An Interview with Broken Hope Drummer Mike Miczek

by Thor

Over a quarter of a century ago, something terrifying lurched into existence from the underbelly of Chicago’s northern ‘burbs—a version of death metal so heavy and so grotesque that it immediately mutated the genre’s evolutionary trajectory.  That slovenly hulk of a musical monster was Broken Hope.

Broken Hope put out 5 albums of brutal gore-inspired death metal between 1990 and 1999 before acrimony, apathy, and eventually tragedy put the group deep into moth balls.  The fact that fans didn’t follow them into hibernation was a harbinger of an eventual viscera-wrapped phoenix-rising, but it would take time.

Over a decade passed before the perfect circumstances presented themselves including band co-founder Jeremy Wagner getting that oozing, pustule of an itch to get the band back together.  This was no small task and it was one that not only required a couple new members, but more importantly, it required the right members.

One of those newcomers is drummer Mike Miczek, an underground music aficionado and a drumming dynamo who was barely 20-years old when he was tasked with filtering artifacts of the signature Broken Hope sound through his own blasting, slam-laden sensibilities.  And his success in doing so has led to an all-out drumageddon on the band’s 2013 comeback album, “Omen of Disease”.

As the band embarks on a European tour with fellow old-schoolers Immolation to kick off 2014, I caught up with Miczek and discussed what life is like being Swamped in Gore….

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Hey Mike!  Please give us the scoop on how you ended up in Broken Hope 2.0.

MIKE MICZEK: Shaun Glass and I had met a few times prior to Broken Hope reforming via a mutual friend. When I got word that Broken Hope was going to be getting back together and was looking for a drummer, I immediately shot Shaun an email. He gave me a list of about five songs to learn and the next week I auditioned with him and Jeremy.  I must have nailed it because they pretty much said I was in after that first jam! There’s a picture from that day floating on the internet somewhere…

WC: I know you’re into a lot of great grind, but were you a Broken Hope fan at all before all this went down?

MM: I was definitely a fan before I joined! To me that is what made this opportunity all the more exciting. From about 16 years old I have been an avid freak (that may not be a strong enough word) of old school death metal. Jeremy once described me in an interview as, “seeming to know about every damn death metal band that ever existed.”  It’s not too far from the truth!  I loved Broken Hope particularly because of Joe’s incredibly deep vocals and the groove that they also incorporated into the music. I have a hard time listening to bands that constantly blast through every song. I can’t bang my head to that!

WC: What was your favorite Broken Hope album?

MM: “Bowels of Repugnance” was and still is my favorite Broken Hope album. It was my first introduction to the band and it has the perfect mix of groove and grind. You can’t go wrong with tracks like “Hobo Stew” or “The Dead Half”! The album art is my favorite as well!

WC: What are your favorite old tracks to play now?

MM: “Gorehog” is one of my absolute favorite songs to play live. The energy of the grind parts and the intensity of the slam riffs are almost unmatched to any other song in the set! “Hobo Stew” was another live favorite for me. Lots of groove in that song!

WC: What were the biggest drumming challenges when you joined the band?

MM: Stamina was a challenge when I first joined. I was not used to playing long sets of pure death metal! We hit it hard leading up to that first tour though. Lots of conditioning and practicing got everyone nice and limber.

WC: It seems to me like you’ve smartly incorporated some of former drummer Ryan Stanek’s stylistic peculiarities into your approach to the new album.  Am I just imagining this?

MM: Yes! I set about that deliberately actually. Part of it had to do with learning the old material and playing it on the Obituary tour. It becomes easy to pick up some of a player’s nuances when you are learning the material they played on. I’ve had a couple of people come up to me asking if I was Ryan because of how true I try to stay to the old material. I guess that means I’m doing my job!  In terms of “Omen of Disease”, I wanted to try to give it the classic Broken Hope feel. For instance, I consciously used the “Hammer Blast” instead of the “traditional” blast beat to fit the style of the older albums.  It was important to me and to the rest of the guys to not stray too far from what Broken Hope originally was.

