Cianide - Name Your Poison

Interview by Dr. Abner Mality

 Cianide is a true underground do-it-yourself legend in death metal. These guys haven't been within spitting distance of metal labels like Earache, Roadrunner and Nuclear Blast , yet they have had a fifteen year plus career with a sound that only gets cruder and more intense with each release. How many of their label-chained compatriots can say as much?

Mike Perun is the guiding force behind Cianide. It's interesting to note that "Perun" was the Slavic God of Thunder and their equivalent to Thor. Interesting and very appropriate. This guy doesn't have time for record company politics, scene bullshit or people who don't dig thunderous, grimy death metal in the total oldschool mode. Compromise is not in the Cianide vocabulary and nothing backs that up more than a listen to latest ultra-destructive platter "Hell's Rebirth", which is Cianide's most aggressive and downtuned effort ever. It's been out for quite a while and pretty tough for even the veteran headbanger to find, but it's well worth the hunt.

In addition to digging 80's thrash and death, Mike also has a liking for classic AWA wrestling, Harryhausen flicks and Hammer horror. Who the hell can go wrong with that, especially here at Wormwood?!

The Doctor and Mr. P had a brotherly heart-to-heart about Cianide's career and all the cool things we both enjoy. Here it is...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: First, could you give us a rundown of who is in the band right now and also maybe a little history lesson for Cianide?

MIKE PERUN: My favorite question! Here’s the prickfaced condensed version for all you infidels. Cianide was formed sometime around 87 or 88 by Scott Carroll and then singer Bill Thurman. I came into the picture soon after through mingling at shows, tape trading and being the all around great guy that I am. We went through a couple of line up changes and that kept happening until we eventually kicked Bill out of the band he co-founded. This is about the time when we found drummer Jeff “King” Kabella in about 1990 or so. He also had a pool table in his mom’s basement which we NEVER used once in the entire time we rehearsed there. It sure was a pain the ass moving it out of the way so we can practice though. I don’t know why I just remembered that now. Sorry. Anyways, we recorded a couple of albums with his ass, namely, The Dying Truth and Descent Into Hell. He quit sometime after. We got Andy “snoozin” Kuizin and Jim “one take” Bresnahan in a package deal along with a batboy to be named later. We never got the batboy, but we did get to record 2 records with those two assholes, Death Doom and Destruction and Divide and Conquer. Jim quit. So the three remaining assholes of Scott, Andy and myself recorded Hell’s Rebirth in 2005 and we rumble along to this very day.

WC: What is it that's kept you in the underground metal business for so long, because it sure as hell can't be the money?

MP: Hard question to answer because it can be answered in many different ways and it also depends on my mood at the time I answer it.  One good reason is that this ISN'T about the money.  This is not a job for us.  We don't HAVE to do anything if we don't want to do.  If someone doesn't feel like practicing for whatever reason, we just make the call:  "I'm hungover or whatever". "No problem, see ya on Thursday".  Same thing with playing shows. If the club or the promoter treats us like shit, we'll just pack our shit up and leave.  No problem. Hell, we've done it before.  It’s very liberating knowing that you’ll never be the “cool band” or the “next big thing” in this fucking gay scene. As cliché as it sounds, we’ve never been about trends. This is all totally about us – Cianide.  Writing the music that we want to hear and playing the music that we want to listen to. This is just what we do. Simple as that. But if other people dig what we do, they’re obviously like-minded individuals so they’re welcome aboard as well.

WC: "Hell's Rebirth" is the fastest Cianide yet. Your music used to be quite doomy. Was the faster tempo something that happened "naturally" or was it a very deliberate decision? And will the speed increase in the future?

MP: I guess you could say it was a combination of both.  We always considered ourselves a death metal band though and will never shy away from that term. Playing slow doom sludge was the only way we knew how to be our heaviest in those early days. We’re a little more well rounded now I think. Both musically and physically. Who knows, you can just as easily anticipate an all fast album from us or an all slow album. When the shit flows you just can’t stop it.

WC: Have you ever had an offer come your way from labels like Earache, Nuclear Blast, Relapse, etc? It would seem that Cianide should have been picked up by a larger "indy" label.

