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MORBID ANGEL


MORBID ANGEL: FORMULAS VITAL TO METAL

by Thrash-head

 

Dr. Mality called me up one day and asked me “Hatebreed or Morbid Angel?”Wow, the mother of all decisions for interviews…forefathers of the tech-death scene, or brutally heavy mainstream hardcore crossovers? 

As daunting as that decision may seem, it took only two seconds to pick Morbid Angel. The band that practically got me into death metal in the first place…how the fuck am I not gonna do this interview? Even after Dave Vincent left and they pulled in Steve Tucker and everyone originally thought that “Formulas Fatal to the Flesh” sucked…I loved them! Tech-death is one of my favorite of the many metal genres I like, and these guys practically wrote the book on it, not to mention on INTELLIGENT, religiously-themed death metal (that’s why I don’t really like Deicide…ha ha ha!!!)Anyways, I got this interview, the bastard tape player ate the thing up, and I somehow managed to get the interview all over again, so mucho thanks to Curran from Earache for hooking me up. And also, thanks to Steve for stomaching my questions a 2nd time around.

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: The new album stands up to the fact that Morbid Angel are at the forefront of the death metal elite? What things did you try to do different on this album than in the past?

ST: Really, I don’t think we necessarily tried to do anything different. We actually looked at it the same way we look at all Morbid Angel records; we just go in and do it naturally. Just let the songs develop the way they will, and to be honest…due to the fact that I think everyone involved in Morbid Angel is pretty intelligent and I think that we’re constantly evolving as people always makes it different. I think that each time a record comes out you’re in a different part of your life and it makes each album different. To be honest, I just don’t think we approached it in any way different. We just let the music come through.

WC: One of the things that I love about this disc is how you get to show more of your range than on previous Morbid Angel releases? Was that an intentional focus you had going into the studio?

ST: No, not really. The first record I was on, it’s pretty-well documented that Trey wrote everything; all the music and the lyrics. He wrote everything on top of the beat, and there wasn’t really too much spacing between words. On Gateways I had free reign to do whatever I want and I just sang the same way I’ve always sung. It’s the same on this record. I just think the difference in the two records makes it seem different but to be honest I’m just doing the same thing I’ve always done. It’s just that maybe there was more of a pocket in some of these songs for me to sing in. I was feeling the music and I just made whatever come out come out. As far as the higher stuff, I’ve been singing death metal since the late ‘80s or whatever and I started out doing the more raspy, Kreator-type vocal, and I’ve pretty much always used it over the years, especially on a double where I’ll do a low and a high at the same time. On “Stricken Arise” I did the high without the low just for something different, because that song is more of an old school death metal song. Some people tell me it sounds kinda black metal-ish but to us it’s old school death metal. That’s where I come from and that’s where these guys come from.

WC: What happened with Blackest of the Black tour?

ST: I dunno, dude. That’s more of a question for Glenn Danzig. We were all ready to head out and then we basically just got a call one day saying it wasn’t gonna happen. We were continuing talking to Superjoint Ritual about possibly going out with them and as far as I know were going out with them at the beginning of November for about a month’s worth of dates with them. I dunno, the way it seems to me is that Glenn Danzig backed out of it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ripping on Danzig or anything but I think all the bands on it now are more of an aggressive nature. I mean obviously Superjoint Ritual is nothing like Morbid Angel and neither are any of the other bands involved, but the fact of the matter is that everyone is real aggressive and Danzig is more rock-ish. I mean, he’s metal, but it’s a little more rock-oriented metal , Superjoint’s a little more punk-oriented metal, and we’re definitely metal (laughter). It’ll be a much heavier tour this way, ya know.

WC: You were away from the band for a while. What were the reasons for your absence?

ST: Basically I just needed to get my shit together. I had a lot of things going on outside of the band which were causing things to go on inside of the band. Other people had things going on too. There was a lot of conflict going on everywhere I went and that’s not just the band; at home, everywhere, everything I had to do. I just really needed to take time to get my life together and get my shit together. I’ve said it before, you live two lives: you live the life in the band and touring, and then you live your real life, which at the end of the day is what you live for the rest of your life. To be honest, I needed to get that part of my life together. I’ve been playing music since I was 13 years old and that part of my life [away from music] has always sorta come in 2nd. I needed to get everything back up to par and figure out what was going on in my life.


WC: How do you feel about the job Jared Anderson did in your absence?

ST: Actually, I don’t know, dude. I don’t have a fucking clue. At the time I really couldn’t have given a shit. Jared’s been my friend for long before I was in Morbid Angel, and I think that Jared came in under a lot of pressure, ‘cause he only had a few days to learn a lot of songs, and I’m sure he did a really good job. I’ve heard people say that they’d seen him and that he’d done a really good job, and I’ve also heard people slag him. And ya can’t slag him, man. He stepped up and made sure there was still a Morbid Angel show, and that’s admirable as far as I’m concerned. And as I said, I didn’t care at the time. Nothing personal against Jared, it’s just that I had to worry about my life and I couldn’t given a fuck about that at that point if I wanted to.

