DEATH ANGEL "Spreading the Wings of Mayhem"

by Dr. Abner Mality

I caught the "Earth On Hell" tour with Anthrax, Testament and Death Angel when it blew into Chicago in October (read the blow-by-blow HERE) and when the possibilitity of live interviews came up, there was no question I was going to lobby for a chat with Death Angel. I've already had the good fortune to speak to Anthrax's Joey and Testament's Chuck, so it made perfect sense to touch base with the athletic and upbeat Mark Osegueda from Death Angel this time around.

I got to speak to Mark on the Death Angel tour bus and I sure wish I could have gotten more time with this super-nice dude. Despite having god-like vocals abilities and looking handsome enough to cause many ladies to melt in his presence, he never came across as anything but a huge metal fan that was in to the music just as much as the fans are. That's notable, because during the 90's, Mark has pretty much dropped out of sight completely and was preparing for a life outside of heavy metal. But lucky for us, the attraction of Death Angel is hard to resist and here we are in 2011. Death Angel is coming off a strong album "Relentless Retribution" and the "Earth On Hell" tour has been a smashing success.

So here ya go...two metalheads shooting the breeze, only one of them happens to be the frontman of one of the most classic thrash metal bands to ever exist. Enjoy...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES:  This tour with Anthrax and Testament has got to be one of the best thrash gigs of the year. It's like your version of "The Big Four". How did this come about? Did it take a while to put together or did it slam together pretty quick?

MARK OSEGUEDA:  We got approached a while back, so we've known about it for quite some time. We jumped on it immediately, as soon as the offer was made to us. It was originally going to be four bands, but then it got cut down to three, which we're fine with. I think it's a great package. Last night was the first night and I thought it went great.

WC: Was it always meant to be Anthrax, Testament and Death Angel? And who was the fourth band gonna be?

MO:  There was talk that Overkill would have been part of the tour.

WC: Oh boy, that would have been pretty awesome. Now you guys have had some line-up changes in the last few years.  Death Angel used to be known for being a "family" band where the members were all related.

MO: Right.

WC: Things had to have changed a little bit. What's the songwriting process like now? What's the feel compared to the early days?

MO: Um, to tell you the truth, the writing process to me seems more like a breath of fresh air now! (laughs) There are less people  throwing in their ideas. By the end of the first phase of the band, everybody had their own idea of what they wanted the band to sound like.  Rob's always been the principal songwriter but everybody started writing more. Now, with this lineup, Rob writes all the music and I write the majority of the lyrics. It's much more concise now as far as the writing goes.

WC: Do you think you've established the template you're going to follow from here on out?

MO: To a certain degree. But with us, our music can change vastly per album.  But we're going to stay on the aggressive side for sure.

WC: With your first "comeback album "The Art of Dying", it felt like "this is what we're doing to jump back in the game". On your new one "Relentless Retribution", I could sense a lot more confidence in how things were done.

MO: Oh yeah!

WC: Is that something you pretty much agree with?

MO: Definitely, definitely!  We're definitely on the right track and we're sending a message out there! (laughs) We're pissed!

WC: There's a lot of anger out there for sure and that's something you can feed off of. Going back a few years now, to the period when the band was broken up and you were out of it, was there a feeling in the back of your mind that someday you would get together again?

MO: Never! To tell you the truth, I had completely written Death Angel off. We had been approached before and I always said no.  Ironically enough, the reason we got back together was for Chuck Billy.  We did that benefit show for him because he was diagnosed with cancer and now here we are touring with him and Testament. It's come full circle, which is great!

WC: Chuck's voice seems just as powerful as ever...

MO: Oh yeah, he's a fuckin' monster!(laughs)

WC: During that period when you were out of the band, metal was at a low point. Did you think that it would come back the way it has?

MO:  Truly,!  I listened to what I wanted to listen to, which was early metal, on my iPod and other than that, I wasn't looking for anything new. I just assumed it had died. But it didn't.  I love it and it's getting bigger than ever.

WC: I heard a great quote from one of the younger thrash bands. They said "we felt this music was half-finished when it dropped off and now we're just picking it back up again".

MO: Nice!

WC: Back in the days when you guys were playing Ruthie's Inn with Possessed in the 80's, did you think you would still be playing in 2011?

MO: (laughs) Absolutely not! I always thought I'd be playing music, but as far as being in the band Death Angel, I had no idea. And I love the fact that we are still together. I love it!

WC: Anthrax is finally back in the game after a period where I thought they jumped the shark permanently. (laughter) The next Testament album looks primed to blow the doors off. Do you feel pressure on your next album to keep up the pace?

MO: The only criticism would come from ourselves. We're our own harshest critics. We want to stay on top of our game to keep whipping ass both in the studio and on the stage.

WC: More than just about any of the other thrash band from the period. you were known for mixing the music up a little bit.  Your last album "Relentless Retribution" was pretty hard-charging. It wasn't totally full blast but it came at you pretty hard.  Do you foresee a time when you'll blend some of those other influences back into your sound? Or will it stay lean and mean?

