Third episode of Metal Embassy podcast is live

On the third episode Metal Chris interviews Matt Hyde, vocalist of the New Zealand based band Beastwars, and talks about how his bout with cancer brought the broken up band back together resulting in Beastwars recording a new album just a few weeks after his final chemotherapy treatment. Sorry if you hear a bit of clanking during the interview, he was wearing bracelets that made noise when he moved his hands and I should have asked him to remove them but I guess I’ll know for next time.

Metal Embassy is now on Bandcamp (here) and Pandora (here) along with plenty of other podcast apps (see the full list here). You can also just click play below to listen to the episode.

Metal Embassy – 003 – Beastwars (New Zealand)

The second episode of the Metal Embassy podcast is now live

The second episode of the Metal Embassy podcast is now live! On this episode I speak with Fawaz Al-Shawaf of the Saudi Arabian grind band Creative Waste. He organized the first above ground metal show in Saudi Arabia and he talks about the entire history of live metal concerts in the country and what it’s like being a metal head there. After the interview you can listen to a song off Creative Waste’s latest album, Condemned.

You can listen by clicking the play button below or you can find it (and subscribe to future episodes) on most podcast apps including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and more by opening the app and searching for “Metal Embassy” or you can just go here for the full list of links.

Metal Embassy – 002 – Creative Waste (Saudi Arabia)

DCHM gets a podcast: Metal Embassy

With the shutdown of concerts it has been pretty quiet here on DCHM. So with my spare time I’ve decided to try making a podcast for DCHM since there just aren’t enough of those right now. I’m calling the podcast Metal Embassy since I’m still based out of DC but will be changing things up a bit on the podcast and focusing on metal bands from around the world. Each episode will feature an interview with a member from a metal band but unlike the regular interviews here on DCHM I won’t be transcribing them. I’ll play a tune by the band and hopefully expose people to some new music out there as well as explore some of the stories that aren’t being covered very much in the metal press here in the US. I’m still working on getting Metal Embassy registered with all the podcast apps like Apple, Google, Spotify and such, and I’ve got three episodes ready to go but for now you can stream the first episode from the podcast at the end of this post or go to the Metal Embassy page on Podbean (here) where it is being hosted. You can also download it and all future episodes from the Podbean link.

Anyways, this first episode features an interview with Kris Lesiński, the guitarist and cover artist for the Star Wars themed instrumental stoner/doom band Bantha Rider. They’re based in Poland and we have a nice little convo about Star Wars, metal, and the metal scene in Poland. Give it a listen and feel free to give me some feedback as I’m still figuring it all out.

Metal Embassy – 001 – Bantha Rider (Poland)

Interview with King Fowley of Deceased and October 31

On Tuesday, July 23rd, I got the chance to interview King Fowley, the legendary front man (and one time drummer) of the bands Deceased and October 31. The guy has lived a hell of a life so far, has some crazy tales to tell and a dedication to underground and DIY metal few can rival. This interview is 53 minutes long, our longest yet, so let’s get right to it. You can download the interview as an mp3 for free here, stream it by clicking the orange play button below or read the full transcription under that. As always my words are in bold. You can access my other interviews here.

This is Metal Chris of DC Heavy Metal and today I’m here with one of the legends from our scene, King Fowley, of the bands Deceased and October 31. King is getting ready to play with both of his bands at Atlas Brew Works on Saturday, August 3rd [details here]. The show is going to be filmed for the upcoming documentary titled King: A Metal Life. So to start things off King, can you tell me who approached you about doing this documentary and how it got started?

Cheers to ya. A guy named Patrick Meagher. He’s an old buddy of a buddy. He used to see us practice in our buddy Chris [Yuastella] from Abominog‘s old practice space down Wilson Boulevard in Arlington in the 90’s around the time we were doing The Blueprints for Madness stuff. He was over there hanging with Chris. He used to come down and just watch us jam. We’d all shoot the shit growing up together kind of things and then as time went on somewhere down the line he caught contact with me again. He’d moved to New York and done his own thing for a decade plus and he just got in touch with me and he said, “you’ve done a lot for the scene. I really respect you and I’d really like to see some stuff” and he said some really kind things and asked me to meet him out at the old Fair Oaks Mall there in Virginia, and so we met and he had his Kiss notebook and we just started talking and he was like, “I want to do this film on your life, the crazy stories. Part of some of it I remember, some of it I heard through the grapevine.” Saying “I really want to touch base with you and what do you think about this?” and we just started talking and at first he seemed genuine, and he is very genuine, but at first I’ve had people come to me before with ideas and stuff and a couple weeks later it passes and they had a moment in time they kinda got a whim that they were going to do something but it faded away. Well his didn’t at all and the next thing I know he had ideas, he had scripts, he was coming to my house up here in Philadelphia from Virginia. He was making a lot of effort and it was looking very professional and genuine. I instantly knew this guy was more than just, I don’t want to say talking out of his ass cause he was never doing that, but he was really full in and I told him I’m full in too and since then, which is like six, seven years ago now when we started this project. He has done everything and anything he can to better this film and we’ve just gone from there. But that’s how it all got started. [It] was at Fair Oaks Mall. Just bouncing ideas and then we just worked from there.

King Fowley

King Fowley at Maryland Deathfest X

I know you’re still filming the footage, obviously, here at Atlas. So there’s obviously still a lot of work to do and editing and things but do you have any kind of estimate about when it will be out?

He’s shooting for about two years from now he says still. He’s got a set date. Something to do with his Stanley Kubrick love. Something with the 40th anniversary of The Shining or something like that’s gonna happen. I don’t know exactly what it is but it’s about 2 years out still.

Do you know if this is going to be screened locally, like maybe at Silver AFI or is it going to be something available on DVD or do you know any idea of what kind of format we’re going to see this in?

I don’t know where it’s at so far but he’s got big plans. He wants to get it into Sundance [Film Festival] and into the movie theaters and all kinds of different angles and ideas. I guess he’s going to shop it around and go from there once he finishes the film but he’s thinkin’ big which is always a good thing. He wants to do as much as he can with it. He doesn’t want to put a DVD out and let it sit on a table at a show and try to sell it for fifteen bucks or whatever it is. He wants to get it into theaters. He wants to take off as a director and you know he’s sunk a lot of money into this. He wants to do everything he can and I know he will, cause he’s a doer, and I just think the sky is the limit and we’ll see how everything unfolds here in the next couple years.

Deceased at Atlas

So both your bands Deceased and October 31 are playing at Atlas that night. Will both of their sets be recorded for the documentary?

They will be. They’ll be video taping, audio taping, pictures, all of the above. They’ll get a little bit of this, a little bit of that. The whole thing will go down as documented for sure, both bands in full.

Have you been to Atlas before?

I have never been to Atlas. I’m an old Virginia guy as you know. I find out about all these places little by little. I remember a few years ago finally going into the little Pinch down in there and then the Rock & Roll Hotel and recently I did the Dangerous Pies. I’ve heard great things about Atlas. I have not been in there yet. I’m looking forward to it. It’s the 2019 underground scene place to be for metal. I’m really looking forward to it.

I like to say it’s kinda like DC’s Saint Vitus Bar at this point. They get a lot of metal shows in there and they get national and international bands a lot which is really cool but one thing I will tell you, it gets hot in there in the summer so if you’re playing two sets back to back man be hydrated, be hydrated there.

Haha. Sure. We just played a show in Maine two weeks ago and I don’t know if it can get hotter than that though probably the hottest show I’ve ever played was in Florida with Nasty Savage with October 31 we were down there and the stage temperature was 127° and that was Florida in August. We were just talking a little while ago, me and Patrick, he was talking about bringing in the four high powered fans to keep the place cool so he’s definitely thinking ahead. Nobody can stand the heat. Nobody can think straight and we already know how freaking hot it is outside right now.

They have fans in there already but it still gets pretty hot with all those uh…

Yeah I know. I think he’s gonna quadruple it up. Hahaha. We’ll see what happens. Maybe we’ll get a ice machine in there and we’ll just play inside the ice machine. Hahaha.

Back in March you had mentioned something about an October 31 movie in the works. Would that be another documentary or something? Is there any updates on that?

Well October 31 is just lately been working in the new drummer and doing our thing. We’ve talked about doing this fun little movie idea what was gonna basically be a parody of Kiss Meets the Phantom [of the Park] with October 31 meets the phantom. We were in the van running around being goofy talking our shit to each other in the car and we’re like let’s do a movie. October 31 meets the phantom and maybe we’ll do it one day but it’s on no big scale at all. It would just be something for fun and just for friends and anybody that was interested in seeing it, seeing it.

You post a lot on Facebook and unlike a lot of people on Facebook you don’t sit around posting like political memes and cat pictures, you actually post a lot of interesting things. You obviously watch a ton of movies, especially B horror flicks, and you review them a lot on there and you seem to have an endless supply of old school metal merch you’re always digging up and showing posts about old cocaine mirrors from bands from the 80’s and things like that. However my favorite posts of yours are defiunitely the stories you tell. They’re usually stories around some sort of show you played with Deceased and often involve other bands you were playing with, though sometimes you talk about more personal things like the birth of your son, how you got into music and the death of Deceased bass player Rob Sterzel back in ’88. Now you’re a great storyteller and it’s one of the reasons I really wanted to interview you, and these posts are often quite lengthy but they’re always entertaining. Do these posts all originate from your book Stay Ugly: The Life and Near Deaths of King Fowley or are these all stored somewhere else or where do these all come from?

Heh. A little bit of this, a little bit of that. Thanks for reading and thanks for enjoying. For me it’s just living. It’s just everything in life. I see things. When you get out and you live. I like to always say live. Everybody needs to live. You need to do things. I’d rather just always take everything in as a lesson. Everything’s a lesson in life. I’ve had tragedy. I’ve had heartbreak. I’ve had celebration, all of that, and I like to talk about it. The good, the bad, the ugly. And like you’re saying with the book Stay Ugly, sure some of the stories are in there. The stories of having fist fights with other bands because of situations or just calling bullshit in the underground or just calling people out kind of things, to the better things like the birth of my son and just enjoying life and things like that. All of it’s important to me. From the B horror movies and watching that crap and just letting people know hey, this one ain’t so hot to me. I always say we get our own names so everybody’s their own person. You come into basically what I call “my house” where Facebook, my page, and stuff. If I was to go to somebody else’s page I wouldn’t be so… uh, I would have respect for someone else’s house. That’s what I just want to say. Like if I disagreed with somebody and things, I’m always respectful. All it is is opinions and people in this day and age especially are so lost and like just wanting to fight over the tedious of shit. I say things. People can take it for what they want. Some people agree. Some people don’t. I don’t say things to shock people. I’m not looking to be like, oh this guy hasn’t liked Judas Priest in 25 years. He’s the kvlt, underground jerk. It’s not that. If it’s something I say I 110% genuinely mean what I’m saying. And I like to talk and things and I figure if I’m in there typing, let me talk about something more. Sure I’ll have my post of my Fangface cartoons from ’78 or Wonderbug Krofft Superstar or I’ll talk about something that’s goofy for a second here and there just for a laugh but I like to be serious at times and I like people to be able to think more. It’s just fun for me. It’s interesting, keeps me happy too. I’m not the world’s best typist. I like to tell tales. I’m better speaking it than typing it. Yeah, people have asked me for more books and things like that, which is fun. I’d like to do some more of that stuff some time. I have a lot inside me. I like to get as much as I can in a lifetime.

One of the stories I read on there, it was one of my favorites, and I couldn’t even find it digging up research for this interview but I know it’s somewhere on there. But you had talked about meeting Mille [Petrozza] of Kreator one time and I think you like punched him in the face and then ended up becoming friends or something like that.

Yeah this is funny. It was at the 9:30 Club, the old 9:30 Club in DC, not the new one. We went down to see Kreator. I’d already seen them once on the Pleasure To Kill Tour with Voivod but I didn’t meet them then or anything. I was a Voivod, and am a Voivod fanatic, but they came back through the next time and they were headlining and I was really disappointed with their, at the time, their Terrible Certainty album, which was to me a slower album and it had more of a Bay Area Testamenty kinda lighter thrash kind of sound and I was disappointed so I told the guys that we went down there with, I said, “man we go in there tonight I’m going on stage I’m gonna punch that son of a bitch in the mouth for it,” right? Now I was never gonna punch, I would never, ever punch someone in the face unless they deserved it and we were talking and there was a fight going on it might happen then, but I would never just go up and punch somebody in the face like that. So I went on stage and I was like you know, headbanging, enjoying the shit out of their show. They were playing their asses off and I went over to him and my buddy’s like, “you going to do it?” and I said, “no man.” I was shaking my head on stage. So I just took my finger and I went BOOP and I booped him on the fucking lip. I went BOOP and he looked at me and he didn’t know what was going on ’til the show was over. And we were outside in the hallway and my buddy Eddie had told me, “yeah I guess you did it” but I was like laughing. I was like I’m not gonna punch the guy in the face. That was all bullshit. And the guy was standing there and Mille had like a little bit of a cut and I went over to him and I said, “man I’m sorry.” He said, “what?” I said, “I did that.” He said, “aw you know, it happens.” I said, “no but I did it intentionally” and he looked at me and he went, “intentionally?” and I said, “well, the new album,” and he was still pretty German and not English broken so much 100% at the time and I was like, “well the new album’s a little bit light Mille. I’m a little disappointed. I need the faster stuff like,” I started naming the stuff on the first two records and he looked at me and somebody said, “hey King” and he said, “is your name King Fowley?” I said, “yeah,” he said, “oh Voivod told me to tell you hi” and I said “yeah,” so we went backstage and we started talking and I hugged him and apologized and I told him what it was and he just started laughing and we’ve been best friends ever since that night. To hear it the way you tell it, it sounds shocking for a second but it was innocent as hell and I love Mille and he’s one of my best pals in the underground still to this day.

Your Stay Ugly book is sold out but you also contributed a few stories to Jason Netherton’s excellent book Extremity Retained which is an oral history of the underground death metal scene of the 80’s and 90’s. Are there other places people fan find some of your wild stories about being in a metal band?

