Interview with Mantas of Venom Inc.

Recently I was given the opportunity to speak with Mantas, a founding member of the highly influential band Venom. These days he’s playing guitar in Venom Inc., a band with two other former Venom members. Venom Inc. is wrapping up their US tour at Baltimore Soundstage this coming Monday, October 2nd, and I hope this 18 minute interview helps shed some light on one of the founders of black metal and helps to get you pumped for the show. You can stream the interview by pressing the orange play button below or you can download the interview as an mp3 for free here or you can read the transcription. As always, my words are in bold.

This is Metal Chris of DCHeavyMetal.com and today I’ve got Jeffrey Dunn, better known as Mantas, on the phone with me. Mantas is one of the founding members of Venom but he’s also playing guitar in Venom Inc. right now who just released their debut album, Avé, in August on Nuclear Blast Records. Venom Inc. is currently in the middle of the Bloodstained Earth North American Tour with support from Goatwhore, Toxic Holocaust and the Convalescence. The final date of that tour will be at the Baltimore Soundstage on October 2nd. So to start things off here Mantas, what can fans expect from the Venom Inc. live performance?

I suppose what you’ve always expected from us. It’s going to be loud. It’s going to be fast. It’s going to be chaotic. Everything you want from a Venom Inc. show I suppose plus the fact we’re including some of the new songs off of the new album and so far everything’s going really well. We’ve had, I think it was, three sold out shows so far, the rest have been absolutely packed, just below sold out. First show in Philly, oh it was incredible. They actually oversold that show and they opened the side doors of the venue so that people on the street could watch the gig as well. It’s just gotten crazier and crazier as we’ve been going on so it’s going really, really well so far. Very, very pleased with it.

Mantas of Venom Inc.

Mantas of Venom Inc.

That’s cool. The Venom albums Prime Evil, Temples Of Ice and The Wasteland had [a] very similar line up to the line up that Venom Inc. does right now. That era of Venom also consisted of Demolition Man [Tony Dolan] and Abaddon [Anthony Bray] as well as yourself. Do you consider Venom Inc. sort of a continuation of that era of Venom?

Personally I don’t know. I mean, a lot of people have said obviously that it is because it’s essentially the same line up but I just think that we’ve got a good, strong, legitimate line up here. And I think personally I don’t look at it as a continuation. I think you might get a different answer from the other guys, cause we hadn’t been together for so long. But obviously when we did come together, which was purely by accident and none of this was planned. We did not plan to continue this long it was going to be a one off show in Germany. There was certainly no plans for an album. Everything’s just been fan driven, promoter driven, and it was only in the later stages that Jon Zazula came in as management as well. And he was the one that said, “one great album could change everything for you guys” and really we’d never thought about that. But yeah, we’ve had a few people saying it’s good to see the Prime Evil line up back together again and I suppose yeah, it is, but I don’t know if I’m looking at it as a continuation because it was such a huge gap. It has taken us a long time to come together again but it’s rolling and to quote a cliché we’ve all just strapped ourselves into the roller coaster and we’re seeing where it takes us now. So far, so good.

Do you still talk to Al Barnes at all? Do you think there’s any chance that he could end up joining Venom Inc. to complete that Prime Evil era line up?

Ohhh no, no. Al is all settled down with a family and everything now. Got a really good job. I think he still does some sort of little acoustic gigs and things just by himself but I don’t think we could drag Al out. Maybe a one off if we’re in London or something like that and he jumps up and plays one of the Prime Evil songs with us but as a permanent member I don’t think so, no.

So do you see Venom Inc. staying as a three piece for the foreseeable future then?

Oh definitely. Yes. Absolutely. It’s working great and you know the old saying, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. No we’ll continue the way we are. It’s good.

In April of 2012 I saw you perform with M:pire Of Evil at the U Street Music Hall in Washington DC along with Onslaught on that tour. You guys put on a great live show with lots of energy. M:pire Of Evil played a mix of old Venom songs as well as new material. Do you guys play any of those M:pire Of Evil original songs still or is that something you’ve kind of moved on from and you just stick to the Venom and the Venom Inc. stuff now?

