yet another one. Celtic Frost was my life and losing that twice wasn’t very easy. And I don’t trust these people any more. I invested so much time and so much of my personal money and effort and my songs and my production and everything into the Monotheist album and I did this because I believed the band could exist for many years and I felt betrayed and stabbed in the back and I really, if I would ever get involved with that again it would probably end the same and I don’t want to do that. Triptykon is a circle of friends and I prefer that. And you know anything I want to do creatively I can do in Triptykon.

I am actually also a big 1349 fan and I know you worked with them on some of their albums. How did you meet up with those guys? How did that get to the point where you were, I think you were producing a couple of their albums right?

I got to know 1349 through my friendship with Frost, their drummer, who back in the early 2000’s was far more involved with them than he is now. I heard 1349’s first album after reading a review in Terrorizer magazine and I thought it was fantastic. To me it was really a black metal album that really caught my attention. At that time there were so many black metal bands out there, many of them copying another one and 1349, their first album really hit me. It was fresh and it was aggressive. It was just right. And I knew Frost was playing in there and we had talked to Frost as a possible drummer in Celtic Frost.

That would have been really cool I think.

It would have been much cooler than the drummer we had eventually, I tell you that. So there was already a friendship so when 1349 toured and came to Switzerland we went to see them and that’s when I also struck a friendship with Ravn, the singer, and we just have so many things in common [that] we became very close friends and we visit with each other in Norway and in Switzerland and made trips together and everything before so eventually it ended up being a musical collaboration as well.

The phrase “only death is real,” what exactly does that mean to you and where did it come from exactly? I’d love to hear the back story to that.

Well it’s basically a line from the song “Messiah” which we wrong in 1983 in Hellhammer and it is probably extremely difficult for young people nowadays to understand but this was written during the time of the Cold War when the Soviet Union and America were basically staring down each other and there was a very real possibility that somebody would press the red button and the world would be obliterated by nuclear war. I mean it was in the media every day. It was in the news and everything and us young people at the time, we grew up with this constant realization that the next hour the world could be eliminated. There was such tensions always between the two super powers and a lot of Hellhammer’s material reflects that kind of aura, that kind of feeling that was in the air at that time and “Messiah” even though it sounds like a religious song but it is very much about the Cold War and this fear of the destruction of the world and “only death is real” hints to that of course it’s also true it’s the only thing that’s guaranteed in life. Death is something that unifies us all. Whether you’re black or white or whatever. Whatever kind of being you are, even a stone on this planet eventually will be ground down to dust. Everything will pass on this planet. Death is the only thing that’s a given, that’s a guarantee on this planet for everything. That’s really, that’s the end of it.

So you’re here in Baltimore for this and I don’t know if you’ve heard any of the news about some of the protests and…

Of course that’s why I said yesterday on stage, “you’re very rowdy tonight, that’s not like Baltimore at all” then everybody had to laugh. It was of course a little joke about that which, of course, it’s not funny at all.

Well I think the police officers that had been involved in that incident were actually indicted I think on Friday or something and I think it’s actually very lucky for Deathfest because what happened in Saint Louis was the day that the police were to be indicted they were not indicted and they were basically not going to be charged with any kind of crime, not even given a trial and that’s what started all those protests that were going on in Ferguson near Saint Louis, Missouri. And I was thinking, man if those guys had not been indicted on Friday if it came out that they were not going to be charged with anything…

Of course it would have…

I mean not only would that have probably called off the rest of Deathfest, but I mean it would have affected a lot of people here in a lot of ways.

Of course, yeah.

And I was just kind of curious if you had any kind of opinion on any of that.

Well who am I as somebody who lives in Switzerland to have a right to comment on an inter-American affair? I’m not somebody who buries their head in the ground but I’m also very respectful of national affairs. Of course we all followed that in the news. I’m an information junkie. I’m a history junkie and an information junkie constantly ever since I was a child. It’s a hugely complex issue that we cannot possibly address just in a few sentences. I understand police officers who are charged with securing a modern American city. It is humongous you know? You don’t have cities like that in Switzerland. And you’re tasked to ensure security of these cities and there’s these masses of criminals and problems and drugs and whatever. I totally understand that you might get trigger happy and in the heat of the moment you might make an irrational decision but I also understand the other side. The people who suffer from this and who feel disenfranchised and in a world that’s governed by mega corporations that don’t leave people without any education any chance to ever achieve anything in their life. I understand both sides and both sides are so complex so who am I to say who’s right, who’s wrong, what’s the solution? It’s a problem that is so gargantuan.