Man there’s stuff everywhere. I couldn’t even give you titles of stuff people come so much asking for quotes and things. I couldn’t even tell you where else to look. I’ve contributed to things and I’ll just let people look and if they’re not even out yet, I don’t know. I’ve done stuff for females in metal of late. I did something for Hell’s Headbangers, our label, is putting a book out here soon. I have no title for it but that’s something I’ve done. I’ve contributed a lot of band stories from just meeting bands or being on tour and partying with bands or just the dirt and the drugs and the sex and all that with bands. A book coming out, again [I] don’t think it has a title yet, but the guy was from Europe and we must have talked for about three, four hours about four or five months ago and he was just like asking me all these crazy questions. He was like, “I was told to ask King Fowley from the band Deceased. He was one of the craziest partyers,” and he was like “is it true you drank a quart of motor oil one night?” I’m like, “yep, it’s true. I drank a whole quart of motor oil.” He was just getting into all this stuff but I contribute whenever anybody asks and it seems genuine. I’ll say something. Sometimes people are like, “yeah I need to know. Tell me the story about this and that,” and they want shit talking and I’m like, “nah I’m not going to contribute to that.” That was one of the things with my book, Stay Ugly when my work with Mike Sloan who came to me in 2010 in [Las] Vegas and said, “I wanna write a book.” Same scenario as Patrick with the movie. I was like, “Oh this guy’s talking out of his ass and this’ll never happen,” and then three weeks later he called me and we worked on it for the next seven years to get the book right but he was like, “yeah man I want to know every story about every girl you fucked and all of this and who you beat up and stuff,” I said, “I’ll give you that to a degree but it’s not going to be a whole book on that.” I said, “I’m not interested in all that.” I said, “I want to have an even Steven book. The good, the bad, the ugly. I want to talk about being a kid and how my mom raised us without my father, dying of cancer at 28 years old and how she had to fight to keep us and how she taught me to work my ass off and enjoy life and my bad times with my drugs, my bad times with my drinking. My getting through that and beating that. Kind of a celebration moment. From the death of my mother on basically a weekend. She was taken away with necrotizing fasciitis to the death of my son’s mother who was basically taken away with a tumor within six months at 37.” I told him at the time, I said, “I really don’t want to put, ‘oh yeah, yeah, my mom died. She’s dead and my heart’s broken and I fucked this girl.'” I said, “it doesn’t fit.” So when it was done he’s like, “Oh, well some of that stuff’s missing now and I came to Mike and I said, “here’s what we’re gonna do. The book is done. The story is A to Z. It’s all there. I don’t want to try to edit now and add stuff out of place and ruin the rhythm to me of the writing.” So I said, “come up with 50 questions. We’ll put it after the book. Look, there’s more.” We did a last little thing on the book and he asked me what he wanted to ask me. “Why did you fight Manowar? Did you really fuck a swordfish at Jaxx in Virginia?” and I could tell those stories as their own entity and that was important to me. I’ll contribute to anything. I’ve got a lot to say and like I said, I’ve got a lot of living in me so I’ll contribute to anything I can as long as it’s genuine and it’s the right reasons. That’s all.

Stay Ugly

Cover of Stay Ugly

So [is] that book coming back into print? I’ve heard about some of these stories on your Facebook like the fucking a fish and some of that stuff. Do you think these are ever going to be back in print?

Yeah I’m thinking about printing it again. That’s basically 100 books is 1,000 bucks. The company I use. It’s like 1,000 bucks you get 100 books. I sell em for 15 bucks. I make $500 off the whole fucking ripty round and people get to read it. Cause I have people asking all the time and it came and went so quick I think it was only about four to five hundred copies between me and Mike Sloan that even exist. And people were like, “man you should write a book,” and was like, “well I did write a book.” Heh. And it’s like you can’t even find it on eBay. No one’s even turned one in or it’s not on Amazon and things like that. It’s out of print and I think I need to put it back in print and I really want to start writing another book too. So yes, I would say it will probably come in print if not this year [then] early next year it’s going to come back into print. Probably another three, four hundred run.

OK so one thing that I’ve always admired about you is your commitment to the underground and DIY. You like going out and playing in front of just about anyone, just about anywhere and you don’t like people in metal that have big egos about it. I feel that this honesty of purpose is something that has really kept the music of your bands, both Deceased and October 31, I don’t want to say more pure but it sort of keeps it more fun and more honest and I think it helps fans relate to you whether you’re an old school Deceased fan or one of the newer, younger kids coming up into this stuff. Have you ever struggled to keep this integrity in your bands?

I’ve had to butt heads with a lot of people along the way. I’ve made enemies along the way because I’ve refused to bend. When we were on Relapse Records, which was one of the biggest death metal, underground, whatever you want to call it, labels of the 90’s, we were one of the first bands to ever sign with [Relapse]. Some people say we were the first but there were 7″ [releases on Relapse] before us but nevertheless when they started taking off and moving product and stuff and then came to Deceased, they would try to put our shirts in Hot Topic and I’d go in there and see a shirt and it would be $35 and I’m like, “take that out of the fucking Hot Topics. That’s a $20 t-shirt dude. Get it out of there dude,” and they’d be like, “oh man.” Then I’d go in Sam Goody and see the CD for $18.99 [and] I’m like, “get it the fuck out of there dude. It’s [a] $10 CD. If I wanted to be on that kind of label I’d go do that,” and they’re just like, “oh money, money, money, money, money” and I’m like, “come on dude.” We’re in an underground thing but as you know, I know you know this, money is such a greed pig thing. Money changes just about everybody. Everybody is just such about the dollar. Whether they say it out loud or they play the bullshit game where they keep it in the closet, they’re out to get everything they can. And I just, I want what’s mine. I always say I’m not cheap but I’m not stupid and what’s mine is mine and what’s not mine is not mine. But, when it comes to like the stuff we do, like shows and stuff, I love to keep the ticket prices down. I can’t always do that. When we played at Wacken [Open Air] in 2000 and stuff I’m seeing like $90 for the show and I’m seeing it’s Motörhead and Bruce Dickinson and us and I understand that. But some of these shows you go and it’s like Deceased and two local bands and it’s $28. I’m like, this is ridiculous. And they’re like, “well we gotta pay all the overhead to make this happen,” and I’m like, “there is no overhead. There is nothing” and I start calling them out. I’m like, “Look I’ve been around enough to have learned the ropes. You’d probably took me early on. We might have played a lot of shows in Pittsburgh for hamburgers and fries.” But as time went on I just want it to be fair. I just think the world could be so much better, just stop being so greedy. Let it roll out constantly at a fair level than try to suck it all in in a five year grab and everybody suffers. A lot of these death metal bands will go out and they ask for huge sums of money and they think they’re popular, and some of them were popular, but not as popular as the money they would ask for. These big ships in the little seas kind of egos and stuff and hey to each their own. Whatever you want to do it’s your thing, like I said. Your name, your world. But if I’m involved with it or brought into it, I have to say what I have to say. We’ve had bands we’ve played with that are just assholes. I’ll use Morbid Angel as the example today. Played a show with them a couple times. Always rock star trips. Always rock star and this and that. Played a show with them in New York. It was us, them and Nile. This was about 20 years ago now. And we had to sign a contract that we couldn’t even sell our merchandise on the premises. We had to [not] sell the merchandise within one mile of the club and it wasn’t like they just signed it ’cause it was a legality thing they were doing with the tour. They literally stuck to it. We had a guy outside and I was standing outside and I was like, “yeah I’ll sell you a shirt outside.” We walk outside and they’re like, “dude! this is not one mile from the club,” and I’m like, “this is fucking ridiculous. This is not the fucking underground. This is stupid. I don’t want to be a part of this.” So you know we used to say the under-underground. We tried to get this next level of things but you meet good people along the way. You meet shitty people along the way but my process with the bands has always been give everything you got. If you’re playing to nobody. I’ve played to the wall and I’ve played to 50,000 people and I get off either way. If I’m going to play, I’m going to play. If there’s electricity we can make it happen. Let’s do this. That’s my look on playing live. As far as like creating the music and stuff, always, we will never do albums just to put albums out. That’s the reason we left Relapse besides the point that I bitched and moaned about the Hot Topics and the Sam Goodys. I mean we just didn’t see eye to eye. It was turning into money about them. Music came secondary to them. But my thing is we’ll never do rent records. We’ll never just write eight songs, put it out, and be like, “here’s the new record. Give me $10 for the CD. Here’s the new record. Give me $10 for the CD.” The music does the talking. If it takes years, which the last couple of Deceased [albums] have due to being older and mortgages and lives and shit, then that’s what it takes. Bottom line I got into music to create good music. I want to impress myself first and foremost. I want to be happy with it and then if anybody else catches on and enjoys it too then right on.

I think that’s kind of the real, honest way you do it. I think a lot of the people that try to do it other ways get tired of it after a while and it becomes a job or a chore to them instead of something that they really have passion for any more.

You’re right man. It’s all about the passion to me to this day. I had a person a couple weeks ago, we played a bar. It was a small show. And he said, “aren’t you tired of doing this dude? You’ve been doing this like 35 years. Don’t you want to just play the bigger places?” I looked at him and I said, “dude fuck a Budweiser sponsorship show. Fuck all that.” I was like, “you’re here. I’m here. Let’s have fun.” I remember growing up and seeing D.R.I. in clubs with six people. The Accüsed, eight people. Shit I remember seeing Hallows Eve in a church, five people. I got a great memory for it. Sure they probably wanted to play to as many people as they could but they still showed up and played. And that’s what I go by. I don’t have every minute of the day, and neither do my other guys, to go play what I call like Pat’s Pizza Palace. I’ve had people come to me like, “yeah, you want to play a cook out on Saturday?” “Dude I’d love to but we’re 50 now.” My guitar player’s gotta take his kids to this and that. Sure as we get older we’re not 17 anymore. We don’t live under mom’s roof. So you have to kind of pick and choose. But anything we can do, we will definitely go and do it. We’ll be fair with everything on our end. We expect the same on the other side. If we have that, which I call the old school handshake, then that’s what it should be about. There’s just too much outside everything. I mean money just creeps into every fucking thing in life. It’s a shame.

Ghostly White

Cover of Ghostly White album by Deceased

You were bringing up earlier Ghostly White which is the newest Deceased album which came out in November of 2018. Unfortunately, and quite sadly, your at the time drummer Dave Castillo died just a couple days before it came out I believe. I know that’s gotta be a bittersweet release ’cause I know you guys don’t just release an album every year just to put one out. How did that news come to you and do you think that affected the release for the record?

It crushed my fucking soul dude. That was one of my very best friends on Earth even outside of the band. The things he did for my family and helped out our stuff in crisis. He was a heating and air conditioning kind of guy and stuff and I go back to this, it was 2000, we were living in a house. We lived all through [since] like ’75. For 25 years we lived at this house and we rented this place. The landlord got too old, her kids took over and here we go back to money runs everything. They knew how much this house was worth. This landlord always gave my mom a deal ’cause she knew my mom had gone into a lot of issues when my father died in the 70’s and she always kept the rent down ’cause she knew she was basically a single mother trying to raise a few kids. And it was always cool and then all of a sudden it wasn’t cool. The kids came over, they wanted to like double the rent and then they wanted to like sell the house for like $700,000, which it was worth that, don’t get me wrong, but they just took it from underneath her when she got too old to fend for herself and the house had been 25 years lived in. That was one of the things with the lady was, you know you keep the house up the best you can. Well it was pretty beat up by then. So we wanted it up to par. We’re a blue collar family. We did everything we could to do what we could but we couldn’t get it where it needed to be and they literally rushed us out of there by law they gave us literally the most minimalist time we could have and this guy Dave came over and he’s [working] all night with his brother came over there and they just started patching walls and painting walls. I mean I’m talking 24/7 while he was working his day job and then when it was said and done my mother said, “I have to give you something for this. You busted your ass. You did a hell of a job. I love you for it,” and he looked at my mom and he said, “no Mrs. Fowley. This is for all the years you let us party here.” He said, “I feel like I’ve helped contribute to fuck it up, let me fix it for ya,” and I never forgot that. Just such a good guy. Do anything for you. Anything. And a hell of a fucking drummer and he was in El Salvador. He was standing on the sand with his brother playing frisbee on the beach. A riptide came, it send the sand out from underneath him. Shot him into the water. He couldn’t swim this guy. This guy could run 50 miles up fucking a mountain but he couldn’t swim. He went out there and he fucking drowned in El Salvadorian ocean. Later that day when it happened, I was sitting there watching Monday Night Football in the bed with my wife and the phone rang and I missed it and I looked at it and ok it’s a 703 number so it was Virginia. I thought maybe it was my sister or my brother. So I called the number back and nobody picked up and then I listened to the voicemail and it was a mutual friend that said Dave had drowned that day and I went into shock. I told my wife, she started crying. She loved him too. I got up. I didn’t know who to call or what to do. I finally talked to his girlfriend and when she told me what happened I was just crushed. And it sucked because with the Ghostly White album he had busted his butt. I still write all the drumming for the band. I wrote pretty crazy drumming stuff for him for this record. Some things I wanted him to do and he busted his butt to learn this stuff and we had very limited pre-production for this record coming up to it because everybody lived so far away. Our guitar player lives over seas now, Mike Smith. Our bass player [Les Snyder] lives in Texas. This isn’t the touring band but this is the recording band. This is the guys and we had very little time for him to do this stuff and he was worried. I had his back the whole time. I said, “dude, I know you can do this.” He was nervous and paranoid. He went in there and he killed it. He nailed it so quick and so deadly on everything. [I] remember the last show we played was in Cincinnati. It was me, him and my friend Steve Hughes and we got in the car and we drove to Cincinnati. And he’s listening to the finished mix of the record. He looked at me and he said, “man, we did good.” I remember he was sitting in the back seat and I was driving, I looked at him in the rear view mirror and he said, “we did good,” and we caught eyes and I gave him a thumbs up like man, all the shit we’ve been through over the years, the good, the band and the ugly, I said, “this is the one.” Then he went home. A few days later I said, “hey, what’s up? When are we going to get together and jam? We got some shows coming up.” He said, “well I’m going to run to El Salvador for Thanksgiving and see my parents. I haven’t seen them in a good while.” And I said, “well you be safe man. I love ya,” and that was the last time I ever talked to the guy and then after he passed away, Hell’s Headbangers were like, “well the album’s ready to roll.” I said, “could you hold up on the album for a few weeks?” and they said, “sure, what’s up?” I said, “dude, could you please put a sticker on there celebrating his life. I wanna give him a salute.” And they were so cool. They could have pulled the greed card. They didn’t pull no greed card. That’s why we’re on this label. And they went and made these beautiful stickers with a tombstone and drumsticks in front of it and gave a nice thing. We put the sticker on the CD and then it came out and I just looked at it and I just fucking cried man. I was like, man, life is so fucked up. Life is a wild fucking ride. It just doesn’t give a fuck. It will take anybody good, bad or otherwise when it wants to take ’em and you know that whole situation sucked so bad it was right at winter time. Everything started getting cold and winter’s already dark and depressing and cold and dreary. That whole November through January, especially those three months for me I was just fucking in lala land.