MO: Without knowing exactly what the future has in store, we'll probably do some more melodic stuff again but right now we write based on what's happening around us. And it's an odd time right now. There's a lot of anger in the air.

WC:  That's why I think heavy metal is so popular right now. Acoustic folky music just doesn't seem to work as protest music any more.

MO: Exactly, exactly!

WC: Today's pop music has nothing to say to people. Do you think heavy metal is the best kind of protest music?

MO: It's pretty great because it's real aggressive and people can get out their aggressions, whether you're the performer or the fan.

WC: When you're out playing with Anthrax and Testament, do you have some friendly competition to see outdo each other?

MO: Yeah, that's part of it!  Every tour...every show...always!

WC: Is the next Death Angel record starting to take form in your mind?

MO: We just started writing, we're at the very beginning of the writing phase. Rob has a ton of riffs.  He just delivered a complete song to me that I'm going to start writing the lyrics to. It's definitely going to be another aggressive record.

WC: In the past, you've had some awful problems with your labels. (Mark laughs)  Now you're on the Nuclear Blast label, but the whole label concept seems to pretty much be on its last legs. Do you feel vindicated by that?

MO:  I think they got their just rewards. (laughter) But as far as labels go, Nuclear Blast has been incredible. They understand the metal fan and they're fans themselves.

WC: For the metal fan, Nuclear Blast really is a major label, along with Metal Blade and Century Media. Those are the major labels as far as metal goes. Before you hooked up with Nuclear Blast, was there any thought of maybe putting something out on your own?

MO: To tell you the truth, no. When we finally started gettng approached by labels, we went "huh"! We had never even thought about writing new music up to that point. We thought originally it was just going to be that one show for Chuck and then it ended up being a couple of festivals in Europe, which turned into full tours of Europe and then labels started approaching us. That's when we had to sit down and go, wait a minute! This is getting serious.

WC: Is there any one place you enjoy playing more than anywhere else?

MO: That's a tough one, a really tough one! A lot of times it will be because I love the city or maybe I have friends that live in that city or there are just certain crowds that just go mad.

WC: Like right here in Chicago?

MO: (laughs) Chicago is always incredible for us. Always has been, even back in the days when we played the Cubby Bear!

WC: The Thirsty Whale...

MO: The Thirsty Whale, we played that as well. The fans here have always been supportive of us and our shows here have always been incredible.

WC: If you had a chance to ask any three people from history to dinner, who would they be?

MO: Ummm...(whistles). Let's see...Bridget Bardot? (laughs)

WC: From back in the day, of course.

MO: Yeah, yeah. Bridget Bardot...Veronica Lake...and then, let's see...Bon Scott!

WC: Bon Scott would be crawling on the other two pretty quick. (laughter) What was the last CD or record you got just because you wanted to check it out?

MO: I went on a big sweep that I bought in one day.  I picked up the new Anthrax, the new Mastodon, the new Machine Head, the new Opeth and the new Adele! (laughs) Bought five records all in the same day.

WC: It sounds like you keep up pretty well with the contemporary stuff. A lot of guys I talk to say they don't pay attention to new music anymore. Do you try to keep your finger on the pulse?

MO: Sure I do! Definitely, I'm a music fan. If it's good, I like it. If it's bad, I don't! (laughs)

WC:  Al Jourgenson from Ministry had a famous quote. "There are only two kinds of music...good and bad."

MO: Perfect.

WC: Are there any of the newer neo-thrash band that have come up lately that have tickled your fancy?

MO: I really like Suicidal Angels. I think Municipal Waste is a great live band. Evile is a great band, they really have an authentic vibe.

WC: What was the last band you caught live just because you wanted to see them?

MO: That's a good question. I keep missing shows because I'm on tour so much. (long pause) Damn! Who'd I go see? I did go to see Jack Gibson and Tom Hunting's side project called Coffin Hunter. They're a country band!

WC: Oh really?

MO: Yeah, Jack plays banjo instead of bass!

WC: Were they doing it for laughs or was it serious?

MO: No, no, they were pretty serious about it!

WC: Is there one particular Spinal Tap moment from the history of Death Angel that you could share with us?

MO: Hmmm, what would be our biggest Spinal Tap moment? The closest we got to the movie was back in the 80's when we'd get lost in a lot of venues and then the marquee would say something like "Dark Angel". That happened a lot. (laughter) We're not Dark Angel, that's another band! We're friends with those guys. That's one of the most Spinal Tap things that ever happened to us.

WC: Any last words for all the Death Angel fans out there?

MO: The main thing is, just thanks for sticking by us all these years. We're hungrier than ever and are going to be touring as much as possible. We'll also be releasing albums consistently and there'll be a new one in 2012. If you ever have a chance to check out live, that's the main thing.