Well thanks a lot Tom. It’s been really awesome talking to you. If there’s anything else you’d like to say…

I just want to say thank you for the audience here at Maryland Deathfest for being so patient and waiting for a year for us and for being understanding. Nobody said anything negative about our pulling out last year. Everybody understood what it was all about and I’m very grateful for that.

Well you know there’s a lot of bands also that have canceled for various reasons and said they will come back the next year and [then] not do it and it was really cool that you made sure the next year you guys were back.

Oh no that was never a question for us. We had decided, we had this discussion, the band, when this all happened and when we decided we cannot do it you know? We said if there’s an offer for next year of course we will say yes no matter what the offer is. There was never a question in [my] mind about coming back. We were hoping that they wouldn’t be disappointed with us, the organizers, we were hoping they would ask us back. So they did and of course…

Well I think [Maryland Deathfest organizers] Evan [Harting] and Ryan [Taylor] are usually pretty reasonable about stuff so.

Yeah but you know, you don’t take anything for granted after a life in this industry and they were very cool, very understanding so yeah of course we come back.

Well thanks a lot. Thanks again for your time Tom. It’s been awesome talking to you here so thank you a lot.

Thank you.

Interview with Nick Holmes of Bloodbath

On Saturday, May 23rd of 2015 I was given the opportunity to interview Nick Holmes, the vocalist of Bloodbath (and also Paradise Lost). At the time of the interview Maryland Deathfest XIII was in full swing and I was running a bit late to meet him due to traffic. We met at the bar in the band’s hotel so there’s a bit of background noise on this recording and since I was running late I just kind of jumped into the interview without any last minute prep. It’s my shortest interview to date but it should still be interesting to fans of Bloodbath and Paradise Lost. I have another interview from Maryland Deathfest with Tom Warrior of Triptykon/Celtic Frost posted here and it’s a lot longer, more in depth and higher quality as well.

You can stream my six and a half minute interview with Nick Holmes by clicking the orange play button below, download it as an mp3 here, or read the following transcription. My words are in bold.

Nick Holmes of Bloodbath

Alright this is Metal Chris from DCHeavyMetal.com and I’m here with Nick Holmes, the vocalist of Bloodbath who just headlined Friday at Maryland Deathfest on the Edison Lot last night. So first Nick, thanks for giving me some of your time here. How exactly did you become the vocalist for Bloodbath?

We toured in the States with Katatonia and Devin Townsend and we’d known them for years anyway so, but they asked me if I wanted to do it a couple years ago now so I had quite a long time to think about it. At first I wasn’t sure but then I thought, “why not” you know? We have a mutual love of the old school metal, death metal, and we’re all friends so it kind of made sense. You know if I didn’t know the guys I’d have probably hesitated but we’re all friends and we all… it just worked out great so.

Why did the band keep your identity as the new singer a secret for so long?

Good question. I guess it’s a bit of a tease thing isn’t it? I mean, you know.

Marketing?

Yeah well it’s just a little bit of excitement there. I mean everything’s already on the internet the minute it happens so when you’ve got to wait for something it makes it a bit more exciting I guess, you know.

Now I know you weren’t a member of the band yet but technically Bloodbath has played in America before and they played in Baltimore at Rams Head Live on November 1st, 2011 when Katatonia and Opeth were touring together the final night of their tour was here in Baltimore and they came out and did a surprise encore.

Oh did they?

Where they came out and they played “Eaten” and like another song or two.

Oh I didn’t know that. Was he playing (pointing to Per “Sodomizer” Eriksson)?

I think so. I know [Mike] Åkerfeldt was still doing vocals. I think that was the last time he ever performed with [Bloodbath].

Probably, yeah yeah.

You know Baltimore has been spoiled here. We’ve gotten you guys twice now. Is there any future US tour plans for Bloodbath?