Deceased

Flyer for last Deceased show with Dave Castillo

Deceased

Deceased band photo by Jayla Bossier

King is center. Dave Castillo is front, right.

So it seems Amos Rifkin of Father Befouled has become Deceased’s new touring drummer, at least for live shows. How did you meet him and do you think he’ll become a permanent member of the band?

This is very weird but very genuine. We toured with him last year. He was in a band called Death of Kings OK? It was Death of Kings, Savage Master and Deceased. We did a tour together. A little over a week of shows just here on the East Coast, Tennessee and up and we had a blast. And I had just met Amos ’cause he liked Deceased and he booked the tour. He’s a booking agent. And we got to know these guys. And every night Dave was like, “man this fucking band is killer man. I love this drummer” and I was like, “yeah, he’s bad ass. He kicks ass,” and the very last show we played was in Detroit, Michigan, and I remember Dave looked at me and he said, “if anything ever happens to me man you gotta get this motherfucker in the band ’cause he can play our shit,” and I looked at him and I said, “well let’s hope that never happens.” So after this happened Dave told Amos and the Death of Kings guys he was going to wear their shirt in the album picture because he loved them. And he did. And then after he passed away the obituary cut him out of that picture with the Death of Kings [shirt]. So again Amos kept seeing this and he was like, “man, I’m so happy I got the shirt in there but I’m so sad at what happened to Dave,” and he said, “man, what’s your address? I want to send you something,” and a few days later I got this two page, handwritten, pencil to paper letter and it said, “I’m heartbroken over this shit and I can’t believe this happened. You guys are such a tight family and were so cool to us and you’ve been around all this time and we’re nobodies and you guys treated us equal,” and all this and he said, “I’m so sorry for Dave,” and he said, “man if you ever need any help on drums man I would love to help out.” He said, “you know I’m not looking to fuckin’ better my career or anything. I would give my all to be a part of this thing.” So I called him and the weirdest part was the whole time me and Shane [Fuegel] and me and Matt [Ibach] and me and Walter [White], the touring band, were talking, “who are we gonna get?” and we all said we should look into Amos. So it all seemed like it was meant to be and then when I talked to Amos and told him what I told you about like Detroit and what Dave had said, he said, “well it’s meant to be then.” And I told him, “let’s get through winter,” and he said “well how are we gonna do this? I live in Atlanta.” He goes, “I’ll fly up. I’ll drive up. Whatever it takes as often as we need.” I said well go ahead and learn these songs. I think I gave him 12 songs, 11 songs. He came to practice the first jam, the beginning of the year. He knew ’em all. We could have played a show that night. He came that prepared. We were blown away by his passion, his integrity and his sincerity. And right out of the gate he was instantly great with us. He fit right in. Man we all talked. We all hugged. We all, the emotional ride about Dave. We got through that. We just did it to power up kind of thing for everything and the Atlas show will be the tenth show with him. We’ve done nine and dude they’ve been strong as fuck and we always honor Dave. You know it’s for us and it’s for Dave it’s for the Deceased history, it’s gotta go on. Onward we go. Yeah Amos is in. Amos is a full on drummer for Deceased for me. I’m totally in. We’ve talked. I’ve told him I want you to be part of this. I told him hey I’m always the creative drummer, writer for the album stuff. I want you to be there for the recordings, everything. And he’s been nothing but genuinely a super cool cat and in this day and age as I said with all the greedy shit and all the fake rockers and, just everybody’s got an ulterior motive, it’s good to see this guy here with us. I’ve known this guy a year in August and he’s just been phenomenal. A big thumbs up to that guy.

OK so along with the vocal duties you perform in both bands, Deceased and October 31, you sort of do the Chris Reifert thing originally where you would do lead vocals and you’d be the drummer and as you’ve said you’ve got other drummers in now. I guess about some point in the 00’s you seemed to have stopped drumming at least live for the bands. Why did you do that and do you miss drumming?

The reason I took up drumming is because I sucked on bass. Heh heh. I started playing music when I was 12. I was in a band called Slack Tyde. No idea where the name came from but it was a buddy of mine from elementary school. He moved to Savannah, Georgia. He wanted to form a band. We talked on the phone. We learned a few cover songs from Billy Joel to Kiss to the Knack to Bad Company to Aerosmith and we played this show when we were 12 years old. Me and the guitar player Andy who was in 5th grade, I was in 6th. Took a bus down to Savannah, Georgia. We showed up. We played the community center. We rocked the community center’s ass, haha. I shouldn’t say community center, it was more like a dad’s golf club community get together and I played bass then. I tried to keep learning some more bass. I had another band called Messager and I just couldn’t get any better on bass. Well eventually it got to the point where I wanted to form the full on heavy metal band and I tried to play some bass some more and I still was like, “I ain’t getting this man. I think I’ll just be the singer,” and then we had a drummer. His name was Marcel DeSantos. You’re talking, this is like ’83 going into ’84 and he got hooked up with his girlfriend and he got caught up in pot and all this crap and he just did not want to come to practice and his drum set sat there. Well my buddy Andy who had been the guitar player in Slack Tyde, his brother was a drummer and he played in a band called All Points Bulletin in DC. They were pretty big like jazzy kind of band the late 70’s, early 80’s. Got me into Kansas and Rush and Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd, that kind of stuff. Well I’d sit at his drum set sometimes and I’d bash it out. I said, “one day maybe I’ll learn this shit.” Well, I told the guys, “maybe I’ll play drums and sing like Kiss like Peter Criss or Dan Beehler from Exciter,” and they’re like, “really man? That might be crazy hard,” and said, “I don’t know. I don’t even know where I’m gonna get a drum set.” Then the weirdest thing happened. I went into my little brother’s room one day and there was a drum set in his closet. And I’m like, “why is there a drum set in his closet?” ’cause you know I was the oldest. I was like, “I don’t remember this thing ever being here.” There was a drum set in there. It wasn’t a good one but it was something and I set it up in the room and our two guitar players at the time, Mark Adams and Doug Souther, we got together and we just started beating the shit out of stuff. Playing Slayer covers and Hirax and Bathory and that kind of shit and I just was like OK, now I’m on drums. So we started playing shows as a three piece. We didn’t even have a bass player yet and we played shows and the guy up front at those shows, which they were living room parties where we’d throw smoke bombs onto the fucking couch and the mom would come into the room, “what are you fucking ruining my couch?” We’d just be fucking ridiculous 17 year old kids and it was Rob Sterzel who’d be up front headbanging. You know he’d be like, “oh shit they’re doing Motörhead. We’d headbang and shit and so we got him on bass and by this time we hadn’t even played a show where I was singing. All the shows we had done I just played instrumentally. I’m like, “I’m gonna master this one day” and it took me forever and then just right before we recorded The Evil Side of Religion [demo] we did a show where I sang and I was bad. The drum hybrid with the vocals, that was bad, real bad. I was like, well, hopefully I’ll get better. Well then the story takes a lot of turns. ’87 became the year I almost died from drug overdose and I had to give up all that shit at 19. Cocaine, PCP, just all that crap. It was a fucking knock out, drag down year. ’88 comes around we’re back. We’re playing again. All of the sudden I’m a better drummer. The first practice there Rob doesn’t make the practice. A few hours later they want to celebrate getting together and jamming. Rob goes over there. I want to go with them but I’m coming off of my drug withdrawal and stuff. I said, “well I’ve kinda burned myself off for the day. I’m just gonna stay in. Too much all at once is gonna probably run me down.” That was the night Rob Sterzel died in a car accident, in a hit and run. It was basically him, Doug’s brother, another guy named Larry, all killed. The fourth guy had his legs completely flipped backwards. It fucked the band up right out of the gate. Here we were the first day back from my year layoff with getting better and healing from drugs and now Rob’s dead. So we got in Les [Snyder] on bass and then we started learning to play shows and that’s when it really came into me singing and playing drums. And for the next, 1988 until 2001, 2002, I sang and played drums. And I got really good at it. I really think my best time was the mid-90’s where I got really good on drums. I thought I was really powerful on vocals. But of course you’re always sitting and I always say my butt cheeks were stuck to a drum stool. OK I wanted to get up and run around. I’m a pretty hyper dude even at 51. Back then I was ridiculous. I was like 10 kids on speed. And I was just like, “god I’m stuck back here. I want to front the band but I’m back here.” So in ’95 I started a band called October 31 which we’re talking about. I was like well I just really want to sing with the band but I couldn’t find anyone to play drums so here I am playing drums and then recording demos singing. I’m like, we gotta find a singer so we ended up getting a singer but he couldn’t sing. He was a good front man but he couldn’t sing. Then we got a great singer but he was a terrible front man. So I was like god damn it man. So then I said you know what? This was when really it all came into Dave Castillo, [nicknamed] Scarface. He had been in a band called Hatred. I said, “let me ask that guy if he wants to play drums for us. He’s a cool guy,” and he wanted to play drums. So the very first time I ever sang in front of an audience while somebody else played drums was Wacken and this was 2000. Wacken festival in Germany. This was like [in front of] 30,000 people and I went out there and I was just the front man and I loved it. I could run around, well at Wacken you can’t get in their faces ’cause the photo pit keeps them like two miles away from you but it was so much fun and I went home and I told the guys in Deceased, I said, “man I would love to do this with Deceased,” I said, “maybe we should ask Dave to play drums in Deceased too,” and Dave just jumped at that. He couldn’t believe it ’cause Deceased was the big band in the area and he was like, “man I can’t believe I’m offered this shit,” you know? Well I said, “well keep it secret for a while ’til you learn the songs and for the next year and stuff he learned the songs, I continued to play. And then when I went out and did it with Deceased I’m like, “I love this,” It’s just what I was meant to do. I’m not a great singer but I do think I’m a great entertainer on stage I think I can definitely entertain a crowd. What we do, I just feel so comfortable with being up front now. I love my time playing drums. I still love writing the drum parts as I said for the albums, but I just love being out front. Deceased is about to go into our 35th year as a full on band known as the band Deceased and it’s literally split exactly down the middle right now. It’s 17 years of me singing and 17 years of me playing drums and singing. That was 50% of the time Deceased was started already now. I love it. I really do. I love being out there in people’s faces and stuff and I’m kind of happy it happened a little bit later in my life than when I was younger ’cause I was so crazy back then. God knows what would have happened if I had the microphone in my hand at 18, 19, 20 in some of those drug days, the drinking days, that might not have been so good, heh heh heh. So it’s better that it happened when it did. It should be this way.

Well I definitely think you are a super fun to watch front man. I’ve seen Deceased play several times over the years. I’ve always enjoyed it. I think my favorite– you guys played Comet Ping Pong and I remember that show distinctly and you were really, really fun and entertaining that night I remember.

Yeah our bass player couldn’t come last minute I was like so mad with the guy that was playing bass [said], “I can’t make it man. They’re going to fire me at my job.” He lived in New York so we played without a bass player. I’m like well we’ll be extra crazy that night. But yeah they had ping pong tables I remember up and all the sudden they took ’em down and that became the stage, was the ping pong tables. That was weird. I think they just removed the nets from the tables and set ’em down and put the drums on ’em, heh heh! That was weird. Good time though I enjoyed that show too.

Deceased at Comet Ping Pong

Flyer for Deceased show at Comet Ping Pong

You currently live in Pennsylvania in sort of the ‘burbs of Philadelphia and I know Deceased was originally formed, you were living in Northern Virginia, I think like the Arlington area.

Yeah, Arlington, yep.

Yeah so, when did you move out of the DC area and why?

2005 I left the area. I had bought a house. It was on the borderline of Falls Church/McLean right there in Tysons Corner area and I know you know how crazy it is up there now and the mortgage was $3,000 a month and I just tried and tried to keep up with it. I could not keep up with it. Me and my son’s mother tried to keep the house together. We were going to do a five year plan where we kept it then we sold it, flipped it kind of thing and she took sick and died. And after she passed away we gave the house back. I moved up here and got married in 2005 to a girl named Kim and we were together for the next six years. When we got a divorce in 2011, nothing, no issues really other than she wanted me to stop playing music and slow down and all that stuff and that’s not going to happen. That’s my heartbeat. And I just told her, I said, “it’s best to remain friends.” And so I left there, I was living in literally downtown Northern Philly at the time. Frankford Avenue. And I moved up here to the King of Prussia Mall area now, which I live right now, it’s Plymouth Meeting and from 2012 my son, me and my stepfather lived here and then now my wife Tara lives here. She’s lived here for almost the last five years and I love it here. I love where I’m at right now. It’s a good spot. I go back to Virginia. I see the stuff from when I was a kid and most of it’s gone. Just everything’s changed. There’s a lot of people talking down their nose, snooty, snotty, down there. It’s very high end everything and by god I can’t believe they charge you to be on I-66 now and things like that but I loved my time there and when I go back I go to the old 10th Street house where we lived all those years and I look at things. It’s changing. I mean life goes on. Technology and just life changes. Gotta get used to it but I like where I’m at now. I really do enjoy it up here. I’ve met some nice people up here. I’m in a nice spot and I love my living quarters so to speak.

Yeah, I think one of the issue with Northern Virginia too is there’s not really anywhere for bands to play now that Jaxx is gone, at least not metal bands.

Yeah Northern Virginia is bad yeah, yes you’re right. You’re totally right about that. Yeah it’s weird. It’s all in DC and it’s all these smaller makeshift kind of things going on. Over the years, you know down there, it’s been Velvet Lounge, it was the Rock & Roll Hotel which is a little bit bigger but that’s a hard one to stay in there you have so many rules. The Black Cat has so many rules. The pie shop was fun, very small, but they have nice air conditioning I guess Atlas needs that air conditioning. I’ll let ya know how I feel about Atlas after we do Atlas. You’re right, Northern Virginia needs a place but there it’s just so snooty it just seems like heavy metal is the last god damn thing they give a fuck in the world about.

October 31

October 31 band photo by Tara Fowley

For those who might not know about both of your bands, what would you describe as the big differences in sound between Deceased and October 31?