MP: Are you crazy? (Well, you are Dr. Abner Mality!!) Those labels wouldn't touch us with a ten foot polecat. We couldn't move enough product to cover even a weeks worth of carpet cleaning at Nuclear Blast or Earache's offices!  I don't think we smoke enough pot to be on Relapse either. I do sport a beard now though, but I don’t think it’s wacky looking enough.  Maybe if I braid it and put those big gay tribal things in my ears, and get some tribal tattoos to boot.  That should do it - Cianide goes college metal!! Relapse, here we come!

WC: Is it a desire to remain "underground" and keep credibility that keeps you from larger labels?

MP: No.  That would mean we're concerned with what other people think and we truly don't give a shit.  Come on, we play what's considered “old-school death metal”.  I don't think this genre will ever become lamestream mainstream do you? And I think it should stay that way. BUT - IF it ever did. FUCK THE UNDERGROUND JOE!! I’d rather go hang with P-Diddy and the Pussycat girls!!!

WC: What's your opinion of modern death metal? Is there too much emphasis on being "technical" at the expense of morbid feeling?

  MP: Death metal to ME always meant being the heaviest, sickest, loudest, rudest form of metal known to man.  It has a connotation for being really fucking raw and fucking heavy.  Real death metal was/should be also very catchy.  The irony being very heavy sick music, but with a hook - riffs and/or vocal patterns that would stick in your head. Music that you could headbang to. Remember that?   Listen to Hellhammer or early Celtic Frost, early Death, Autopsy, Repulsion, Master, Morbid Angel etc.  I think you get the idea.  Somehow though death metal transformed into a genre that's now commonly known for overly technical, fast as possible 100% of the time, stellar (sterile) recording productions that would make fucking Steely Dan envious, with deep, guttural vocals on top of all that.  I think that happened when all the "schooled musicians" jumped on the bandwagon. They were Anthrax/Megadeth thrashers that went death metal when all the Earache shit got popular in the early 90's I think. We used to be opposed to all that shit, especially with our first few records, but soon realized we were fighting a losing battle.  Now I don't give a shit what anyone does anymore.  Kiss my ass I got Seven Churches. I'm only just concerned with what Cianide can do and accomplish, and I know where to go and how to get the music that I enjoy listening to.

WC: You're a member of the Chicago scene. Do you interact with bands like Usurper, Lair of the Minotaur, Bible of the Devil, etc? How would you characterize the Chicago scene?

MP: There's so many different bands, different styles of metal.  People do their own fucking thing here.  I guess you could say bands from this area are more riff orientated than most other scenes I've heard. But what the fuck do I know?   Trends always start on either of the coasts. Chicago being smack dab in the midwest of America, by the time a trend reaches us it's usually already over globally.  So I think people here are going to be more honest with themselves about what they're really into. Rather than trying to be hip, swinging, cult or cool. We appreciate what’s good but we’re also hard to impress. There’s also a rich history of underground metal from here that comes up from the earth and permeates our fucking metal souls! That’s why Chicago is the Metal Capital of the US.

WC: The cover of "Hell's Rebirth" suggests a pretty Satanic stance. Are you just using the imagery or is there a deeper idea behind the music?

MP: It totally brings to mind the old demo and LP covers that we all grew up on. It evokes a feeling of dreadful evil
which comes across in the music and the cover completes that atmosphere. The music has to sound like the cover looks, if that makes sense.

WC: I see Johnny Vomit took photos for the CD. Any good Johnny Vomit stories to share with us?

MP: Went and saw Johnny Vomit a few weeks ago as a matter of fact.  The bar wasn't too far from my house so it wasn't that bad of a swerve home! Yeah, they always give us shit cuz we hardly ever play out. We’re like, “yeah yeah, you guys never record anything - so we’re even!” They got a new LP coming out in a matter of days, and from what I heard it’ll probably rule all hell as fuck!

wC: Did you guys check out Celtic Frost when they played in Chicago? Would it be fair to say they are your biggest influence?