WC: What’s your overall approach to writing?

MM: When it came to “Omen of Disease”, we went old school with the writing process. Jeremy, Shaun and I would sit in a room and jam riffs for hours on end, and songs would eventually result. It was a very organic way to writing and I think it shows on the flow and style of the album. It is quite the contrast to today’s picture-perfect snapped-to-a-grid metal that is popular right now.

WC: You did the tour with Obituary playing old material, then went out with Deicide to support “Omen of Disease”.  Tell us about those tours.  How were they different and how do you handle the rigors of the road?

MM: The Obituary tour was an absolute blast. It was great bringing those songs back to life on stage every night. Obituary are incredibly great guys! It was actually my first experience being a touring musician. You have to quickly get used to the fact that you will not be seeing a shower for days at a time and will spend countless hours looking out the window while munching on junk food you bought at the last Flying J truck stop. It may not sound glamorous but it is all part of the fun of being on the road. Being a drummer you also learn quickly that you are one of the first to load your gear into a club, and also one of the last to leave!  What was different about the Deicide tour was that we had new material from “Omen of Disease” to debut in a live setting. I think those songs come across great onstage!  For me that was the true testament to the strength of the new material.

WC: The Deicide tour ended prematurely and controversially due to a rift involving Glen Benton and Broken Hope that played out across the internet.  I know things have been resolved, but I’m curious to know how you handled that personally.  I mean, that had to be really awkward and stressful.  What were you thinking while all that was going down?

MM: It sucked. I just want to play music! But the past is the past, despite the way it ended it was still a great tour and I had an absolute blast.

WC: What compelled the young Mike Miczek to become a drummer back in the day?

MM: It’s the most non-metal thing ever, but I have to credit The Beatles to being the reason I ever picked up a pair of sticks. I first heard them when I was in 1st or 2nd grade and it quickly became my first musical obsession. Ringo was one of my favorite Beatles and when it came time to choose an instrument to play in elementary school band it was obvious I wasn’t picking up a trumpet!

WC: Who were some of your other influences growing up and who do you dig currently?

MM: Growing up, my biggest influence besides Ringo Starr was Keith Moon. Ringo was a master time-keeper and Moon was an absolute mad man and a fantastic drummer as well. As I hit my teens, John Bonham, Nicko McBrain and Bill Ward were highly influential on me. There is a common theme of some great groove drummers! These days I really admire Dave McGraw of Cattle Decapitation and Adam Jarvis of Pig Destroyer and Misery Index.

WC: You and lead guitarist Chuck Wepfer are younger guys while the others in the band are death metal veterans (read that, they’re old like me).  Does this ever affect the band dynamic good or bad?  Do Jeremy and Shaun ever make what they consider super-hilarious pop culture references and you and Chuck just stare at them with pity?

MM: I am actually the youngest of the entire group. When I auditioned for Broken Hope I had just barely turned twenty! Shaun and Jeremy have known each other so long they’re like an old married couple. Those two throw so many references out and can provide hours of endless entertainment the way they go back and forth and jab at each other. It’s always a positive thing. I usually get the pity stares, I am the drummer after all! We spend a good chunk of the time just giving each other shit, even though there’s a generational gap. I think it keeps everyone on the same level.

WC: Tell us about the European tour with Immolation.  What are looking forward to most?

MM: We are set to tour all over Europe with Immolation in late January and early February. They are really great guys and I’m absolutely looking forward to seeing them every night and finally getting to experience Europe. I mean, I NEVER thought I would ever wind up in places like Rome or Vienna, especially for the reason of being in a death metal band!

WC: Beyond Europe, what can fans expect from Broken Hope in 2014-2015?

MM: We are trying to play as many places as possible in support of the new album. We obviously have plans for Europe already laid out, and we will most likely be seeing North America again this year as well. The UK and Scandinavia aren’t included in this upcoming tour so I’m sure we will try make it over there as well by year’s end. The end goal is simply to spread the disease as far and wide as possible!

WC: Thanks Mike.

MM: Cheers and beers!