When I do Deceased lyrics and write songs they’re very thought out, they’re very, I want to say creative. But there’s a lot to them. It takes time. It’s not stressful but it’s really thought provoking kind of stuff when it comes to writing and creating it. With October 31 it’s more traditional. It’s more like by the books. It’s almost like rock ‘n roll arrangements but with heavy metal vibes. We write about silly stuff and fun stuff while Deceased writes these deeper lyrics when it comes to that. As for the bands live, both bands live to get on stage and rock out and freak out and all that kind of stuff. Vocally, Deceased is a lot more low end vocals for me and the other one’s more of a scratchy almost Overkill-ish type of vibe to that. Like I said I’m not a great singer I’m more of a frontman kind of guy but both bands definitely have their own kind of thing. Some people say, “well October 31 just sounds like Deceased with a different vocal.” I don’t hear that at all. Not even close. It’s totally different riffing, stylings, all that kind of stuff but some people hear that. To each their own. October 31 is more of a party band on stage. We make signs and throw shit out and (stop thumbs?) and goof off and stuff and Deceased does that too from time to time. It does sort of carry over a little bit ’cause I get caught up in my showmanship fun things but both bands are fun live. Both bands mean a lot to me. If I was to keep [only] one it would be Deceased obviously but I love my October 31. That was formed in ’95 just out of the sake of heavy metal was not happening in America at the time. Nobody was doing it and a guy named Brian Williams called me up about playing a show with Deceased. We talked on the phone for an hour. Next thing you know we said let’s start a band. He came down with a couple buddies from North Carolina. We were in my basement. Next thing we created this heavy metal demo. We put this demo out, it got really popular overseas. We got offered record deals. Next thing you know, and this was weird to me, was the Wacken thing ’cause Deceased ended up going to Wacken the following year as what I told you the 2000 with October was, October 31 had been around like four or five years and we were getting all these breaks and I’m like Deceased had been around like 15 years at the time and we weren’t over in Wacken or anything. It opened doors for Deceased. October 31 got signed to Metal Blade Records and it was just supposed to be this little, fun project and I kept looking at the guitar player who’s actually older than me, he’s like five years older than me, Brian, I kept saying, “stick with me. We’re gonna go places,” and it was a joke but then all the sudden we started going places and then we were on stage at Wacken and I looked at him and we’re playing to 30,000 people and I said, “I told you so man, I told you so,” and I just started laughing during our show. I think we might even have fucked up for a second ’cause we were laughing so fucking hard. But I love the bands man. It’s just fun. One’s a simple, traditional heavy metal band and one’s a dark rooted heavy metal thrash, death, speed kind of band with a little bit of punk in there too.

October 31

October 31 at Maryland Deathfest X

I remember seeing October 31 at Maryland Deathfest maybe eight or nine years ago.

2011.

Yeah there you go. So about eight years ago. And I remember seeing you throwing Halloween candy out at the audience and holding up a touristy crab hat and just all kinds of goofy stuff. It was a lot of fun.

We had the Sharon Osbourne is a cunt sign. We had Sharon Osbourne is a cunt as a finale.

I remember that actually, I do.

That was when Iron Maiden with the egg shit was going down. I was like, fuck this bitch. I threw VHS tapes. “Now we’re going to do the VHS tape give away” and throwing those things like 40 fucking yards and I remember one conking my buddy on the head. He’s like, “that motherfucker hit me over the fucking head,” I’m like, “well fucking pay attention man.” So you’ve seen what we do.

So another thing is, Deceased is going on tour in August it looks like. Do you have any favorite venues to play that you’ll be hitting on this or just in general?

I love playing anywhere. On this little run here it’s a lot of new places I’ve never been to before. It’s even states we’ve never been into. Two weeks back we just did Vermont and Maine. In all our years, 35 almost years here, we’d never played Vermont or Maine. Now we have. This tour we’re playing a couple places we’ve never played. We’ve never been to Mississippi. We’re playing Mississippi. We’ve never been into Kansas. Missouri we’ve been there very little. We’ve been to Oklahoma never. These are places we’ve never been in all of our years so we’re doing some bucket list stuff we call it. Places that we’re playing: I’ve only played the Sanctuary in Detroit once but I love that venue. That was super cool. And I love going up to Cleveland and seeing the old buddies up there in Ohio. We’re playing up there. I love going to the classic places but I also love going to new places and just seeing what’s up ’cause last year we did this same kind of tour with Savage Master and Death of Kings. This time again it’s with Savage Master. And we were in new places I had never been. I had never been to New Orleans. We never played in Louisiana ’til last year. We were down in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on a Sunday night. We were over there riding the Chattanooga Choo Choo. I was like, “Is there a Chattanooga Choo Choo?” and they were like, “there really is a Chattanooga Choo Choo,” and there we were up on it taking pictures and shit. It’s all fun to me. It’s almost like a vacation. You go out and you just see the world. Like I was saying earlier, it’s just about living. It’s about having a good time all the time. Making the best of any situation and then you get to play your band’s music too and set up and take down and meet people that are also into music. That’s what it’s about for me, man. You don’t have pat me on the back. You don’t gotta fucking like grease my wallet. I don’t give a shit about that man. Just come out and have fun man. That’s what it’s about. The smiles. That’s what I’m in it for man.

August 2019

Deceased August 2019 Tour Dates

You’ve been very vocal about how you used to do drugs and drink a lot and now you’re clean and sober. You think it’s going to be weird playing Atlas Brewery?

It doesn’t bother me a bit, brother. I don’t even know why I ever drank alcohol. I didn’t even like the taste of it, dude. I was already crazy. I didn’t need to be crazier. All alcohol ever did was to give me the shits and make me want to do crazier shit. That’s all it did. It made my stomach hurt. I got sick the next morning for a few hours. That was stupid. The drugs, I was a kid. I guess I was just trying to fit in. I was like 15. I got turned into a weed head about 13 or 14. The next thing I know I was a cocaine freak, then a PCP head and I’m tripping on acid every minute of every day and by the time I was 19 I was about fucking dead. I was a bag of bones. Dude, I’m a big boy. I’m like 335 lbs these days but back then I was like 188 and shit I shrunk down to like 130 lbs. I lost like 50 lbs from not eating and partying and running and not taking care of myself and I fucked my nervous system up especially from the cocaine. So I got away from that as I told you when I was 19. That year was Hell on Earth. Made it through that and two years later I started drinking I started fucking drinking for the next 12 years and I was like, “what the fuck?” and then 2002 I just said, “you know what? I’m done with this shit. Fuck this.” I’d get in people’s cars I don’t even know. I’m fucking at lights going, “yeah, you’re going to take me to a party.” These people could just pull out a gun and blow my fucking brains out. You know, shit like that. I was like, “this is stupid.” The last night I ever fucking partied we were in an IHOP. Me and my girlfriend at the time and a couple of friends and I walked in there and I said, “this is the International House of Piss,” ’cause it smelled like piss and the cops were coming in and some girls were in there and they were eating spaghetti and I was like, “you must be fucking dykes. Who eats spaghetti in an IHOP?” they moved to the corner I went outside and started beating my dick on the window. The manager calls the police. They’re coming again. I go sit down. I refuse to leave. I’m like you’re treating me like it’s jail here. I’m spitting bread and water on my girlfriend, on my fucking friends. I’m telling them to punch me in the face. I’m acting like an idiot. I go home. I go outside in the middle of the night fucking nude. Walking the streets, the neighbors are walking their dog and I’m fucking like sitting there with my fucking dong hanging out. I was just like, “this is fucking stupid.” So I just fucking stopped all that shit and I have not given a fuck. I go to shows man people are like, “you wanna do a line man? You wanna smoke a joint? You want a beer?” for the last 20 years I’m like, nope. I’m fine with this glass of water with lemon in it or ginger ale or my favorite the little strawberry milk with the little bunny rabbit guy, the Quick. I like that. That’s my thing. I could care less what people do with theirself. I look after my friends. If I think you’re getting ridiculous or something I’ll try to keep ’em under control or if they need a friendly hand for the moment but I don’t preach to nobody. As far as the brewery, I could care less. We just did the Decibel [Metal & Beer] Fest which had the same kinda brewery thing going on and somebody asked me that question that day. “Are you OK with this?” I said, “man, it doesn’t tempt me at all dude.” I didn’t want to drink it back then. Heh heh heh. So I’m OK with all that. I made it through that. I feel happy, proud that I could make it through all that shit. Some people it’s easier than others. I went cold turkey drinking. I went cold turkey drugging, and somehow I made it through all that shit. To each their own. At Atlas I’ll be drinking a lot of god damn water man. Hahahahaha.

Alright well we’re getting to the end of the interview here and this is kind of where I throw in any extra questions I might think [of] and you know what? I would like to hear the story about you fucking the fish at Jaxx if you could tell me that real quick.

Sure, heh heh. There was a band called Hades. OK not the black metal band but a band out of New Jersey. We played a show with them at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York and that day went on forever. We were supposed to play at nine o’clock at night. We’d been feeding the meter since two o’clock that day and it was October 31 and Deceased were at this show too. So there you go, it was a Atlas crossover. They went on stage about ten o’clock and we were supposed to play right after them and they took an hour to set up and they played for two hours. They were supposed to play 40 minutes. They would not leave the fucking stage. I was shit hot pissed off. It was one o’clock in the morning. People had been there four fucking hours waiting to see us play. So we went on stage, both the other bands. We literally ripped through 20 minutes each ’cause you had to close the place at two. I was pissed. When it was over I went looking for these motherfuckers. Well they were nowhere to be found. They were gone of course. They didn’t give a fuck about us. Pulled what I just told you earlier about rock star tripping. Anyway, “King. Did you hear man? That band Hades is playing at Jaxx.” “Oh yeah? Well let’s go up there, man. I’m gonna say something.” So I went up there. Walked in the place and they were like, “what are you gonna say?” I said, “man, I don’t fucking know. I want to punch them in the fucking face. I hate these dudes. They’re smart ass pieces of shit,” blah blah blah blah blah. So I sit down and somebody starts buying me drinks. Next thing I know I’ve had like 15 shots of [Bacardi] 151 at the bar there in the back. And I’m like, “you know what? Fuck those dudes. I don’t give a fuck about those fucking guys. Fuck it I’m just gonna enjoy myself. Let it ride. Well this guy that worked there at the time. He would make all these like beautiful foods. He could make a steak and a blue cheese salad and a potato that we’d scream for. He was a really good cook. Well I went back there trying to ask him to make me a steak with blue cheese and that baked potato and he was like, “we don’t have any steaks tonight. I’m preparing this swordfish” for some kind of catering thing he was doing. And it wasn’t a swordfish any more, it was obviously fish, it was cut up. But he had this, it looked like a wedding dish to me. Some kind of like silver platter with all this fish on it and I just picked it up and I walked into the girls bathroom and all the girls were in there and I was like, “yeah man. what’s up?” you know? “This is where the fish smell should be in the women’s bathroom right? And I’m just being a drunk asshole. And they’re like, “oh my god” and so I just pulled my dick out and I just like started pretending like I was fucking this fish and I walked out there and like, “yeah man. Aw man what are you doing man? You’re fucked up,” and I’m like, “oh yeah,” and I went in the band room and Hades [was there] and I has the fishdick in my hand. I just started throwing all the fucking fish at them. Oh fuck these dudes right? So I left the room. And I sit down. I’m in the fucking, the back room there. That’s where the bands aren’t playing. I’m just sitting back there and I’m fucking out of my mind. I remember seeing this picture of Anthrax on the wall. Some little fucking framed thing where he was basically trying to polish a turd there. He had all these pictures on the wall. So I punched it and I broke it and it fell down. And now my hand’s bloody and I’m sitting there as a drunk idiot, and that’s exactly what I was. And the guy comes over and he says, “hey man, I know you broke this. There’s your blood, there’s your bloody hand man. You can’t do that man. And what’s your deal with this fish and all this shit?” and I’m like, “I don’t know, fuck you.” And so I got up and I was like, “you know fuck this place.” So I left. So the next day I get a call from Jay Nedry, the guy that ran the place on my answering machine. I missed the call but I heard the answering machine an hour later. And he was like, “King, if I don’t get a heartfelt apology from you and you’re not down here with $150 for the picture you broke. I got two quarters. One’s for your Relapse label. I’m going to let ’em know what kind of shitty people they have on their label. And the second one is for the Fairfax County Police Department. I’m gonna have you fucking arrested for what you did,” and he says, “have a fucking great day.” So I called him back and we’re talking on the phone and now me and this guy have been butting heads many, many, many times. It’s always over money. You know we’d pack the place he’d be like, “oh we didn’t make any money, we’re down. Here’s $50, whatever,” and I’d be like, “come on dude. Don’t give me nothing before you give me $50. I know what you made. But anyways, we had our differences. So we start talking and I’m like, “I’m not paying you $150 for a Dollar Tree frame that that thing was in. I know what it was in. I said I’ll pay you for the fish and all that. I don’t know what I did. I can’t remember it all but I remember most of what happened last night.” And he goes, “well why would you do this? Why would you be such a fucking outlandish asshole?” and I said, “dude I’m tired of a lot of shit and I’d been drinking and I said I was pissed at the band. I was pissed at you from the past of you,” and I said, “it just all came to a head last night.” Then he just started laughing. This was the weirdest thing about this guy. He’d be so pissed and then all the sudden he’d just laugh. And he just starts laughing and he’s like, “yeah,” and I said, “well dude this can’t be the worst thing that’s ever happened here. You used to be a country honkey tonk when you were calling it the Copa and all this shit. You had bands in here and boots and you had the Blackfoot and Molly Hatchet, your band the Roadducks in there but a guy coming in there and grabbing some fish, jerkin off in the bathroom, whatever the fuck you want to call it, and knocking a fish over,” and he just started yelling at me and pissing a bitch and he didn’t know which way to go. His moods would change every 60 seconds of the phone call. So finally I said, “look dude, I ain’t coming to your fucking club no more. Fuck your club. Fuck you. Fuck your girlfriend and her panties that’s selling the beer behind the bar. I’m done,” I said, “If I want to see my fucking old timey Uriah Heeps and Blue Öyster Cults or Ritchie Blackmore‘s Rainbow, I’ll walk naked down 95 to New York before I’ll step a foot in your fucking shit establishment again,” and that was it. I never went back there when he owned that place as Jaxx. And he had called me, left messages. “Oh I want you to open.” Like he thought about three months later that it was cool and dandy. Nah. I didn’t talk to that guy for a decade. Then when he left and somebody bought it and changed it to the Empire, I called ’em up and said, “OK you’re not related to Jay Nedry in any way?” and they’re like, “we hate that guy. He’s a piece of shit. We bought the thing. It was a nightmare. We own it,” and I started telling my story. The guy’s name was Tyler [Greene]. He gave us a show there with October 31, Deceased and a band called Oz from overseas and was doing a tour. We went in there. I made a shirt that says, I fucking hate Jay Nedry’s fucking guts. I had one of those iron on things made. I went on stage. I told the story. I told the tale and everybody in the audience was just giving me the thumbs up. I wasn’t the only one that had a bad run in with that fucking dude. That’s my story with that. Empire lasted about a year. You know the overhead was too much for those guys. I think now it’s an Indian restaurant if I’m correct, and that’s our Northern Virginia heavy metal club update. Heh heh heh. And that’s one thing about me dude. I’ve had a stroke in 2004. I had a blood clot in my lung in 2002. I’ve been through a lot of health shit along the way from drinking motor oil and being a fucking stupid ass but my memory’s still superb. I could tell you dates, times, you’ve heard me right here go back to 2011 with our stuff talking about Maryland Deathfest and Wacken and all that. That’s one thing I’ve still got is my fucking memory man. For better or for worse. Some of it I love knowing and remembering. Some of it I hate man but it’s all there man and it is what it is.