Yeah we just stick with the Venom and the Venom Inc. stuff. We have thought about that but we thought no, M:pire is a completely separate entity for us. There is a new M:pire album ready. It’s ready to go it just needs bass and vocals put on. I think in January Tony [Dolan] is coming over to my studio and we’re going to finish the album off. It’s been sitting there in the can for a couple of years now. It would have been out and done by now if it hadn’t been for the Venom Inc. tour. We sort of have put M:pire on hold but it’s definitely not over. We still plan. We had a great time doing that band so that’s something that we want to continue but at the moment it’s difficult to do anything else to be perfectly honest, because of the live work that we’re doing. Even recording Avé we had to take time away from live shows to get the recording done because the deadline was tight but now that we’ve started touring again I mean, we’re going to be on the road forever I think. There’s offers coming in all the time and when we get back, I think we get back on October 6th, and we’ve got about a week or so off and then it’s European festivals then the first week of November we have a UK tour which spreads into a European tour and that won’t see us home until December 18th and then February we’re going to Japan and Australia and possibly back to America in March. That’s the plan that Jon Zazula had anyway but the Japanese shows are definite. So everything is just forging ahead. There’s going to be no time for anything. Even fitting another Venom Inc. album in is going to be difficult. We’ll have to take time away from touring again.

Cover of Avé by Venom Inc.

Cover of Avé by Venom Inc.

One thing I’ve been curious about is the line up of Venom Inc. is very similar to M:pire Of Evil. Of course the main difference, I think everyone knows, is that Abaddon is now on drums with you guys. So how did he end up connecting with you again and joining Venom Inc.?

It all came about when Tony Dolan did a Atomkraft show in Newcastle, our home town. And it was a sort of North East festival called Brofest which is a sort of old school new wave of British heavy metal festival. So he was asked to do an Atomkraft set and at that particular point I was still living in Newcastle so he said to me, “do you fancy jumping up for a couple of songs?” so he came to Newcastle, we went [to] our rehearsals. We went though a couple of the Atomkraft songs and I joined them on stage and there was a Canadian band I believe called Cauldron who do [a cover of the Venom song] “Die Hard” in their set and they asked me to jump up and do “Die Hard” with them so I did that. And there was a promoter from the Keep It True Festival, Oliver Weinsheimer, he was at that festival and so was Abaddon and he spoke to Abaddon and said, “I’m surprised that you didn’t get with those guys.” Well, to be brutally honest, at that point, myself and Abaddon, and Tony Dolan and Abaddon, we hadn’t spoken since 1998 after the big split in Venom. Tony received a call from Oliver and he said “Look, I’d like to book M:pire Of Evil for Keep It True.” It was at that point that Tony says, “Oliver has asked if Abaddon was there would you consider doing a few Venom songs?” and I have to admit at that point I said no. It was going to be a no go for me. But we spoke again and we sort of said, look it’s only going to be for five songs, maybe six and it’s just for the fans and we do the songs and then that’s it. It’s going to be a one off. So we all agreed to do it. We flew into Germany. We had no rehearsals whatsoever we just got the songs and rehearsed them at home. Went on stage, did the set. The reaction was incredible and then Tony’s phone was ringing off the hook the next day from promoters and agents that we had worked with and that’s when really we were booked for China and Japan. Then we got the call for Heavy Montreal Festival. And then it was a European tour and an American tour and like I said none of it was planned. We had to speak again and say, “look are we going to do this?” because I’ve got a life beyond what we just planned to do. So we all said, “Ok then, let’s just get on the bus and see what happens” and to me that’s what we’re doing, haha, just getting on the bus and seeing what happens. And now that we’ve got management and things obviously we’ve got guidance but up until that point it was nothing you know we were just doing it by ourselves. So it was all fan driven and it’s totally exceeded my expectations all together, including the album. It’s overwhelming to be perfectly honest, to think that we’re in such demand. This tour that we’re doing now which will be our third tour of duty in America and at the end of this tour that will be sort of 90 shows in America within I think a year, 18 months, something like that. And so we’re just working hard and whatever offers come in we look at them and nine times out of ten we say yes. But like I said, totally unexpected. We’ve got to thank the fans for that. It’s great.

One thing that’s been a bit of a point of debate among fans is Venom’s genre classification. Obviously you guys coined the term black metal but I’ve also heard you guys called by various people as speed metal, thrash metal, new wave of British heavy metal, all kinds of stuff. So what kind of sub genre of metal do you consider the music you play to be?