WC: I’ve read somewhere that you will be producing the next effort from Israeli death-metallers Eternal Grey? How did this come about?

ST: That basically came about by someone showing me their CD. Somehow we ended up in e-mail contact and they started sending me the new songs and I’d tell them what I thought of the new songs, and what I thought should and shouldn’t be changed. It was supposed to have already happened but then Blackest of the Black happened and I had to cancel, and then Glenn Danzig canceled so I’m sure those guys [in Eternal Grey] would like to give him a nice, swift kick in the ass! (laughter) It still hasn’t been done, but I’m hoping to do it sometime after the beginning of the year sometime. It depends on time. I mean these guys, they don’t even really have a strong deal right now so I’m actually talking to some guys trying to get them a bit of a budget for the record. I think they’re a good band, definitely Morbid Angel-influenced, but definitely a diverse band, so hopefully some good will come of this.

WC: Now, being that they are from Israel how is this gonna be worked out? Are you picking a studio to go to or what?

ST: They recorded their last record at Abyss in Sweden, the guy from Hypocrisy (Peter Tagtgren) runs it, and that’s where they wanna do this record as well. We talked about possibly doing it at Erik Rutan’s studio down in Tampa, but just financially it’ll be a lot easier for them to go to Abyss. I’m looking at is as a vacation as well, just going over for a few weeks, doing a record, and I’m sure it’ll sound killer.

WC: Will you be co-producing with Peter Tagtgren or his brother Tommy?

ST: I think Tommy’ll be engineering it and I think I’ll just be asking him to do for me what I wanna hear. I’d like to work with Peter though. I think he’s really good, I think Pain and Hypocrisy are both really good and I think the guy is pretty talented as a producer and a musician and I’d love to work with him on something. I think that would be great. I also look forward to seeing the studio.


WC: This was kinda touched upon when I asked Jared why he didn’t join Morbid Angel when asked and he said that he turned it down because he couldn’t commit time and because he felt that he wouldn’t really have the chance to write in the band because it’s mostly Trey’s baby. How is your input treated whenever you bring it into the band?

ST: Anything I’ve ever written or brought to the table has been used. I wrote a lot of Gateways and I wrote all the lyrics on this record. To be honest, it was kinda cool the way this record worked out because Trey came in with all the music just not 100% arranged yet. We worked out the final arrangements to fit and got all the lyrics done. He did his part, I did my part, and that was pretty much it. It’s pretty comfortable for me. Like I said, I dunno what happened while I was away and I don’t really care. Some people have said that Jared was gonna be the permanent guy and some people have said that Jared was never gonna be permanent. Other people told me that they made an offer to Jared to do the record and he didn’t wanna do it. It’s all about who you ask among people involved. When we did Formulas, they didn’t know me enough to trust me to write with the band so I think if Jared would have done the record he would’ve gone through the same situation. Respect is earned, not just given. I think that if he would have done the record, he would’ve been led to where they wanted him to go, and then if he did another record it might’ve gone somewhere else. Fact is, it didn’t happen. As far as I go, when they ask me to come do the record, they told me immediately that anything I got, they wanna use, and blah blah blah. I only know my situation; I can’t speculate on Jared’s.

WC: Kinda general question: how do you view the scene now? A lot of people believe that the death metal scene is getting kinda over-saturated with a lot of new bands coming out all the time. What do you think?

ST: It’s sorta the thing where a lot of the bands are short-lived. It’s always been that way. Death metal is one of those scenes where it seems that all the fans are musicians. It seems like there’s 100,000 death metal fans in the United States and 92,000 of those guys play intstruments, y’know what I mean? It just seems like everyone wants to play. Kinda similar to jazz in that way that it is a niche market. Jazz doesn’t sell millions of records, but it is a very steady, constant thing. A lot of jazz musicians are the guys buying jazz records. I think also that a lot of the new bands coming out have some member of some other band in them and it’s very rarely that you see an altogether new band. But as far as over-saturation goes, I don’t believe that. A lot of that happened in the early ‘90s, when death metal was something new and then everyone tried to imitate it and it got very boring very fast. A lot of the stuff that comes out now is much more hybrid. Very rarely do you hear a classic death metal band come along, it usually a hybrid between something else and death metal. It’s very rare that you see a real leather and spike death metal band come along like Hate Eternal or Nile, those are really the only two I can think of off hand. There’s a lot of bands coming out that people are calling death metal like Lamb of God and stuff like this. That’s not death metal, not like Deicide, Morbid Angel or even Cannibal Corpse. That’s something altogether different. It’s cool that it’s popular and that people dig it, but I wouldn’t call it death metal. There’s people that lump Meshuggah or something like In Flames in with death metal, but that stuff to me is really not death metal. But I think as a whole the scene is doing really good. I’m sorta shocked at how good the scene is doing. There’s a lotta fuckin’ bands out there that are doing really good where it used to only be a couple bands doing really good. If our new record were to go gold, then the market would definitely over-saturate, but that’ll be the record company’s fault, not the band’s fault. There’s always gonna be bands. Here in Cincinatti alone there’s probably 50 fuckin’ death metal bands, and it’s like that in every city. Like I said, there’s not too many bands you’re hearing that is just true death metal.