Oz

Flyer for Deceased show at Empire

How are you alive after drinking motor oil, I’m curious?

Real quick, one more story. I was at a party. We were having a beer. I drank a whole thing of motor oil. Dan Lilker was there too from Nuclear Assault. It was gone. He took the top piece, a little ring at the top and put it to his lips and he had the little black circle on his lips. So forever I heard, “yeah I heard King and Dan Lilker drank motor oil,” and I said, “ah, ah, ah,” said, “I gotta take credit.” I drank the whole fucking god damn quart of it. I said, “he put the ring to his lips, it was gone, there was no other motor oil,” and they were like, “didn’t you get sick?” I did not get sick. I did not feel anything weird from it. I did not shit black. Nothing happened as far as that but years later I was at a party in Springfield, Virginia, and I told this story and they’re like, “bullshit! You’d be dead. You can’t do that. That shit’ll kill you, right?” I said, “produce one right now and I’ll drink it.” Well they couldn’t find any in the apartment but what they did find was a whole thing of Wesson oil. Cooking oil. I drank that I fucking fell out the shits, throwing up, everything. Don’t fuck with that oil. Keep with Quaker State to get you going you know? But that, yeah I don’t know dude. The shit I’ve done, I’m telling you man. I’ve eaten glass. I ate a whole CD one time. I chewed an entire CD case and all. Chewed it and swallowed it. We were at a show with October 31. I opened a bag of confetti with my teeth to throw it out. I went *inhales deeply* breathed in the whole bag of confetti. It was that metallic shit [and it] went down my fucking throat. I was literally singing and the fucking confetti was coming out of my mouth like for the next three or four minutes ’cause it was stuck in my windpipe. I have no idea dude what’s going on but somehow I’m still here. Hahahahaha.

Well you’ve been a great interview King. I knew you would be. Thanks so much for taking all this time to do this and I really cannot wait to see you perform with both October 31 and Deceased at Atlas Brew Works on Saturday, August 3rd while they’re filming your performances for the King: A Metal Life documentary. Any last things you’d like to say out there to your friends on DC Heavy Metal?

Just everybody take of each other, man. Look out for each other. Stay fucking good. Stay focused. Stay up. The world’s crazy out there man but up the tombstones.

Interview with Matt Pike of Sleep and High on Fire

On Thursday, July 5th, I got the opportunity to interview famed guitarist Matt Pike of the bands Sleep and High on Fire. In this 28 minute interview we cover topics such as Sleep’s upcoming shows at the 9:30 Club, the stories behind various Sleep songs, details about the next High on Fire album and other songs that were supposed to be on the Dopesmoker album. You can download the entire interview as an mp3 for free here, stream it by clicking the orange play button below or read the full transcription under that. As always my words are in bold.

This is Metal Chris of DCHeavyMetal.com and today I’ve got Matt Pike of the bands Sleep and High on Fire on the phone with me. Sleep has 2 upcoming shows at the 9:30 Club right now. The first is going to be on Sunday, July 22nd and the second is the following night, Monday, July 23rd. The Sunday night show is already sold out however tickets are still available (here) for the Monday night show that was added recently. To start things off Matt, can you tell me what will be different about the set Monday night?

We’re playing Holy Mountain which, that’s always a great thing. We do it every great while someone will ask this but we can do it. I just gotta rent and acoustic [guitar]. Yeah, the difference is it’s shorter but we’re playing a pretty arcane album. It’s old music that we know very well cause we played it over a million times but yeah, I love playing that album and Al [Cisneros, bass/vocals of Sleep] and Jay [Jason Roeder, drummer of Sleep] do too. It’s kind of easy for us actually. Haha. So we’re good at it. If you know Holy Mountain you know that it’s before we got too weird.

Will you be playing any songs from The Sciences or anything else during that set on Monday night?

I’m not sure. The set’s probably about 50 minutes. The shortest Sleep usually plays is like an hour and that’s at a festival and then this is not a festival it’s our show so we’ll probably add something else but I don’t want to ruin the surprise if it’s something weird. It’s gonna be a full set is what I’m saying, hahaha.

Matt Pike

Matt Pike photo by Jason Roeder

Ok, cool. Alright now back in April on 4/20 actually, Sleep released their first album in 15 or 20 years, depending on when you count Dopesmoker as actually having been released. The album is titled The Sciences and it really lived up to expectations to both fans and critics. On it we finally have studio versions of songs like “Sonic Titan” and “Antarcticans Thawed” and those are songs that you’ve played live for some time since you reformed in 2009. Were there other songs that were older on this album or was the rest of it written more recently?

Well what we did, it’s a reprise of music that Al and I had but we had to restructure and work with Jason. Obviously Jason’s a different drummer than Chris [Hakius, Sleep’s drummer in the 90’s] so the only drums we ever had on the songs that we were playing were Chris Hakius’s versions and we had to retime it, figure out BPMs, figure out time signatures. We basically recreated something that we did twenty years ago. That’s only for some of the songs. Some of them are brand new and original and some of them we took skeletons of what we had and redid them. Made them brand new for us just because I think we’re a little more experienced than we were when we were just kids which you lose some of the magic from when you were a kid but at the same time you actually understand things like timing and what you’re doing music theory wise. So it was a big chore for us to go through but we had been playing some of those songs live for a long time and I think it helped us kind of rewrite them just having that in our muscle memory or whatnot. I don’t know how to explain it but if you’ve been playing a song for a long time you’re all “ok let’s get serious. We’re going to record this. Maybe we should think about all the little things in it.” If that explains anything. I’m sorry. I’m just waking up having coffee.

Haha no, no, it does. So what’s an example of one of the songs on The Sciences that’s actually a new song that was written for this album?

Oh I wrote “The Sciences” for this album. That’s my version of a Vietnam vet meltdown, heh heh heh, and I was thinking of like Jimi Hendrix, haha, and I didn’t want make it a lead at all. I just wanted to make it a rhythm solo which it’s just so fucking weird, hahaha.

I actually like it a lot. That’s one song I put on to people, I’m like, you can listen to this and I’m like, if you like stoner metal you will like this and if you do not you will not like this, haha.

Yeah, no, yeah, haha. It definitely critiques towards a certain type of person, hahaha.

Well in 2014 Sleep released the song “The Clarity” through the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim summer singles series and this was the fist new Sleep song, at least to be studio recorded and released to the public, after the 2009 reformation of the band. How did this song come about? Was it one of the old songs that you had from the 90’s or something and kind of redid like some of these other songs or was this a new thing you did specifically for the Adult Swim release?

Well since we had the opportunity to write a new song, “The Clarity” was us putting together new music and seeing if we could do it without killing each other. All of us are in other bands that write. We hadn’t put together charts and things of that nature and truly tried to arrange something, and then Al just sent us the intro to the song which is just like “wah wah, wah wah, wah wah.” It’s like a horrible keyboard. Well that’s how Al wrote the riff and sent it to me and Jason. Me and Jason were looking at each other and just laughing like, what the fuck?

Haha.

What the fuck are we gonna do with this? But if you know anything about Al, if he sends you something like that there’s method to it, so me and Jay are staring at each other like trying to figure out how to make a riff out of this thing but we knew that Al had already fucking thought the whole thing through. He’s a chess player so if he does something like that it’s thought through it’s just the presentation was that horrible keyboard part at the beginning that we rock out to and hahaha, there’s a derogatory thing to that. It’s like, this is how it was presented and then we made a song around it you know and then when the song kicks in you understand. It’s kind of like how “Dopesmoker” was too. It’s like, what the fuck is this guitar intro and then when everything comes in it makes sense. So that was Al just getting stuff started with a riff that was recorded like, horrifying, hahaha, and then we decided to keep it cause that was the beginning of it and then we all just added onto it. Since Al had it planned out he left space for me to write a riff and left space for Jason to do things with and yeah, that was the first thing we really wrote together since we had gotten back together. It’s a special song. I love playing that thing. It’s fun. It was one of those things where we were forced to write together and it’s the first time we did it and it was successful cause we did it in like a weekend which is unheard of for the three of us. We’re all so picky and anal and weird, and me included. I’m not talking shit. I’m saying, it’s kind of amazing how that band puts its stuff together and what we do. It was the first time we had written something just off the cuff from scratch. It’s like we’re making a pie from scratch and it worked really fast and yeah, I’m in love with that song. It’s really cool. There’s never a dull moment when you’re playing with those guys and you’re Matt Pike I guess but I hope they would say the same about me, heh heh heh.

Well you guys also recorded and released another song with Adult Swim recently that’s called “Leagues Beneath.” It really sounds like it really fit in with the rest of The Sciences and in fact when I usually play The Sciences digitally on my computer I actually edited the ID tags to make it like a bonus track basically, to the album. Was this recorded at the same time or was this another one that you guys kind of wrote together just for the Adult Swim release?

No it was just for the Adult Swim. It turned out really cool. That one is the craziest. I’m glad I learned it in the 1990’s. Me and Al had that song, which, of course Al, he wrote most of the intro to that whole thing and I remember [saying] you know, “Ok Al, we gotta turn it into a song where you sing now.” You know?

Hahaha.

The whole intro you’re just picturing this barge on huge hurricane seas with stuff going over the side. Then it’s all, “Ok, where do we go from there?” At the time we were really influenced by [Black] Sabbath. We’re always really influenced by Sabbath, but it’s just all kick drum. You hit every odd note in between the kick drum to make the riff and then when the riff comes in it makes sense so it’s another Al… I don’t know. That guy’s pretty amazing, man. And it’s not like I don’t contribute it’s just he thinks differently than most people you ever met. It’s pretty crazy, hahaha. But yeah that song turned out amazing too. It’s one of those things where, when we get together and write all this magic shit happens cause everybody’s so fucking pissed off at the world that you get all these weird things. And that one though we did have the whole intro and we had the main body of the riff and then other than that we had a couple other parts and then my job in Sleep is to kind of add weird details but then have Jay time ideas I have because if I don’t have timing I’ll just wank so that band tries to teach me how to be patient, heh heh heh. So I’m learning how to be patient and wait for my part to come up. It’s hard to explain unless you’re in the room. It’s weird but we had that song for fucking I swear to god twenty years. That should have been on Dopesmoker and it just never happened like that and the same thing with “Antarcticans Thawed.” It should have been on Dopesmoker. Those two songs were written about the same time but then we just changed the tuning and Al wanted to use a five string so I had to figure out the theory behind– I am not going to buy a seven string guitar cause I think that’s fucking lame. I figured out a drop tuning that would keep up with him in B, which means I actually have to tune every other string up a half step and then drop my tuning. It was weird but it’s cool experimenting like that cause we get used to something too long and then we try something different [and] sometimes it works out.

So another thing I wanted to ask about was the whole issue with Dopesmoker like you were saying, which was originally released in ’98 as Jerusalem and had been kind of chopped up into different parts by the label and I know the band wasn’t really pleased with that version.

No. I took action cause Al was missing in action. He took like eight years off of music altogether. Chris went into the mountains and wasn’t doing anything. I got together with Al and Chris for the first time in like eight years and I was like, “hey dudes, we have a chance to get this back and release Jerusalem as Dopesmoker how we intended it with different masters and a different version” cause Al had one that had desert lyrics and Al had one that had space lyrics and so we went with the desert theme on the second release but the first one was chopped up because at that point in time there was not downloads, there wasn’t streaming, there was barely internet and they needed a radio version and that’s what they were trying to sell it as. “You just aren’t seeing the future here” and so we had to go into hiding before people discovered that it was a piece of work.

It reminds me a lot of what Rush said happened [to them] around the recording of their 2112 album.

Yeah well they were looking to drop us too and they did. They shelved it and I was like, “what a waste of a good piece of music” so I was pushing to get it out but then one dude wanted to bootleg and I’m like, “that’s on you, man. If you get sued or something like that, that’s on you, that’s not on us” but he tried to pay us or whatever and that got shut down. And then we finally got back together, got a lawyer [and] got the rights to that record back and then we could release it with Southern Lord properly. So that was all done legally, you know? Before that, that record label went bankrupt so no one knew anything about anything.

One thing you said though, it got released properly but then you said earlier that “Leagues Beneath” and “Antarcticans Thawed” should have been on that album too. Were there other recordings of these?

We tried but I just think all of us were smoking too much weed and it was hard enough to get the one 72 minute version of Jerusalem done, you know what I mean? It was hard enough to get that song done. It was the first time I think a band tried to do something that long that wasn’t improv. We had it written and it took us four years to write and having that much information in your head and then trying to do other songs, that wasn’t even doable. That’s too much to ask anybody to fucking memorize. After that whole album happened we were all kind of burnt on being around each other or anything. Me and Al weren’t but I think Al and Chris, that separated them for a minute and then they got back together and they started playing music together again. That’s where Om came from and then [I] think Chris just decided that he would rather hide in the woods and not be on tour, which I don’t blame him. [It] takes a special kind of person to be on tour and deal with all that kind of stuff and so I think the evolution of Sleep has happened properly the way that it should have. It just takes time. It’s a very patient band and it waits for its members to be ready to do things and it’s a special band. It’s definitely different. We got our own thing going on.

After the break up around then you went off and did the High on Fire thing, Al and Chris did the Om thing and it’s always kind of made me wonder what led you guys to come back around 2009?