You know, obviously we gave the name to black metal, if you want to say we created it, we did. We had an album called Black Metal, we had a song called “Black Metal,” and what followed on after that was exactly the same as what we did to our heroes. Bands were looking at us and thinking “we can take it a stage further.” So black metal has evolved into what it is today. Without evolution you become extinct. That’s one thing I’m quite proud of, is to think that black metal is still around today and it’s very, very strong. Classification wise, do you know what it is? I think there’s too many genres and sub-genres around these days. Let’s get back under the flag of heavy metal. Me personally, I look at ourselves as just a heavy metal rock n’ roll band. That’s all I see us as. It’s all about the music for me. I’m not talking about the genres or sub-genres whatever people call us. I’m in a heavy metal band. It’s as simple as that.

That’s a cool way to look at that. There’s been a few metal bands with multiple incarnations recently like Entombed, Gorgoroth and Queensrÿche for example. Most of those bands seem to be tied up in lawsuits fighting over bands’ names. That doesn’t seem to be the case with you guys. Are you still amicable enough with Cronos? Is that something you’re not worried about or…?

No, no, no. I’ll stop you in your tracks right there. There’s absolutely no contact with that guy whatsoever. The bridges are firmly burnt. Yes we did receive a couple of lawyers’ letters at the beginning and I responded to both of them and we haven’t heard anything since. The thing is that I’m the founding member of Venom. Abaddon designed and hand drew the original Venom logo and Cronos was the last person to join, by invitation, and it was my invitation. And when he went out as Venom in 2005 I think it was when he started Venom, it was at that point that Cronos had called me regarding the license of an album and I just didn’t care. My head was firmly embroiled in family. Everything was about my mother at that point. She had cancer and essentially she was dying and she passed away in December of that year. And it was during the course of the conversation he asked me if I was ok with him continuing the Venom name and at that point I said “I don’t give a shit. I really don’t care what happens with the Venom name.” I wasn’t thinking about bands or anything. However he did not ask Abaddon and he said, “well if he had asked me I would have said no immediately. It just needs to be buried.” So that’s why I think it’s the fans and the promoters and the industry who are turning around now and saying that we are the real Venom. We’ve never once said that unlike Cronos who’s trying to stamp that point. I really don’t care about that. He can go out there and do what he wants to do with his two hired guns and we’ll go out and do what we do. And I mean Tony Dolan said, “Is it not better that you can go and see this guy and then you can come and see us?” And he just plays big festivals. We go into the smaller venues and we’re right in your face. So I don’t think there’s any confusion any more, let’s put it that way. People know who he is and what he does and people know who we are and what we do and that’s fine by me and that’s as far as it goes as far as I’m concerned.

Well for what it’s worth, I’ve seen you at least with M:pire of Evil and I thought you guys were fantastic live. I’m really excited to see you as Venom Inc. If it’s anything like the show I saw in DC about five years ago it should be really exciting. I’m looking forward to the one coming up here in Baltimore on October 2nd.

Oh don’t worry we will deliver. We will deliver.

Mantas at U Street Music Hall

Mantas at U Street Music Hall

Venom has been a huge influence on countless other metal bands over the years however I would like to know what your biggest influences are as a musician.

Ohhh. Well, the thing that changed my life was 1979, May the 28th, and it was Newcastle City Hall and it was Judas Priest on the Killing Machine Tour. My musical growing up occurred during the 70s so I came up through Slade and T.Rex and the Sweet and you know the sort of glam rocky era that was going on in England. And for me it was always something which was guitar driven. If there was guitars in the band I was fascinated by it as a kid. The first 7″ single that I ever bought with my own allowance money was “Seven Seas of Rhye” by Queen which I suppose was the first sort of dipping the toe into heavy rock. And then I remember being in a department store with my mum and there I just saw Kiss. I’d seen the Alive album and I was absolutely fascinated by these guys on the front but I couldn’t afford it at the time so there was a beaten up old copy of Hotter Than Hell behind it so I bought that. I’ve been a Kiss fan ever since, well you know, early Kiss obviously. But then, the guy that I started the band with, we met at a tae kwon do club, we were training together, and he had a guitar. He had a lot of metal. He was a little bit older than me so he was sort of into Deep Purple and stuff like that. So I discovered Purple through him and then we used to go to concerts all the time. The first concert I’d ever seen was Blue Öyster Cult. That was around ’77 I think. We went to everything, we’ve seen Rory Gallagher live. Like I said, anybody who had a guitar. But seeing Judas Priest, and I just remember being in the audience and looking at stage left as I’m in the audience and K. K. Downing was on and fucking, *pff* that was it. I just thought to myself, “this is what I want to do.” He just became like a distant mentor if you like. I was fascinated by his playing. He looked the epitome of a heavy metal guitarist. It was just all that kind of stuff and you just gotta hold up people. If someone said to me you could only listen to one guitarist for the rest of your life it would be Gary Moore. [I’m] a huge, huge Gary Moore fan. And I discovered Frank Marino on a Mahogany Rush album Mahogany Rush Live. I think he’s a phenomenal guitarist. And my other favorite guitarist is Zakk Wylde. So that whole sort of blues based guitarists that I like cause honestly I’m pretty old school when it comes to stuff like that. I’m not so much into the neoclassical shredders and all that kind of stuff. I’ve said many times in interviews now that I’ve got no desire to be looked upon as a virtuoso guitarist. When I’m on stage I see myself [as] more of an entertainer interacting with the crowd than some guy who stands there playing at a million miles an hour. But if someone was to offer me either one of two gifts, one would be to be the greatest guitarist the world had ever seen or to be the greatest songwriter the world had ever seen, I would choose the songwriter every single time. But yeah influences with all those tastes you know, Judas Priest, Motörhead. You know when I first heard Motörhead I was blown away by them as well. And I just used to search out anything I possibly could. So anything that was up and coming, anything that was going around. New wave of British heavy metal was around then obviously. At [the] time my favorite new wave of British heavy metal band was Samson, again a sort of more bluesy kind of a band. But yeah it was anything guitar driven I was just fascinated by it and I sort of made that decision and just gave it no option but to happen I suppose so here we are and it’s not over yet.