WC: or that can hold your interest after you first hear them…

ST: Well yeah. I think there’s bands out there that occasionally will get a good riff in there, and you’ll be like “God DAMN that’s a good riff!” But then someone will say, “yeah, that sounds like a riff outta ‘Rapture’ or ‘God of Emptiness.’ There’s always those comparisons. Very rarely do you hear something new that you can really latch onto. That being said, it’s almost a burden for Morbid Angel to be an original band because people are so used to what you did before and what you just did, that anytime anything new comes out they always spend the first month or two second-guessing it, and deciding whether or not it’s brutal or not…

WC: …or whether it’s even worthy to be called Morbid Angel, even.

ST: Well, let me tell you somethin’, dude. Trey has had Morbid Angel for years and years and everyone knows it’s Trey’s baby; it’s no big secret. I’m gonna tell ya, anything that gets past him that he considers Morbid Angel, IS Morbid Angel! Whether or not it fits what someone else perceives Morbid Angel to be, I’m telling you it IS Morbid Angel. I can guarantee you that when this album came out, people didn’t know what to think of it, and I took that as a great sign. Same way with Formulas, when that first came out no one knew what to think of it, and then six months later it’s a classic. Now here we are, that was ’97 and now it’s 2003, six years later, and I hear a lot for people say that record is just a classic, just a mandatory Morbid Angel record, and when it came out people were just like “what the fuck is this?” That’s just a part of Morbid Angel as an original band. People love to play it safe. People love their comfort zones, and they like to have things in their comfort zones. And if Morbid Angel was to make “Covenant” over and over again, people would get so bored with it so quick it’d be unreal, but because Morbid Angel keeps growing and changing it keeps people buying Morbid Angel records.

WC: Why are there so many instrumentals on this CD?

ST: Uh, to be honest, just ‘cause they were written, we liked ‘em, and we wanted them to be there. And that point you’ve touched on is the one thing I’ve heard more complaints about than anything else. To me, it’s irrelevant whether you like it or not and it’s just another piece of the puzzle, and if you don’t like it, don’t listen to it. Over the process of writing a record, there’s a lot of emotions that people go through and instrumentals get written, and people call it filler, and that shocks me! Because you can take the eight songs with vocals, add them all up, and they run longer than the last three Deicide records and the two Hate Eternal records. You got 45 minutes just outta those 8 songs and there’s no filler on there record, those instrumentals are just “extra stuff,” and it you don’t see it as just “extra stuff,” then they’re really missing the point. We see putting that on the CD as a bonus. People always wanna know insight and personal stuff about us like when you asked me why I left, that’s personal issues. It’s like, people wanna know these personal things about you, well here. Here’s these instrumentals , they are an insight to our personality and soul. People wanna know what we do when we’re not touring or in Morbid Angel, and well…things like this. (laughter) People also get up in arms about the whole 44 track thing, and people don’t realize is that Morbid Angel is not your average band. We’re not gonna do something the way Cannibal Corpse does it, not to sound like I’m ripping on Cannibal at all, but I’m just saying, we’re not gonna do stuff the way Deicide does it, the way Metallica does it, the way Slayer does it, we’re not gonna do that shit. There’s 44 tracks based on numerology. That album runs a certain length based on certain things we believe that people don’t even know about. They don’t know anything about the stuff we believe brings power to you and stuff like that that we make a part of everything we do, everything from tour dates to release dates to all these other things, and people don’t get that.

WC: Got anything else to say to your fans?

ST: Well, we’re getting ready to fire up the tour motor, and once we get that rollin’ it’s gonna be all about assault. Hopefully we’ll see people out on tour. Buy the record, listen to it, and I guarentee you’ll be satisfied. I truly believe in the bottom of my heart that this is a brilliant Morbid Angel record and I think the songs are great and with a lot of meaning, so read the lyrics and digest it and look deeper than what’s on the surface because there’s a lot there, man. That’s a hell of a closing statement…(laughter)