Well cause we got offered one show that was in England. Or it was actually two nights and it was with Jesus Lizard and I just think that the band grew while we were taking a hiatus and when we saw the reaction to us walking out on stage after that long of [a] period of time, none of us had played together in that long and we played some pretty good shows. The two sets we did were amazing and then I think all of us realized that when we were kids we had a lot of magic but then we’re getting older and there’s something to all this. People love it. We have a cult following and it was like, oh wow, man, we can do something with this and all of us enjoy playing with each other but Chris didn’t want to be on tour and Jason, we grew up, me and Al, just kind of worshiped Neurosis [Jason’s other band] and the Melvins and like all the shows we’d go to in Berkeley. That was Gilman’s Street and that’s where we grew up as kids just tripping out on all these crazy bands like Nomeansno and Nausea and Glycine Max and Neurosis and the Melvins and all the good shit that was going on there so Jason knew us since we were little kids like that and Jason just knows all our music because, shit, quite frankly Sleep wouldn’t have ever done anything without Neurosis taking us out and believing in us so they’re like family to us cause we’ve known them our them our whole lives.

That’s pretty cool.

Yeah, yeah.

Sleep reunion shows poster

Sleep 2009 reunion shows poster art by Malleus

You were talking about that show in London which I think was the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival.

Yeah it wasn’t in London though. It was out on the Southwest coast and it was at the place, Butlin’s. And Butlin’s was a place for English working class families to go while dad gambles, mom gambles, and the kids run around and there’s like an amusement park for pasty, white English people that don’t have anywhere else to go. It’s cold and wet and it’s weird, heh heh heh. I think that’s where werewolves came from, I don’t know.

Well I know that show is pretty much the only one, or the shows there that you played, were the only ones with Chris back on drums since the reunion, right? After that Jason I think took over everything.

Yeah well cause Chris didn’t want to really do it. He was real hesitant and although he had been touring with Al but I think Chris just isn’t cut out to tour. He’s a great drummer. He doesn’t like the limelight. He doesn’t want to be famous. It takes a certain type of person. Like Al and I for myself, we really care about what we do. We want to leave a legacy a little bit. It’s not like we’re narcissists or something like that we just want to leave a legacy because we care about our playing and we spend a lot of time getting good at what we do and Jay has just known us since we were little kids so he totally understands why Sleep does what it does and ever did what it did. It’s about amplifiers and tone and loud and fucking with people because we got that from Neurosis and the Melvins. Fucking with people through music is like a great thing. Whether it’s derogatory, funny or very serious, we cover all those aspects. I mean I can improv all day with those dudes but then when it comes down to serious arrangements, we don’t want it to be what people expect. We want it to fuck with people’s heads a little bit. Like why? Why did they do that that way? Fuck, why do I like that? You know, question why they like what they’re listening to. That approach works for us.

So do you think you’ll ever play again with Chris? Even like a one off or a festival somewhere?

With respect for Jason, if Chris wanted to do a weird set with us or something, I wouldn’t be opposed. I love Chris Hakius but I love Jay too and Jason’s like our main dude so with respect if Jason said, “yeah, you should do a show with Chris” I’d be like, “dude I’m not opposed to playing with anyone.” It’s like the old jazz blues bands. Everybody moonlighted in between each other’s bands so I’m not opposed to anything. I just enjoy playing. I try to leave politics and head trips out of what we do.

High on Fire

Alright so shifting gears a little I would like to talk to you about your other band a little bit and one thing I’d like to know is, how did you form High on Fire? Like how did you find the other members and kind of pull that all together after Sleep was kind of on hiatus there?

Well I got out of Sleep and I had a bunch of fucking songs that I wrote that I was going to show them to Al or whatever if he ever got out of being depressed about music, which he ended up doing. I knew it would happen. So the first song I wrote I was actually just trying to start a band with anybody so I got a friend of mine, Karl [Larson], who was more of a Soundgarden-y guitar player, and later on I figured out I don’t work with other guitar players well usually, unless they’re my bass player, so yeah, I started a band and I met Karl and he had some stuff to contribute but I had all these riffs that were kind of Sleep-ish riffs and then I met Des Kensel who’s an East Coast hardcore drummer. And then when I started trying to play some of the Sleep riffs to the hardcore drummer it like clicked. We were like married and then Des didn’t like another guitar player either. Even though I love Karl who started that band with me, we moved on and we had a friend of mine, George Rice, come down to start singing. I thought he sucked at singing but he’s a great guitar player/bass player, so he just started playing bass and I started singing. I was a shitty singer for like ten years and then I started figuring it out. Started going my way a little bit more but it’s cause I met this total little super drummer, but he was very different than what I was used to. But I always liked thrash metal. I love my like Black Flag, Circle Jerks, that sort of thing so it works. So basically High on Fire is a metal band but it’s a weird metal band. It’s just strange what we do. But I just finished doing an album which is coming out in September.

Yeah I wanted to ask you about that. Do you have any other details? You said it’s going to be out in September. Do you know the album title yet?

Yeah it’s called Electric Messiah.

Cool.

Yeah and it’s the best album we’ve ever done, by far. It’s ridiculous. And I’m really proud of that. So to do Sleep The Sciences and that album, between 2017 [and] 2018 that’s two albums that I’m really fucking proud of in one year. I’ve been working hard. I haven’t had any time to myself til recently. This is my month off and then pretty much I’m on tour all the way up til next year. And then I’m sure I’ll be making plans for next year in the next week here or something. It is by far the best High on Fire record ever which is hard to believe but it’s fucking bad ass, heh heh heh.

That’s cool man. I can’t wait to hear it. How many tracks?

I think there’s ten tracks, eleven tracks. It depends cause there’s a bunch of songs, like I wrote a Sumerian anunnaki rock opera that actually is two songs but they’re separate tracks. And then there’s a lot of slash songs. There’s a lot of songs that– you know [how] Opeth will have like one song but it makes like three songs if you really think about it?

Yeah, yep.

It’s kind of a bunch of shit like that because we’ve had this conscious stream of riffs and we put it together. I like when I do High on Fire records to have a lot of interludes and weird shit going on so you never lose focus but it’s constantly changing. It’s a lot like, Death Is This Communion is like that. There’s tracks that don’t have names but, they’re there. It’s just one stream of High on Fire consciousness and it’s fucking good, that’s all. I’m really stoked on that record.

So I suppose you’ll be touring to support that at some point, probably in the fall or something?

I think we’re going to be on tour with Municipal Waste. Cause we’ve been kind of beating a dead horse, dead in the water for a while so we’re doing a co-headline [tour]. Municipal Waste dudes are our good friends so we figured we’ll just punch the country together, swap spots and no one gets tired and all that stuff and yeah, it should be good. I want to get High on Fire rolling again so it’s full throttle. We took a lot of time to write this record, really make it good.

I’ve always kind of wondered, which band do you like performing with more, Sleep or High on Fire?

They’re apples and oranges. It’s so different and so the same. It’s weird but the common link between High on Fire and Sleep is obviously my guitar playing. I like having my own voice and being able to sing my lyrics. High on Fire is my baby like that. But Sleep definitely, I am a third of that thing’s heart and I get to express myself in different ways that I don’t get to in High on Fire. It’s very visceral. It’s super tight and visceral and very detailed but it has its own soul and I can do different things. Sleep’s like a weird science experiment because I learn about tones. You know if I used my rig from Sleep for High on Fire you wouldn’t even be able to tell what we were playing. It’s too fast, heh heh heh. Sleep’s one of those bands you’re supposed to play loud because you hit one note every fucking five minutes, you know.

Hahaha.

It’s a tone experiment and High on Fire I have to be very, very– both of them I have to be very careful about the controlability of my rig. But I like singing too so that’s the other part of it that I love High on Fire for is I like singing. It’s like a part of my playing. It’s fun to see what I can pull off and between Jeff [Matz, current High on Fire bass player] and Des, they’re constantly pushing me to be able to sing and play more shit than James Hetfield would when Metallica came out. It’s hard, heh heh heh. And it being hard is a good thing for me cause I like challenges and I usually like rising to the occasion.

Matt Pike for president

Alright well, this is Washington, D.C. and so I really want to make sure I ask you about all these Matt Pike for President stickers that I’ve seen around [get them here]. Do you think you might actually run for president in 2020?

I’ll run for president, I don’t give a shit, if you guys really want. You know I think I’d be more popular than Trump instantly.

Hahaha.

I’d be a great diplomat. I am so unorganized and I have ADD so bad I think I’d either be a awesome president by luck or a horrible president that has a lot of resistance, you know?

Heh heh.

Hahaha. No I’d be a great diplomat. I think I could bring world peace but I think I’d fuck up our infrastructure. I have no idea how that would go but I hear it at every show and it was like a gimmick and the fantasy of being president in some sort of alternate universe, I’d like to see that on film just to see what [would] really happen. Hahaha. It’s a funny notion. That was a great idea. Shit, I don’t even get money from that or anything. I didn’t do that. It’s just some kid made something funny up and it just started going ape shit. And they did it for Frank Zappa and Ozzy Osbourne in the 80’s so I felt kind of flattered I guess.

Well I think we all know that Tony Iommi and Black Sabbath are major influences on you but I’d like to know some of the other bands and musicians that are also influences on you.

Well, kind of everything. You know second to Tony Iommi I always loved David Gilmour from Pink Floyd. I always loved John McLaughlin you know in Mahavishnu Orchestra and just everything that guy’s done. He’s just [an] amazing guitar player. And I’m influenced by a lot of early punk. I grew up in the 80’s and I was exposed to the Dead Kennedys and the Exploited and Black Flag, all the classic punk shit when I was a really little kid cause I had a babysitter that, she’d just do bong hits and show me punk rock music. And when Mötley Crüe came out, MTV came out and I always liked ZZ Top. I always liked, you know all the classic stuff. I love W.A.S.P. I love a bunch of cheesy ass shit and I like so much stuff in my playing. I went to school for– I never went to like Juilliard or something. I went to a community college cause I felt that I needed to learn music theory and my art a lot better. I actually went to college for jazz for a couple years so I learned jazz improv and I always played blues, I always played classical so, I could play guitar very well before I even knew what I was doing. You know what I mean? I just have an ear for it. And then, as I went through that, it just kind of made me better and better so my influences come from all over the map. I love fucking Angus Young and Malcolm Young [of AC/DC]. I love K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton [of Judas Priest]. I love Slayer. I love all the things that I got to grow up on and I was spoiled with.

Well D.C. is known for its harDCore scene as well and we also are known for a lot of the doom bands that came out of here. Are there bands from the D.C. area that you would say are influences to you at all?

Oh dude yeah. Fucking Alfred Morris III [of Iron Man], rest in peace. Bless his heart. Me and Al loved the shit out of that guy. He was the greatest fucking guitar player. It’s a shame that his death had to come. Sleep had Iron Man play a couple different shows when we were in your area with us because we were big fans of that. Wino is from out of that thing. I really love the Spirit Caravan thing. You know I kind of knew Wino before that with the Obsessed but then the Spirit Caravan, he was doing that and High on Fire was raging about that time so I got to know that dude around then. There’s a lot that comes out of there and it is definitely doom. Yeah Washington D.C. has definitely got a doom thing to it.

[Do] you like Clutch at all?

Oh yeah dude. I’ve been on tour with them. They took High on Fire out for a bunch. They have one of the coolest crowds ever. Those are some of the better tours that High on Fire had cause they were really cool to us. And that drummer, fucking J.P. is fucking retarded. It’s so good, hahaha. And I like anything with [Clutch vocalist Neil] Fallon.

Are there any new bands or albums that you’ve been listening to lately?

Well I’ve been so wrapped up in trying to get the masters done for Sleep and High on Fire [that] all I’ve listened to is my own band for a while and then, haha, I have a girlfriend who’s substantially younger than me so I get all my new bands through her. She’s an artist and she’ll just sit here– she’s also a musician but she’ll sit here and draw and then put on weird shit and occasionally I’ll walk through. I’ll be all, “what the fuck is this?” she’s all “you mean you never heard Portal?” Portal’s fucking awesome, hahahahahaha, but it’s so fucking dramatic and extreme I love the shit. I really like Lana Del Rey cause she’s creepy. I don’t know. I listen to all sorts of shit that comes my way. It just depends. I don’t listen to metal all day but when I do like metal I go deep. I get into like obscure metal quarterly because I have a millennial girlfriend that knows about it, you know.

Hahaha.

Hahaha.

Sleep at the 9:30 Club

Alright well, that’s about the end of my questions here. I thank you a lot for taking the time out to do this interview with me. I’m pretty excited about the show you’re going to be playing here with Sleep– the two shows on July 22nd and 23rd. Those should both be pretty cool and it’s cool you’re playing different sets each night so people can go to both and see something different each night.

Thank you for trying to sell tickets for us man. I appreciate it. And yeah, I’ll see you at the show huh? Come up and say hi. I’m pretty approachable.

Yeah, sure man.

You have a great day and thank you for the interview. I appreciate it.

Yeah no problem man. Thank you.

Alright man, have a good one.

Alright, bye.

Interview with Sean Doolittle of the Washington Nationals

Most of the people I interview on DC Heavy Metal are in metal bands but when I found out that one of the Washington Nationals is a fellow metal head I just had to reach out and try to get an interview. Sean Doolittle found time in his busy schedule to record this interview with me on March 20th, 2018. We mention a metal playlist he put together for the Nats players and you can see that in iTunes here. Sean and his wife, Eireann Dolan, also work with several charities that involve military veterans and while he talks about one of them in the interview, a lack of comprehension on my part led me to not mention another that he works with, High Ground Veterans Advocacy. This organization helps train veterans to professionally advocate for issues that benefit veterans. If this is your first time at DCHM be sure to visit our calendar of all the upcoming heavy metal concerts in our area here and if you’d like to check out more of my interviews you can do that by going here. You can listen to the entire 35 minute interview with Sean Doolittle by clicking the orange play button below or you can download it as a 49mb mp3 here. The entire interview is also transcribed below, as usual my words are in bold. Bonus metal points if you read along while you listen!

This is Metal Chris of DCHeavyMetal.com and today I’ve got a special guest on the phone with me, Sean Doolittle of the Nationals. In addition to being a metal head, Sean is also a closing pitcher on the Nats. He attended college at the University of Virginia, was drafted by the Oakland A’s who traded him to the Washington Nationals in July of 2017 just a couple weeks before the trade deadline last season. This will be Sean’s first full season with the Nationals and the team’s home opening game will be on Thursday, April 5th against the New York Mets. Now Sean, I first found out that you were a metal head a couple of weeks ago when my friend Lars Gotrich over at NPR @’d me in a retweet of a playlist you posted on Twitter that was full of metal songs that you played for the rest of the team during practice. You had a wide range of bands on there from old classics like Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden to newer bands like Khemmis and Power Trip. I could tell right away that you are really into metal. So to get started here can you tell me how you first got into listening to heavy metal?