Are there any bands around, like newer bands today that you’re a big fan of?

I must admit I love Machine Head. I really do like Machine Head. You know you said newer bands, Machine Head is hardly a newer band, and I still like the Metallica boys as well. I still like that stuff but again they’ve got a few years under their belt, everybody has. I think metal went through a phase where it all started sounding the same to be perfectly honest with the production side of it and all that kind of stuff. Like I said I’m pretty old school. If I’m going to put something on at home it’s still going to be a Priest album or an early Kiss album or Gary Moore or something like that. I do like Dimmu Borgir but I’ve never really explored a lot of the newer bands. The time that I hear a lot of it is when we’re on tour and I have heard some good bands. Goatwhore are really good that we’re out with now but there’s an Australian thrash band called Desecrator. Everybody should check them out they’re really good and an English thrash band called Divine Chaos. They’re really good as well. We’ve been out with both of those bands and they’re excellent so check those two bands out.

Yeah I definitely will. Do you have any favorite song to play from your whole history of you know songs you’ve played?

Um, do you know what it is it’s difficult to choose. I mean, I still love doing “Countess Bathory,” I still love doing “Witching Hour,” “Black Metal,” “Live Like an Angel,” “Die Hard,” “Don’t Burn the Witch.” I don’t think I’ve got a particular favorite to play. They’re all just great fun to play. To see the audience reaction is phenomenal. It’s not a case of getting bored with those songs because some of those songs are like 35, 36 years old. I’ll never get bored with them. They’re just a joy to play. I mean who knew that people would be calling them classics these days. I was just a kid from Newcastle who wrote some songs and people dig them. That’s the way I look at it. But the things that surprises me is when I meet fans and they tell me that the effect that these songs have had on their lives it’s, it’s overwhelming. It’s great. Some days I can’t take it in because naturally I’m quite shy and I just stay in the background. On stage is a release for me but meeting the fans afterwards you got telling me all these things. All I’ve got to say is thank you. [It] comes from the bottom of my heart. It’s a big thank you because without those guys we wouldn’t exist. But I still enjoy doing all the songs, all the old songs.

Venom Inc. at Baltimore Soundstage

That’s about it for my questions here. I wanted to say thank you for taking time out of your day to talk with me and answer some questions here.

No problem.

It’s been really cool getting the chance to talk to one of the true legends of underground heavy metal and again I’m very excited to see you guys play at the Baltimore Soundstage on October 2nd. I know when I saw you with M:pire of Evil, one of the cool things I thought about your live performance, it’s just really cool seeing how much fun you guys are having on stage playing together. That’s something you can’t really fake. There’s a lot of bands, they’ll go out there and they’ll just go through the motions but you guys, like the way you interact with the crowd and the energy you’re putting out there, it’s a lot of fun to watch and a lot of fun to be at.

