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 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.

Interview with Mantas of Venom Inc.

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

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

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

Mantas of Venom Inc.

Mantas of Venom Inc.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cover of Avé by Venom Inc.

Cover of Avé by Venom Inc.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mantas at U Street Music Hall

Mantas at U Street Music Hall

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

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

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

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

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

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

Venom Inc. at Baltimore Soundstage

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

No problem.

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

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

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

No problem.

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

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

Alright. Take it easy.

Cheers now. Bye bye.

Bye.

Interview with Scott “Wino” Weinrich of The Obsessed

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

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

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

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

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

Cover of Sacred by The Obsessed

Cover of Sacred by The Obsessed

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

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

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

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

Wino playing Heavy Mama

Wino playing Heavy Mama

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

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

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

The album was me, Brian and Dave Sherman.

Ok cool.

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

The Obsessed at Maryland Deathfest XI

The Obsessed at Maryland Deathfest XI

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hahaha. That’s pretty cool.

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

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

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

Cover art for Shrinebuilder and Adrift

Cover art for Shrinebuilder and Adrift

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

Thank you very much. I appreciate that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Obsessed at the Ottobar

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alright have a good one.

Bye.

Interview with Mark Riddick

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

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

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

Cover of Morbid Visions: The Art of Mark Riddick

Cover of Morbid Visions: The Art of Mark Riddick

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

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

Board Pusher skateboards with Mark Riddick artwork

Board Pusher skateboards with Mark Riddick artwork

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

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

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

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

Cover of Epicedia by Fetid Zombie

Cover of Epicedia by Fetid Zombie

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

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

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

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

Justin Bieber logo by Mark Riddick

Justin Bieber logo by Mark Riddick

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

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

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

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

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

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

Metalocalypse - Dethklok artwork by Mark Riddick

Metalocalypse – Dethklok artwork by Mark Riddick

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

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

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

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

Sketches of covers that will combine for Sound Of Records

Sketches of covers that will combine for Sound Of Records

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

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

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

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

Artwork for Ominous Hymn

Artwork for Ominous Hymn

Have you ever had any formal training for your artwork?

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

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

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

Artwork for Cvlt Nation

Artwork for Cvlt Nation

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

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

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

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

Cover of A Celebration of Guilt by Arsis

Cover of A Celebration of Guilt by Arsis

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

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

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

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

Vincent Locke & Mark Riddick collab piece for Loculus

Vincent Locke & Mark Riddick collab piece for Loculus

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

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

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

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

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

Alright take care man. Have a good night.

Mark Riddick art process

Interview with Abbath

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

Photo of Abbath by Ester Segarra

Photo of Abbath by Ester Segarra

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

It’s Abbath [Ah-Baht].

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what do you think makes Abbath different than Immortal?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Haha.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abbath performing with Immortal at Sonar in 2011

Abbath performing with Immortal at Sonar in 2011

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

I remember that one, yeah.

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

No I didn’t.

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

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

It was a great show, yeah.

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

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

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

Lords Of Chaos movie poster

Lords Of Chaos movie poster

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

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

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

Oh yeah, oh yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whatever, we’ll see! Hahaha.

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

Jester King's Black Metal beer label

Jester King’s Black Metal beer label

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

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

I like this… Ringnes!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Awesome.

I’m looking forward to it, yeah.

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

Thank you Metal Chris!

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

Thank you sir.

Alright, take it easy.

You too.

Interview with Steve “Zetro” Souza of Exodus

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

Photo of Zetro Souza by Bruce Getty

Photo of Steve “Zetro” Souza by Bruce Getty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Minor Threat come on.

Yeah.

Everybody loves Minor Threat.

Pentagram is from here.

Oh they are? I didn’t know that.

Yeah, Pentagram, Clutch

I thought they were from Connecticut.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Haha, alright. Um…

Don’t do acid kids!

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

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

Oh cool, cool.

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

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

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

Alright man. Well thanks a lot.

Thanks Chris. See you then.