Oh man I guess I was introduced to it by my dad. I remember when we were kids I was playing Little League or travel baseball as early as 8 or 9 years old. When we would be going to the games in the minivan we would be blasting Black Sabbath or Ozzy Osbourne or AC/DC or Metallica and that was my introduction to it. That was a lot of the music that my dad was into and [on] those long car trips playing travel baseball that was pretty much all we listened to and then as I got older I really started to branch out from there and explore a lot of really different kinds of metal.

Sean Doolittle of the Washington Nationals

Sean Doolittle photo courtesy of the Washington Nationals Baseball Club

I saw that you had some heavier stuff on that playlist like Death and At the Gates. Do you get into a lot of death metal bands?

Yeah I do. So like, a little about that playlist. We have these big portable speakers at practice that we take out onto the field with us and the strength coach will essentially tell a guy the day before, “hey put together a playlist for practice tomorrow” and it’ll be playing over the speakers as we’re going through our day on the field. And I had politely declined like three times because I was like I don’t think anybody is really going to want to hear this. I don’t know if guys will be able to really get that much done in practice with their faces melting off or if they’re headbanging and they miss something the coach just said or something like that.

Haha.

So I tried to make it like a crash course. Like an introduction to metal starting with Black Sabbath and Judas Priest in the late 70’s and early 80’s, kinda going through thrash and New Wave of British Heavy Metal and then being in Florida right now for spring training I had to make sure that I put Death on there. I kind of go through phases of different kinds of music that I listen to but Death and Obituary are two of my favorite death metal bands and I always come back to [them] so I had to make sure that Death had a spot on that playlist for sure.

Now I noticed you didn’t have any black metal or grindcore on there. Are those genres you don’t really like that much or you just figure that might be too much for the other players to handle?

A little bit of both I guess. I don’t really dabble in grindcore too much. Agoraphobic Nosebleed, which is just one of my favorite combinations of words to say, their earlier stuff was really grindcore but the most recent release that they had…

I think it was called Arc, yeah.

Yeah. That was extremely my taste. That was really cool. I’m not exactly sure what subgenre that would fall into but black metal… that playlist was an intro to it but Tribulation. I love their new album [titled Down Below]. That would have been a worthy addition to the playlist but no I would say I tend to spend more time with thrash, death metal and doom metal probably.

So what is your favorite subgenre of heavy metal then?

Heh heh. It rotates man. I’ll be honest I was spoiled. I played six years in Oakland and the bands that came out of the Bay Area that were all from right around there. That Bay Area thrash sound, obviously Metallica, Testament and Death Angel and Exodus, I was spoiled over there and I got really into some of that stuff but it rotates. I come down to Florida and for the first like half of spring training I was listening to a lot of Death and Obituary and Monstrosity and Malevolent Creation, you know that Tampa scene in the early 90’s. It also kind of depends on what I’m doing at that time. If I have to do a workout or if I’m trying to get cardio in I might listen to different things. I guess my tastes are really all over the place.

So I also noticed you had a couple of bands [on the playlist] with ties to our area like Periphery and Animals As Leaders. So are there any other bands from around here that you’re into?

Yeah I love Periphery. I’ve actually been listening to one of their side projects, Haunted Shores.

It’s like instrumental right?

Yeah it’s all instrumental. I really like it, I’ve been listening to that a lot during spring training. The other DC band, the Agoraphobic Nosebleed EP that we talked about, Arc, I listen to that a lot. I listen to, I don’t know how to say it because I’ve never heard it pronounced, is it Ilsa?

Yeah, Ilsa.

Yeah. That new, heh, Corpse Fortress, which I think is a amazingly good metal name for an album.

So there’s a story behind the name of that album actually. There used to be, in Silver Spring, a little DIY house show venue and bands coming through on tour would play the basement of this place all the time and it was called the Corpse Fortress. And I think one or two of the guys from Ilsa actually lived there back then and at some point the landlord found out and kicked everybody out kind of thing. But there’s probably a good four or five years there where I saw some awesome bands play there that later were getting signed to these labels and stuff and Ilsa is one of them. So it’s kind of a nod to the local metal heads here I think. That they named it Corpse Fortress. That wasn’t a coincidence I’m sure.

That’s awesome actually. That’s a really cool story. That makes me like it even more. I’ve been playing it nonstop for the last week but that’s really cool.

So Bryce Harper has been seen hanging out with the local rapper Wale before. Is there anyone from the DC area music scene that you’d go hang out with, maybe catch a show at the 9:30 Club or something?

Shoot man, any of those guys from those bands that I just talked about. I have talked a very little bit with Mark Holcomb of Periphery and would love to cross paths with them at some point. The guys from Animals As Leaders are one of my favorite groups. I’m not a morning person but in the morning I’ll get to the field, I’ll throw on some Animals As Leaders and just go really get lost in my morning routine, my stretches and some of the exercises that I have to do every day. It’s a really good way to start my day. But no man, any of those guys from those DC bands it would be really cool to hang out with or have them out at the field or something. That would be really neat.

Well I do know a few of those guys so maybe I’ll pass it along. Hopefully they’ll read or listen to this interview anyway, haha. So before you were on the Nats you were with the Oakland A’s for several years and every metal head knows of the Bay Area’s famous thrash scene like we were already talking about bands like Metallica, Testament, Exodus, Death Angel, Forbidden, all these bands came from there. So while you were out there did you ever get to meet any of the members from any of those classic thrash bands?

Yeah I did actually. I got to meet the guys from Metallica a couple times because I’ve used Metallica‘s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” as my intro song since 2012, since my rookie year. You know at the time I just felt like there was a cool connection between Metallica and the Bay Area, especially an older Metallica song like that and we also had another pitcher in our bullpen, he came out to [another Metallica song] “One” so we had a couple guys with Metallica songs that were pitching back to back in the later innings of the game which was really cool and the crowd would headbang. They had this kind of choreographed headbang dance that they did to the song which was really neat but I ended up getting to meet them a couple times. One time they did a show in Berkeley at, I believe it was Amoeba Records, for Record Store Day. They played a full set in this record store. They threw up a stage in the corner and they closed the place down. It was tough to get into. I had to pull the Major League Baseball player’s card to be able to get in but I’ve gotten to know their manager a little bit and he’s become a really good friend and he’s hooked me up more than once and I really appreciate it. So they play this show for maybe like a couple hundred people and then they threw this party at the house they used to live in, I believe it’s [in] El Cerrito, over by Berkeley. They found the house they used to live in when they were first starting out in the early 80’s and they paid the people that live there now to kind of take it over for 24 hours and then they redecorated it like it used to look and there were a bunch of people there that they were friends with, especially early on in their careers but it was such a surreal experience. My wife and I were there. I brought another teammate of mine along and kind of just tried to stay out of the way for most of the night and just watch but I got to meet the guys from Metallica were there and that was really cool. I also got to meet Robb Flynn and Phil Demmel from Machine Head which was really cool. They’re big baseball fans and they came to several games and we had Robb’s son and his Little League team, we had them out and had them on the field one day before a game. That was really, really cool. Robb hooked me up with one of his signature guitars which is one of the coolest things I’ve ever been given. So yeah, like I said, I was pretty spoiled in the Bay Area but I’m looking forward to learning a lot more about this DC metal scene.

Sean Doolittle Bobblehead

Bobblehead photo courtesy of the Washington Nationals Baseball Club

On Friday the 13th of April the Nationals play a home game against the Colorado Rockies. The first 25,000 fans that enter the stadium will be getting a bobblehead of you, and don’t get me wrong that’s pretty cool, but in 2016 when you were on the A’s still they gave away a lawn gnome of you that had you throwing the metal horns and wearing a black Metallica shirt and when you pushed a button on it it would play segments from “For Whom the Bell Tolls” which as you said was your intro music. Now how did that come about?

Hahaha. That was really cool man. That was a fun project to work on cause they let me have some input on the design of it and I said I wanted something different and they said “well what about something that had audio?” The fans had really taken to my intro song. Like I said they had this really cool kind of headbang. Oakland has a group of fans in the bleachers who got really into it and kind of made a thing out of it and so they wanted to tie that in somehow and in order for me to be wearing a Metallica shirt we had to get permission from the band to wear it so that was the beginning of getting hooked up with Metallica and meeting their manager. I ended up being able to go to their headquarters in San Rafael and kind of get a behind the scenes look at their metal laboratory/hang out which was really, really cool. Yeah and like the beard, the ginger beard that they threw on there had almost like Troll Doll hair. This thing was really cool. The bobblehead that they have now, the Nationals one, it, heh, it’s eerie how much it looks like me. I was involved a little bit in the process of making it and this one, I’m in a Nationals uniform and it doesn’t have noise but it’s so well done I hope people don’t give it to their dogs as like a dog toy or something like that. Haha. I hope they at least find a spot for it on their desk or something.

Well I’m wondering, do you think there’s a way we’ll ever get something that metal for the Nats to give away?

I hope so man, I hope so. Man the fans in DC have really welcomed me and they’ve supported me so much. I feel like I’ve played here for a really long time. When I come into the game now and they play the intro song they have these bells that look like they’re ringing on the video board. They’re starting to expand that and kind of take it and run with it a little bit and you know the fans I think if I can continue to pitch well and they continue to like me, then yeah we might be able to come up with something like that. Something a little bit different and a little bit more metal.

Yeah it seems like metal, slowly but surely, is starting to become something a little more visible in the sports world and hopefully the rest of the world. Did you happen to catch the Hungarian figure skater Ivett Tóth at the Olympics cause she came out in a studded leather battle jacket with a back patch on it for her performance at the Olympics and was skating around to “Back In Black” and “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC and I’m not a huge fan of figure skating but that was pretty amazing I thought. Do you think there’s anything about heavy metal that some athletes would really be drawn to?

That’s actually awesome. I did not know that about the figure skater but as soon as we’re done here I’m probably going to YouTube it. I think there’s a lot of parallels between metal music and sports. When my playlist was playing there were a lot of guys that this was new to them, right? They [had] never really heard any I guess extreme metal and they were like “well why do they sound so angry? This song sounds exactly like the song before it. What is going on?” The more you listen to it the more you can get a feel for the vocals and you can actually hear the lyrics and you can learn what they’re singing about and a lot of the songs there’s a substance to the lyrics, right? They’re telling a story or there’s some kind of social commentary there or there’s some weight maybe behind it. And then as far as the instrumentals go, the music itself, being able to play that fast or that loud or multiple guitar parts interweaving or overlapping over each other or the drum parts, that’s what sports is all about. You have all these moving parts that come together and they fit perfectly together and it forms a really cohesive product at the end and you spend a lot of time right on the verge of being out of control but you still are able to do all these really specific, really intricate movements. I think there’s the team aspect. If you’ve got one of the musicians in the band that’s not pulling his weight [it’s] gonna bring the quality of the music down. Same thing is true in sports. I feel like there’s a lot there. It also just gets me a little bit more fired up than some other kinds of music.

I know Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson is a big fan of music and now that he’s retired he’s taken up photography including something that I love to do which is concert photography. He’s shot bands from several different musical genres including some metal bands like Slayer, Lamb of God and Judas Priest to name a few. Have you ever met the Big Unit and if so have you ever asked him about his tastes in metal at all?

I’ve never actually met him but a few years ago in spring training I was at a concert that he was at, working. He was there to take pictures of it. You talk about like your two interests at the center of a Venn diagram I have Randy Johnson Hall of Fame pitcher taking pictures of this concert that I was at. It was an All That Remains concert in Tempe a few years ago and it was just really cool. His work is really, really good but because he’s so tall, he’s 6’10” he kind of sticks out you know? During the show it was funny to see him. He would all the sudden just appear and like rise up from above the drum kit and take a picture and then slowly just kind of crouch back down behind it. And then you wouldn’t see him for a little bit and then [during] the next song all the sudden he would pop up from behind the amplifiers on one side of the stage and you were like, “oh my god there he is again” and then he would go back down and then he would come out in front of the stage and shoot and it was just funny because we were watching the show, right cause I was with a group of baseball players, and we were watching the show but we were also mind blown by the fact that Randy Johnson was taking pictures like this and we were trying to figure out where he was going to go next. We were off to the side of the stage before the show and he was walking around back there. I didn’t want to bother him. We didn’t want to like fanboy and bother him but it was funny to watch him interact with members of some of the other bands that were there and wonder if they really had a concept of who this guy was. They might know that he played baseball before but do they really know that this is one of the best pitchers of all time? It was really neat.

Sean Doolittle of the Washington Nationals

Sean Doolittle photo courtesy of the Washington Nationals Baseball Club

So do you know any other Major League Baseball players that are really into heavy metal?

There’s a few that I’ve played with over the years. There was a team that I played with in Oakland in 2012 and ’13 that had some pretty serious metal heads on it. A guy named Travis Blackley. He’s an Australian and he was into all kinds of metal. He gravitated a little bit more towards some of the bands from his home country. Parkway Drive and bands like that and we had another Australian guy in the bullpen, Grant Balfour, and he was super into heavy metal. He was the other guy that used a Metallica song to come out from the bullpen. Pat Neshek, he’s with the Phillies now but he was a metal head. John Axford, I played with him in Oakland. Now he’s in camp with the Blue Jays. He’s a big metal head. He was actually helping me with my playlist. He was making sure that I put Meshuggah and Sepultura on there. Those were bands that he played a lot in the weight room when we were in Oakland together so there’s a handful of us out there. We’re kind of few and far between but it’s a good fraternity for sure.

So when you did play that playlist at that practice did you make any conversions? Did any of the other players actually find a band or two that they really liked or anything like that?

You know, ummmm… not really haha. Like I said the playlist was kind of in chronological order and as we got towards some of the songs that I had put on there from the mid 2000’s, I had a Slipknot song on there, I had a Disturbed song on there, a Killswitch Engage song, an All That Remains song. Some guys recognized that stuff. I put a Volbeat song on there and a Five Finger Death Punch song on there. Those are bands that get played in the weight room right now. Actually we had a pitcher last year, and he’s still on the team now, a guy named Ryan Madson, who came out to a Khemmis song last year so I put a Khemmis song on the metal playlist and guys liked that. They seem to like when they can clearly understand the words and would prefer clean singing to some of the screams and the growls but we get some heavier stuff that plays in the weight room but it’s usually in the vein of a Volbeat or Five Finger Death Punch or Disturbed or something like that. I kind of took it to the next level and definitely blew some people’s minds.