Yeah. I don’t think we could do it any other way because that’s who we are. That’s genuinely us on stage. We’re not play acting on there. I think that heavy metal fans, they’re very knowledgeable and if they know that you’re faking it, they know, and we don’t fake it. We go out there and we enjoy every moment on stage. I enjoy all the interaction with the crowd. It’s great. Like I said, for me it’s a release and that’s my point to meet the fans really. But nah we love it. We have such a blast playing together as well. So when you come down to Baltimore you’ll have to introduce yourself so we’ll have a chat.

Oh for sure, for sure. That would be my honor, thank you heh heh.

No problem.

Alright well thanks again for your time and I can’t wait to see you guys in Baltimore. It’ll be great.

Ok then my friend. I’ll see you very soon.

Alright. Take it easy.

Cheers now. Bye bye.

Bye.

Interview with Scott “Wino” Weinrich of The Obsessed

This week The Obsessed, one of the oldest metal bands from Washington DC, is releasing their first album in 23 years, Sacred. Needless to say I’m pretty excited about this so I got in contact with the band’s main man, Scott “Wino” Weinrich, and conducted this phone interview with him on Saint Patrick’s Day, March 17 of 2017. We talk about the new album and he has some great stories of being in a metal band during the hey day of the harDCore scene. The interview is a bit under 17 minutes long and you can stream it by clicking the orange play button below, you can download it as an mp3 here, or you can read the full transcription below. As always my words are in bold.

Scott “Wino” Weinrich has been in a lot of bands over the years: Saint Vitus, Spirit Caravan and Shrinebuilder to name a few. However he is currently leading the revived version of the Obsessed who are releasing their new album, Sacred, on Relapse Records on April 7th [get it here]. It is truly an honor to have one of the legends of not only doom metal but [also] of our area’s metal scene with me on the phone today. So to start things off Wino, can you tell me why you think the time is right for the Obsessed to release Sacred, the band’s first album in 23 years?

I’ve done some reunion shows over the years and I’ve been asked to do quite a few but nothing really felt right until me and Brian Costantino reconnected after 30 years. When we first met he was our friend and our drummer’s tech and he helped us drive on the road and stuff. After the original Obsessed folded way back when, I didn’t see him for 30 years. In that interim he learned how to play drums, quite proficiently I will add, and through one weird circumstance or another we got a chance to jam and when we got a chance to jam the magic happened and that’s when the Obsessed was truly reborn because finally the chemistry is just perfect. So really the fact that me and Brian reconnected is really fucking amazing and so I feel completely re-energized and very inspired.

Is there a reason you decided to go with Relapse to release Sacred?

They offered us a really kick ass deal. We got a really, really good deal from them. All the people at Relapse now are completely behind us. A lot of fans, a lot of friends and they offered us a slammin’ deal and they have treated us wonderfully. I’m totally, totally satisfied with the deal and I’m very excited to top off this release of Sacred they’re also re-releasing the first Obsessed record, the self titled, in a couple months and we put together a slammin’ package man. All this cool live stuff, some demos and a bunch of really cool pictures and such. I’m really happy with the label.

Cover of Sacred by The Obsessed

Cover of Sacred by The Obsessed

So how do you think the band’s sound has changed since the release of The Church Within in 1994?

Well to be honest with you, I think that Sacred is actually the best sounding record that I’ve ever done in my career thanks to Frank Marchand, he’s also known locally as the Punisher for his live sound work and stuff. But, believe it or not, the record is [recorded] all digital and I think that Frank has an amazing command of the digital realm but also the digital realm has increased to where it’s just phenomenal now. It’s a combination of the old and the new because the whole record was recorded digitally but we used a whole crazy lot of really cool old vintage equipment like, Frank had, and his studio had, an arsenal of old Les Pauls. I mean it was like an orgy of Les Pauls man. And then he also had like all these killer, old like boxes and boxes of vintage foot pedals and vintage effects pedals. He had a vintage rotating speaker and not to mention the drums. He had so many cool vintage snare drums, we picked a [different] snare drum basically for sound for the vibe. It was pretty amazing.

I saw you had that EGC guitar you pulled out, with the aluminum neck, in a few shows. Did you use that on Sacred at all?

I did use that quite a bit on Sacred actually. That was one of my favorite guitars but it’s also my go to guitar. That guitar is just nothing short of amazing. It’s completely aluminum, all the way, it’s neck through. That was given to me as a gift for some production work I did with my friends from Tennessee in a band called Navajo Witch and I must say that’s actually one of the finest gifts that I could have ever received. I love that guitar. It’s my go to guitar. That guitar has what I call a slutty neck, haha. Man I’m telling ya, I really like thin necks as far as like the depth goes. It’s got a radial neck actually. It changes a little bit as it goes along but I’d say that guitar is perfect. That guitar I nicknamed Heavy Mama because it’s actually, it’s broader and heavier than an actual real Les Paul. So I call that guitar Heavy Mama, haha.