Not in the immediate future. I mean, I’m starting to cycle the tour ??? but then they just did a new Katatonia album so there won’t be anything, it certainly won’t be in the next year or two. I mean it would be nice to do some more stuff with Bloodbath and we’ll see. We didn’t make any long term plans. We just did the albums and we’ll just see how it goes, you know? But obviously commitments with what I do and what Axe [Bloodbath drummer Martin Axenrot] does with Opeth and Katatonia you know that’s first so we’ll see.

So I guess there’s no plans for a new Bloodbath album any time soon as well?

It won’t be any time soon, no. I mean, if at all. So at this point it’s just a question mark.

Understandable, you guys are in so many other projects.

Yeah, yeah.

It must be hard just to find the time together.

Yeah, that’s it.

So speaking of which, your other band Paradise Lost has a new album, The Plague Within, which should be coming out in about two weeks.

June the first.

Pretty soon yeah, a week and a half or something like that. So how has it been managing your time between those two projects? I know you’ve been setting up for this Bloodbath show here but also if you’ve got the new album coming out you’ve got to do a press cycle for that as well.

Yeah it hasn’t been to bad yet. There’s a few kind of back to back things that I’m going to do with Bloodbath and PL which is next week actually. Which is kind of, I’d prefer not to do it but that’s just the way that the cookie crumbles you know? Because we’re starting a tour cycle we’ll probably do a tour and then we’ll do more festivals next year with Paradise Lost but we’re doing a lot of festivals this year with Bloodbath. So yeah it’s kind of working alright. I mean [Paradise Lost guitarist] Greg Mackintosh he also does Vallenfyre as well so he’s in a similar situation but we’re doing about three festivals with Bloodbath and Vallenfyre outside of PL so, but we’re not doing anything the same day. Which, that ain’t gonna happen you know?

Shane Embury yesterday from Napalm Death was in…

Oh he loves it. He will just play.

He was in Lock Up and [then] he went on with Napalm Death and Napalm Death played for like 85 minutes last night.

Yeah well he can just go all day, shit. Can’t he?

That’s a trooper man. Are there any plans for Paradise Lost to come to America? Maybe at Deathfest or another festival or a full tour.

I would love to do it but not in the immediate future. I mean hopefully next year. I don’t know you know it’s tough on, it’s expensive to tour here, that’s the thing. You know if you don’t play in [front of] X amount of people you end up losing your ass.

Yeah, yeah.

It happens to a lot of bands. It’s not like in England or Europe where you can, you [can] lose a lot coming here to do it. So you’ve got to kind of justify it. So it’s tough I mean. You know we did a lot of support so I mean if we did it, it would probably be as a support sort of thing. But yeah, hopefully we can.

Well the other two Peaceville Three bands have been to the US in the last year or two with My Dying Bride actually was one of the headliners for Deathfest last year and then Anathema came on a tour a year or two ago.

Yeah, yeah.

Out of the three Peaceville Three bands Paradise Lost is my favorite for the new material that’s still coming out. I loved the last album. Really excited for the new one.

Alright, thanks.

So OK. What did you actually do with the Necrophagia shirt that was thrown on stage last night?

I don’t know what happened to it. Yeah I forgot about that. I don’t know what… did I… I think I gave it to Waltteri [Väyrynen], the Vallenfyre drummer. He was just there cause he’s like a young guy, he wants all the shirts. He’s like, oh yeah?

So what did you think of the car park that Deathfest is in?

Yeah it was great. It was great a really good show, yeah. We really enjoyed it yeah, I mean, it was so much hassle just to get here to do it with the visas etcetera, etcetera. But yeah it was really good yeah we really all loved it. It was good, good fun and the crowd was great, really good.

Did you see any other bands at Deathfest this year, any that stood out?

I saw Aura Noir which I already like them anyway. I was kind of eating my dinner at the same time. But I mean yeah I like Aura Noir. Who else was it, oh obviously Lock Up as well obviously. But yeah you can’t really get away from it anywhere at a festival site because it’s so loud everywhere.

Yeah.

So you’re going to hear them at least if you don’t see them so.

Well anyway thanks a lot for your time man. It was great getting to see you guys. I got the little teaser before but it was really great getting to see you guys live man.

Good one.

[Bloodbath was] one of the big bands I was hoping to see this year.

Yeah well we loved it. It was good fun you know. Glad to do it.

Well thanks a lot for your time man.

Cheers bub, thanks.