So when do you usually listen to music anyways? Sort of like driving in the car or is it mostly when you’re working out or doing warm ups or when do you like to listen to music?

Yeah it’s mostly when I’m around the field. In the weight room I’ll put my headphones on and when I’m doing my warm up before practice or working out after practice or getting in some kind of running I feel like I gotta have my music to get me through some of that stuff. Right before the game I actually go the complete opposite direction and I’ll meditate and put on something like instrumental. I’ve realized, maybe I’m getting older but, I’ve realized that I pitch better when I’m a little bit calmer and if I get super jacked up before the game sometimes I take the mound and I’m a little bit over amped but then right after the game while the adrenaline is still flowing I’ll put it back on to do whatever post game stuff I have to do or if I pitched that night a lot of times I have to work out or do some kind of arm exercises to kind of shut it down after I throw. So I mean, pretty much when I’m at the field but one of my favorite things to do, my wife can attest to this, is just to throw my headphones on, grab my laptop and just sit on the couch and listen to music. I’ll have the tv on but I obviously can’t hear it and whether I’m on iTunes or Spotify, just trying to find new bands. I like listening to new stuff that I haven’t heard before and kind of exploring a little bit and that’s one of my favorite things to do. Calm down and just maybe get away from baseball for a little while and just listen to music.

Sean Doolittle of the Washington Nationals

Sean Doolittle prefers Metallica

I’ve got a few typical metal questions that I’d like to ask. I think I know the answer to the first one but who do you prefer, Metallica or Megadeth?

Metallica, hahaha.

So what do you think about in Black Sabbath? Do you like Ozzy [Osbourne] or [Ronnie James] Dio better?

Ozzy just because that was kind of the original and that was also what I heard first. You know like how whatever you hear first is kind of like the thing that you associate it with the most whether that was actually the thing that came first or not. So I love Dio and I made sure that I had some Dio on that playlist but I have to say Ozzy.

Alright so how about with Anthrax? Do you prefer Joey Belladonna or John Bush era?

I haven’t gotten into Anthrax and I’m from New Jersey. I’m from close to where they’re from. I need to get on the train. So actually I’ll flip this on you and ask, where should I start with their catalog? Cause that’s part of the problem is that I don’t know where to start and it feels pretty overwhelming. If I’m gonna start, where should I start with?

I think most people would say Among the Living is probably where you would start with Anthrax.

Ok.

That’s sort of their classic album. When they play an album straight through it’s usually that one.

Ok.

Now currently they’ve got Joey Belladonna back in the band so that might be part of it too cause I do not believe that he does the songs with John Bush. John Bush is now the singer for Armored Saint so he’s still doing stuff too just not with Anthrax.

Ok.

Another question then is, what’s the best metal concert you’ve ever been to?

Oh man, uhhhhh… let’s see. I don’t get to as many as I really would like to because we travel so much and in the off season I tend to be a little bit of a homebody and just kind of recharge my batteries for a couple months but in 2016 I saw Corrosion of Conformity and Lamb of God at the Fox Theater in Oakland and that was awesome. That was really cool. That was actually the last one that I’ve been to, geez Louise, so I would probably say that one. I got to talk to Randy [Blythe, vocalist of Lamb of God] after the show which was really cool to just even meet him. That was really awesome.

What was your first metal concert then?

I didn’t go to a metal concert for a while. The first one I went to was, I think it was in 2012. I went to a show in Tempe called The Ghost Inside. I went with aforementioned Travis Blackley, a teammate of mine who was on the A’s, we were on the A’s together and yeah we saw The Ghost Inside and Stray From The Path. I guess that’s hardcore, post punk hardcore, whatever you want to call it but it was heavy and it was fucking awesome.

Do you play any instruments?

No I don’t. I, heh heh, want to but I played the piano growing up and I played it all the way up into high school but shoot, I don’t even think I could do that any more. I don’t even know if I could still do music but no I don’t play any instruments. I don’t really have that much rhythm.

Alright so what’s your all time favorite band then?

All time favorite band, I have to start with Metallica and from there I don’t know man like you could ask me this question next week and it could be totally different but the ones that I come back to the most, I would say, Metallica, Black Sabbath, Death, Machine Head and Meshuggah.

Alright, alright. That’s a pretty good selection there.

Yeah I think that would be my top five but after it a disclaimer, subject to change.

So what’s the most influential album to you? You know everybody’s kind of got an album that really just means something to them or changed the way they looked at music or something like that.

For me I think it’s Metallica‘s Ride the Lightning. I know this is turning into a Metallica podcast and I apologize for that.

It’s alright man, it’s alright.

That was the first album that I bought with my allowance money when I was a kid. I remember if I was like shopping with my mom and I was good I got to go to the music store. I think I bought it when I was in maybe fifth grade, no seventh grade. It was seventh grade. I had some friends in school that liked Metallica and I had listened to the black album [officially Metallica‘s self titled album] a lot. My dad would play it in the car and stuff but I wanted this one. I was super drawn to the album artwork and I remember I bought it. I’d never heard it before. I just thought it looked really cool and I knew it was Metallica so I wanted it. I bought it. I brought it home. I put it in my boombox in my room and I pressed play and the [first] song opens with acoustic guitars. And I was like, “oh shit. I bought the wrong album. What is this? I don’t understand” and keep in mind I’m in the seventh grade. I’d never heard “Fight Fire with Fire” before and they start with these hauntingly beautiful acoustic guitars and then all the sudden this thrash just hits you right in your face and I was like, “yes! Yeah, this is what I need!” and then by the end of that evening my parents were throwing stuff at the ceiling cause I was playing my music too loud in my room.

Cover of Ride the Lightning by Metallica

Cover of Ride the Lightning by Metallica

Hahahaha. That was one of my first metal album purchases as well. I remember showing it to my dad being like, “hey I’m going to buy this, ok?” and I remember him flipping it over to look at the songs on the back and I was like, “there’s no way in hell he’s going to let me get this album with these songs like ‘Fight Fire with Fire’ and ‘Trapped Under Ice’ and things like that on it” and he read them over and he’s like, “alright, you can get it” and I was like, “oh no way.” I just remember being so excited that he even let me buy it, you know with my own money but still. And I found out years later that the real thing he was looking for at that time was he just wanted to make sure the songs weren’t all about sex. You know he didn’t mind that there was some electric chair on the cover of this thing and it was called Ride the Lightning so somehow I ended up getting that and I played the hell out of that tape. It was one of the first tapes I had that actually wore out from how many times I’d played it.

That’s awesome. And it didn’t have the parental advisory warning on the front.

Exactly.

So like how bad could it be, right?

You talked about it a little bit earlier but I’d like to know how do you find new music, new metal bands to check out? Do you have certain websites or magazines or what do you use to find new stuff?

I read Decibel. I’ve found a lot of stuff on there but really one of my favorite things to do is on iTunes, I’ll go to the iTunes store and they always have albums in the metal genre section. There’s albums that are featured, there’s new music, new releases and I’ll just click on one and I’ll start listening to it and then depending on how I’m feeling I’ll go to related and scroll down and check out other bands that are either related or other songs that people bought. You know, people who bought this also bought this, and just kind of check it out and the next thing I know I’ve gone down this metal rabbit hole where I’m listening to stuff I’ve never even heard of before and then sometimes I’ll Google an album to look at for review to see is this really as good as I think it is? But most of the time I just bounce around iTunes for hours listening to different stuff that I’ve never heard of before or I’ll start with an album I have in my library and go from there. It’s a good way to kill three or four hours.

Yeah I do some similar stuff like that. I’m always digging for new stuff too. So what have been some of your favorite albums of late, in the last say year?

Let’s see I really, really, really liked the new Power Trip album. I guess that came out last year.

Yeah, Nightmare Logic, that’s a great album.

I thought 2017 was a really good year for metal. I have no idea what other people thought about it but the newest Pallbearer album, Heartless, I really liked. The Haunted came back with a new album that I really liked, Strength in Numbers. I played the hell out of that. I don’t listen to a ton of new stuff. A lot of the stuff I listen to is older. I played those three a lot. I know Obituary had a new one last year that I thought was really good. Thy Art Is Murder, I liked that one. Dear Desolation I think it was called. Fit for an Autopsy, Jersey guys. I’m originally from New Jersey so I like that one a lot. Those are ones that I listened to quite a bit.

Now you’re saying you were from New Jersey before. You’re down from like the Philly area right? So you probably grew up a Phillies fan and now you’re on the Nationals. How’s that going? Hahaha.

It’s awesome actually but one of the coolest things is now I share a bullpen with Ryan Madson who we talked about before. He was a really big part of those Phillies teams in ’08 and ’09 that went to the World Series so now to play with him, to share a bullpen with him and learn from him everyday is such a cool experience. By the time those teams, they went to the World Series, I was already in the Oakland Athletics minor league system but growing up in the Philly area and having friends from there and having been a Phillies fan before I got drafted I was paying attention to it and I knew how much that run that they made mattered to Phillies fans and the city of Philadelphia and stuff like that so for that part of it to come full circle was really cool and I finally got to play in Citizens Bank Park last year for the first time since I was in high school. I played in a high school tournament that we got to play one game at Citizens Bank Park but to be able to play there in the major leagues was, it was really cool. It was one of the only stadiums I hadn’t played in in my career and I get goose bumps just thinking about it. It was really a special experience.

You also are a UVA grad. You played for the Cavaliers there before you were drafted by the A’s. So I have to ask, how are you doing with that UMBC win the other night?

Hahahaha. Oh man. Hey this is good. Let’s see it took like 40 minutes to get to bringing that up so I appreciate that because there have been several people, mainly my teammates, that could not wait to bring that up. I’m doing ok. I’m doing ok. The second half it was so ugly that I think I went through all of the stages of grieving in the last ten minutes of the game and by the end of it I was like alright. I watched the UMBC game the other night cause I wanted them to win. I think objectively it would have been a really fun game to watch if you weren’t a UVA fan. I just feel for the coach, Tony Bennett. I feel for the seniors on that team for all that they’ve accomplished in their careers at UVA. They won 31 games and they won the ACC regular season and conference tournament but at the end of the day this is probably what’s going to define them and I just feel for them man. I feel for them but, shoot, there’s always next year and if anything it just shows how lucky we are to have Tony Bennett as a coach. The guy running that program has handled it better than [I] could have ever hoped for. You never think that’s going to happen but that’s sports.

Yeah I was actually at a metal show, the night of that going on, in Baltimore. So you know the people up in Baltimore were pretty excited about that. Nobody believed it was happening.

Haha. Oh my gosh. It was happening. Heh heh. It happened. Oh man. Sheez. Yeah I bet Baltimore was going nuts. It was probably a different vibe than my apartment. I was pacing around for two hours.

Operation Finally Home logo

Now there’s something more serious I’d like to talk with you about. Doing research for this interview I quickly discovered that along with being a metal head and a major league pitcher you’re also quite the philanthropist. In June of 2015 the A’s had a gay pride night which apparently got a lot of backlash from some of the team’s fans and you and your wife bought hundreds of tickets to that game and donated them to local LGBTQ groups. In November of the same year you two hosted 17 families of Syrian refugees for Thanksgiving dinner and you’ve done things like publicly denounce Donald Trump after his awful “grab them by the pussy” comments and you work for a charity that helps veterans called Operation Finally Home. Now I come from a Navy family myself and I’d like you to tell me what this charity does for veterans.

Ok so Operation Finally Home is an awesome charity that, they’re based in New Braunfels, Texas, kind of near San Antonio, and they help military families all over the country and they build mortgage free, brand new homes for wounded veterans and their families or families of the fallen. What’s awesome is they take into account the needs of the veteran, whether it’s the mother or the father of the family, and if there’s any specific things that they need for the house, if it needs to be wheelchair accessible or something like that. That way they’re not getting a house that’s retrofitted or something that’s been lived in already. They get a brand new house. A couple things that really stand out to me is the way that they get the community involved in the process of building of the house because they go into these communities, these towns across the country, and they find local contractors and builders and workers that are willing to donate their time or their materials so that they’re all kind of invested in welcoming this family into their new home and into their community and seeing the way that these families go from serving their country to serving their community, becoming really involved in some of the community activities that they have going on. This is like the biggest thing that they could have possibly taken off their plate is having a place to live. Having a new home. And it’s been amazing to keep in touch with some of these families and to see how involved they get in their communities and how much that they take this opportunity and make the absolute most of it and it’s a great organization. We’ve worked with them for several years and every Christmas my wife and I, it’s one of our favorite things to do. We go shopping for a couple of these families so that their first Christmas in their new home is a little bit more special and extra memorable and we make sure that there is plenty of presents under their tree and just let them know that there’s people that are thinking about them and with everything that they’ve been through we just want their first Christmas in their new home to be everything that they envisioned that it could possibly be. They’ve worked with a handful of families in the DC area as well and we’re looking forward to getting involved with them and doing some more stuff with them cause they’re really a special group.

Do you know how people can donate or other ways they can help this group?

Yeah you can go on Operation Finally Home‘s website and you can get a bunch of information there. You can check out projects that they have around the country. They have a map that shows some projects that are currently in progress and you can see if you can get involved or help out with any of those. You can donate on there. So I would just say check out OperationFinallyHome.org and you can learn a lot more about it there. One of the cool things that they do is they always surprise the family in like a weird way when they’re least expecting it. They might think that their surprise is that they got to go to a Houston Texans game or something like that and then the next thing you know they find out, while they’re at the game, they get surprised with the news that they’re getting a new house and to see their reaction to see how much it means to them, it’s pretty heavy stuff and it’s a good example of just how special of an organization it is.

Well I know it’s easy to talk about respecting and supporting veterans but you and your wife Eireann really do walk the walk and I do respect you a lot for that. So that’s pretty much it for my questions here. Thanks for taking the time to do all this with me. I know you guys had a spring training game today and I’m sure you get more and more busy as the regular season approaches. Is there anything else you’d like to say to the metal heads and the Nationals fans in the DC area?

Heh heh. No man just that I’m looking forward to getting back to DC and I’m looking forward to a fresh start to a new season and the Nats fans have been so welcoming to me and my wife since we’ve come over. We can’t wait to get back to work. I appreciate you having me on. I appreciate you letting me talk about Operation Finally Home and both my wife and I come from military families so veterans issues are something that are very, very important to us [and something] we try to stay involved in so we’ll probably be doing some more of that stuff this year as well.

Alright man. Well thanks again for coming on here with me and let’s hope the Nationals have another great run this year.

Thanks man. Thanks for having me.

Alright, take it easy.