Wino playing Heavy Mama

Wino playing Heavy Mama

Now I know the Obsessed has gone through a lot of line up change recently. What exactly is the line up on Sacred and is that also the band’s current line up?

No. God, let me tell you what’s happening to dispel any confusion. OK. We were doing Spirit Caravan for a minute, you know a year or two ago, and after we dissolved Spirit Caravan, that’s when me and Brian reconnected and we decided to call the band the Obsessed, OK. So Dave Sherman brought his gear over and basically that was the line up that we did for the Obsessed. It was me, Dave Sherman on bass and Brian Costantino on drums. Ok so that was the line up on Sacred, me Brian and Dave, right? And then OK, through the one reason or another, there’s some issues in the studio and also some issues live, we decided to part ways with Dave Sherman. So then I tried a little experiment where I re-enlisted the help of Bruce Falkinburg, the bass player from the Hidden Hand, and my fiancé at the time, Sara Seraphim, on bass and second guitar, respectively. And it was actually pretty cool, we did four or five shows that I thought were pretty fucking good but when the touring commitment came up, the reality of what a rock and roll band really is, people showed their true colors pretty quick and when Bruce asked us to replace him, Sara left. So basically, I then called my old friend Reid Raley, which is what I should have done in the first place because he’s a true road warrior and a great musician, and I’m telling you what, the chemistry right now is fantastic. The band is me, Brian Costantino and Reid Raley and that’s the way it’s going to stay. This is absolutely, in my opinion, the best line up of the Obsessed ever. The best chemistry and man I’m telling you what I’m fucking feeling psyched.

That’s great man. So who was on the album then exactly?

The album was me, Brian and Dave Sherman.

Ok cool.

But we parted ways with Dave and did our little experiment with a four piece but now we’re back to a three piece with me, Brian and Reid Raley. And Reid Raley played bass in a band called Rwake from Arkansas and he played in a band called Deadbird but then he also played with me [in the Obsessed] in 2013 and we did like four or five shows. We played Maryland Deathfest. We played Power Of The Riff in LA. We played a couple Scion showcase shows and another club show in LA so me and Reid actually have some history but he’s a fantastic bass player.

The Obsessed at Maryland Deathfest XI

The Obsessed at Maryland Deathfest XI

Ok thanks for clarifying that for me. One other question I have with the line ups is now that Dave Sherman is gone, are you guys still going to play any of the Spirit Caravan songs live or are you just going to stick to the Obsessed material?

We will eventually, probably be working in some of the Spirit Caravan material because, one thing I want to point out is, when the Obsessed was signed to Columbia Records in the 90s and we did The Church Within, we never got our second record. But the songs that were going to be on the second Obsessed record [for Columbia Records] were the songs that were the bulk of the material that became [the Spirit Caravan debut album] Jug Fulla Sun. “Lost Sun Dance,” “Melancholy Grey,” “Fear’s Machine,” “No Hope Goat Farm,” those were all Obsessed songs because of the fact that we didn’t get our second record, you know with Columbia that, when I put Spirit Caravan together those songs kind of pulled over. So we’ll be working those songs into the mix. Right now what we’re doing is our live set that’s coming up in April, we’re going to be playing about an hour and fifteen minutes and we’ll play like seven new songs of the new record and then the rest is old stuff but you can definitely count [on hearing] some Spirit Caravan stuff I mean, we’re going to be doing eventually. Eventually we’re going to be doing “Brainwashed,” “Lost Sun Dance,” “Dove-Tongued Aggressor,” and stuff like that.

The Obsessed formed in the DC area in the early 80s and I’m really curious, what was it like being in a metal band, particularly a doom/stonery kind of metal band, at the time when DC’s music scene was really dominated by the rise of the DIY punk scene.