MP: I don’t know how anyone can call themselves death metal and not be influenced by Celtic Frost. Shit, do I even need to even explain this? I missed the show, but I actually do dig the new record. That hat tasted like shit too, brother! Granted, it didn't blow me away but I wasn't expecting much either.  Except maybe fucking Depeche Mode or something!  Believe it or not, I didn't get into Frost until To Mega Therion first came out. Yesiree.   Kerrang and Metal Forces always would refer to them as total shit. Hellhammer even more so.  Even though Kick Ass Bob Muldowny used to refer to them as the best death metal (yes, that term was used all the way back then) on the planet. Being in high school with no job meant that you had to spend your money wisely. So I held off on them though always remaining curious as their cover art was always so fucking evil and cool. I remember going to Kroozin’ Music on Archer ave. after school and making a beeline for the IMPORT SECTION as I always did, and seeing that Giger painting and was like, "aw shit, well, I have to have this now".  So I plunked down my hardly-earned allowance money, took it home and was fucking flattened!  I played the wrong side first so Circle of the Tyrants was the first song that I was exposed to.  The entire album was/is still a perfect combination of heavy speed songs and bone-crushing doom.  Vocals and lyrics were perfect as well as their image.  Songs that stuck in your head after you heard them.  I remember when the album was over raising my fist to the air and declaring to myself and the ceiling that this was THE MUSIC I HAVE BEEN WAITING TO HEAR FOR MY ENTIRE LIFE! For better or worse I have never been the same since. I also never trusted Kerrang or Metal Forces ever again from then on.

WC: Any new CDs or projects coming up for Cianide and will they still be on Displeased Records?

MP: We got a split 7in with the mighty Coffins which realistically will be out by early Spring by my calculations on Famine records. We have designs of being on a Nunslaughter tribute if we can only figure out which song of theirs we want to do.We have a cover song (you’ll have to wait and see) which we are going to contribute to an upcoming edition of Nuclear War Now’s awesome “Outbreak Of Evil” 7in series. This one, I’m told will be an all Chicago/Illinois edition. Other than that we’re just writing songs, getting shit together for our next slab of granite. We’ll give Displeased/From Beyond the first crack. If they don’t bite, I’m sure somebody else will.

WC: Does the band play live much? What's a live Cianide show like?

MP: We only play out about once a year, if we get asked and if we think the bands involved are cool and if it will be a worthwhile show or venue by our standards alone.  We have zero desire to lug our gear around just to play some shithole, to sound like shit, get treated like shit and get paid for shit.  Nah - not for us.  I must say we played the Double Door here in Chicago a few months ago and they DO treat their bands well.  I guess they (very correctly) realize that it's the bands that draw the crowds to spend money in THEIR bar to drink, therefore it would make sense to treat them well.  They have a professional sound system; they pay a decent amount to you from the door and even stock the backstage with a case of beer for each band!! Actually makes us want to play out more often - er at least there, anyway. Ciande live is just three old, ugly, honest motherfuckers screaming, headbanging, the heaviest of fucking death metal. Sometimes in that order. Probably the most satisfying metal experience one will ever have. I wish I could be in the audience watching.

WC: I've heard you're an oldschool wrestling fan. Who was your favorite rassler? For me, it was always maniacs like Baron von Raschke, King Kong Brody, Mad Dog Vachon.

MP: How could you not love the Road Warriors being from around here? They'd come out blasting Sabbath’s Iron Man while power lifting the opposing team out of the ring! Yelling about being from Halsted St Chicago and shit. The Missing Link always used to crack me up too.  Larry Zbyszko was another.  Used to love it when he'd call old ladies in the crowd who were hecking him, fat slobs and tell them to sit down and shut up.(He used to call ME a fat slob many times...Dr. Mality)  We used to get WCCW on Saturday afternoons (channel 50) and AWA on Sunday mornings (channel 26).  There was no reason to ever leave the house, and this was all before cable!! WWF was for posers back then.(Still is...Oldschool Mality) I didn't get into them until I saw the Undertaker.

WC: What was the last CD/tape/album you picked up just because you wanted to?

MP: I always buy what I want and keep what I have.  Went to Metal Haven here in Chicago a few weeks ago. Picked up the vinyls of new Katharsis, new Antaeus. Can't walk out of there without spending at least $100.00. Metal is an addiction!  Grabbed the CD of Death Breath too. Ol’ Nick Royale's getting back to his dm roots.  Sounds more like Autopsy Breath to these ears!!

WC: What was the last gig you saw just because you wanted to check it out?

MP: Saw Twisted Sister last week for the “Twisted Christmas” tour. Never saw them before and it fucking booked. Fucking smile on my face from the first note to the last. I even dug the Christmas songs! Pretty evil huh?

WC: Have you got any Spinal Tap moments from the history of Cianide you'd like to share with us?

MP: Ehh - not really.

WC: Any final words?

MP: Thank you for the interview, sir.

Cianide's Official Website