Well it’s an interesting and good question. Right at that time that I gone down to this little club in DC called Beneath It All and pitched the manager there, he was like an outlaw biker, pitched him on the Obsessed and so we were down in this little hole in the wall in DC playing three sets a night OK? Now during that time, that’s when I met Sab Grey from Iron Cross, John Stabb from Government Issue, Ian MacKaye and Henry Rollins would all come down to see us. They loved our originals but they hated the fact that we were doing punk covers but I tried to explain to them, we had to play three 45 minute sets a night so you know, we were throwing in a couple of our favorite Dead Boys songs and shit like that to try to make up the time. The bottom line is, straight up, we had to prove ourselves. We had several high profile gigs where the Obsessed, actually we supported the Dead Boys on their first reunion tour, in DC. We supported the Bad Brains in the hey day of the green red ROIR tape. You know what man we really had to prove ourselves but I think we did. I can remember one stand out moment for me is when there was this punk rock hipster bar in DC in those days called Carmichael’s. And so there was a guy who ran a record store in town, he was a punk rock kid but he also came from a metal background, and me and him connected because he heard my song “Concrete Cancer” on Metal Massacre VI and he said, “oh man that song reminds me of Captain Beyond.” So me and him struck up a friendship and he was in a band called Lethal Intent. His name was Doug Caldwell. Unfortunately he’s passed away but Doug would always call me up to get the Obsessed on punk rock shows and so on any given day we were supporting the Exploited, I remember one time Dave Grohl’s band Mission Impossible supported us when they were all like skinhead kids. We played with Faith and we played with Scream a lot. But I remember like on this one occasion we were at this club called Carmichael’s trying to gig. We were supporting Iron Cross and the PA fails. So instead of stopping or crying, I just said “fuck it, let’s go” and I just screamed out the words with no PA and we just stepped everything up a notch a little bit pretty fast. That’s when you know the singer for Iron Cross came up to me and said, “Ok that’s when I knew you guys were real.” So we definitely had to prove ourselves. You know the way I looked back then I had more of a death/glam kind of look. At any given time I would be called Eddie Van Halen or take some shit but I’ll tell you what man I was there for the music and if somebody got in my face I was ready to fight. No problem.

Haha. Now I have heard a rumor that it was none other than Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat and Fugazi fame that put you in contact with the guys in Saint Vitus. Is that true? Did he actually introduce you to that band?

He didn’t actually introduce me to the band but he did mention them to me and put the seed in my head and so when they came through and played a little club called DC Space I went down to meet them and that sort of did set the ball in motion a little bit. There were some other circumstances but yeah. Ian MacKaye was very instrumental. He told me straight up, he goes, “there’s this band on SST called Saint Vitus. You’d love ’em,” and you know eventually I would join them. Ian MacKaye was the first person ever to use the term crossover. I remember he used to work at a record store called Yesterday Is Today and I used to go next door to get my hair cut all funky from this foxy ass hair cutter chick and then I’d have a couple brews probably and then I’d go next door to the record store you know. And Ian’d be in there working and the Obsessed first record had just come out and he said to me he goes, “man, you guys are really crossing over.” He said to me, he being a vegan, he goes, “man “”Forever Midnight”” man that song’s the meat and potatoes.” Coming from Ian MacKaye, to me, that was like the ultimate fucking honor.

Hahaha. That’s pretty cool.

Man I love that guy. I see him regularly. He’s a fantastic person. Ian MacKaye, I’ll tell you right now, has never wavered from his ideals once. Never once. All these other bands, you know all these other people I’ve seen them all falter but you know what? Ian MacKaye has never wavered from his core principles once and I have nothing but ultimate respect for him.

So this is in a different direction but is there any chance of any kind of Shrinebuilder reunion at any point? Do you think maybe new material or even just some live shows?

I told Al [Cisneros] and I also told Scott Kelly that I would always be up for it if they want. It’s really up to them. There’s a little bit of… ummm… there’s a little bit of bad blood that happened there for a minute, stupidly enough over money. One thing that I don’t really have much tolerance for [is] like arrogance or greed and I kind of think that with Shrinebuilder, I think that the desire to put money in one’s pocket kind of overruled what I thought should be the real core ethics of that band but that said I told both of those cats that I’m willing to do it if they are.

Cover art for Shrinebuilder and Adrift

Cover art for Shrinebuilder and Adrift

Back around 2010 I was actually going through some really tough times and your studio album Adrift actually really helped me a lot during a low point in my life so I’d like to say thank you for that.

Thank you very much. I appreciate that.

It meant a lot to me actually. Do you have any plans for any future solo releases?

Actually my main focus is totally on the Obsessed right now. I’m not in any other bands or anything. I’m not in Saint Vitus you know either, but I have been working on some acoustic stuff. I’ve actually got about four or five songs and hopefully in less than a year I would like to do another acoustic record actually. Yeah. Hopefully on Relapse but we’ll see. Hey listen, thank you very much for that though. I mean that’s to me, that was a very troubled point in my life too and Adrift was kind of me really letting off steam from some problems I was having and it’s way more rewarding to me to hear somebody say that the music helped them through than you know a bag of cash on the table you know what I mean? So I’m glad it helped you.

Yeah it really did. Now in 2004 another DC area guy had you guest on an album with him. You were on Dave Grohl’s Probot album on the song “The Emerald Law.” How exactly did that collaboration come about and did you know Dave already?

Yes. I knew Dave already and like I said before like, back in the early days Dave was in this killer punk rock band called Mission Impossible and we used to refer to Dave as the Kid. Everybody knew that the Kid was the premiere fucking drummer and he was fantastic man. But anyways, Spirit Caravan, I was on tour in Europe and I got a call from my wife at the time and she said, “Listen you know. Dave Grohl’s people just got in touch with me. They’re looking for you. He sent some music to you. He wants you to do something.” So I got back into town, I got the rough tracks for “The Emerald Law.” Ok it wasn’t titled, it was just the music. It was the basic tracks. It had a guitar track, drums and bass and basically then I talked to David and he said, “I’m doing a record with all my heroes,” and let me tell you I was very, very honored to be considered that and to be considered for the record. And as I listened to the song, it was right up my alley and he said he wanted me to title it, write words for it, sing it and play some leads. So basically, at the time I was deep into my research. I was really getting into some esoteric stuff about the Emerald Tablets of Thoth and stuff. So basically I put together the words and stuff and um, we were going to do it at Dave’s house with his studio but he left his studio machine on while he was on tour for six months by accident so [he] burned it out so he said, “hey let’s meet at Inner Ear,” the Dischord studio of legend you know where everybody recorded all their shit, all the DC bands. David came down with his producer friend and basically I showed him the lyrics that I had written for the song and the title “The Emerald Law” and he liked it. So I sang it and um, came time to play the solo and he was standing in the control room just going “more, more!” like that one part in “Emerald Law” I just hold that shrieking note you know. He’s like, “yeah! yeah! yeah!” He’s like totally enthusiastic right, but the end of the song there was just something missing at the beginning. So I suddenly realized, what I say at the very beginning of the song, the speaking thing. “I do not die but awaken to the dream I lived.” That is actually real, ancient Babylonian that was transferred from cuneiform by Zecharia Sitchin. I was reading a book by Zecharia Sitchin, one of the few people who could actually translate and read cuneiform, which is Babylonian writing on stones. So that’s an actual ancient Babylonian verse there that just fit so perfectly at the beginning. I get chills when I think about it man. So I was overjoyed to do that too, and honored. I really was.

So do you have any plans to tour or at least play in the DC area to support Sacred coming up?

Yes we start our tour on April 12th and we’re going to go from coast to coast and on the way back in May we are playing in Baltimore. The 20th we’re going to be in Baltimore. But we’re also doing a listening party for Sacred and I’m going to play a short acoustic set up in Philadelphia on the day after the release on Saturday, April 8th at Kung Fu Necktie where there’s going to be a DJ and then we’re going to listen to Sacred in its entirety and we’ll have a bunch of records to sell too. The new record and all and then I’m going to play acoustic guitar for 20 to 30 minutes and then we take off on our tour.

The Obsessed at the Ottobar

So are there any bands from like the DC area or this kind of region, maybe DC, Baltimore, Virginia area that you’re a fan of?

I really like that band Cavern. I like a local band from Thurmont [Maryland] called Faith In Jane. Of course I really like Clutch.

I’ve gone through just about all of my questions here and I do thank you for your time. I do appreciate it. I’ve been running the DC based metal site for about seven, seven and a half years now and you’re one of the guys I’ve always really wanted to interview on here. You really are one of the legends of our metal scene. It’s really cool to say that you’re from our area. So one other thing. Is there anything else you’d really like to say to the fans about this new album Sacred that the Obsessed is releasing on April 7th?

Well I’d like to say thank you very much to everybody who believes in, and who has supported not only my career but this style of music and I want to thank you man for carrying the torch. I mean it’s a really beautiful thing.

Alright well thanks a lot for your time and it’s really been an honor so thank you a lot.

Alright man. This was a fun interview. Thank you.

Alright have a good one.

Bye.

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.