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PESTILENCE

 

PESTILENCE "The Never Ending Plague"

Interview by Dr. Mality

Everybody makes a mistake now and then. Everybody. But extreme metal fans have a hard time forgiving and forgetting. Just ask Patrick Mameli, guitarist, vocalist and all around overlord of Holland's legendary death metallers Pestilence.

For a while, Patrick got sick of "playing the game" and also bashing out endless blastriffs and vomitous vocal eruptions. And so Pestilence took a long nap while he explored other sounds and other paths in life. Well, I guess this is NOT an option for any death metal icon, as rabid fans castigate and persecute the fallen with the relentless vigor of Inspector Javert from "Les Miserables". C'mon, fanatics, is it just possible that somebody can maybe take a break for the mayhem?

Patrick now has returned to the death metal fold and Pestilence has unleashed one of its most brutal albums ever, "Resurrection Macabre". I dare any true extreme cult motherfucker to tell me this album doesn't belong with the acclaimed "Consuming Impulse" and "Malleus Maleficarum" from Pestilence's past. Thing is, once you talk to Mr. Mameli, you find out not only that he is a very nice guy, he's also a very honest one. He knows the mistakes he's made concerning Pestilence and he's willing to take some of the blame. But he's NOT going to apologize for doing things his way. And isn't this rebellious spirit at the very heart of the heavy metal ethos?

I had a great time speaking to the re-energized Patrick about the return of Pestilence and the band's plans for the future, as well as his tumultuous past. Read on to discover how this plague is just getting started...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Now that Pestilence has been back in action for a while, do you feel the comeback went pretty much the way you envisioned it?

PATRICK MAMELI: Actually yes, but it's been quite a strange story. We never actually thought that this would happen, that after 15 or 16 years, Pestilence would come back together and record another album. We didn't think there would be enough interest in us for us to tour or come over to the States. The line-up changed again, it's been a pretty turbulent year for us, but thank God we now have a very steady line-up with two great new musicians in the band. One can never really envision how things will turn out exactly. I think the new album "Resurrection Macabre" turned out to be a really good comeback album. It's very brutal, the way Pestilence should be. It's what Pestilence should have been after "Testimony of the Ancients" . This album should have come out after "Testimony..." and then we would have been way, way bigger.

WC: It was a very brutal album indeed. Was that the intention all along? Were you in an angry mood when you put this together?

PM: It's very difficult to explain the process of composing music for us. I definitely thought of what all the older fans would expect from us. There was a a lot of speculation when we decided to come back, a lot of anticipation. A lot of our old school fans from the 80's and early 90's wondered, what are these guys going to come up with? Is it going to be "Spheres" Part 2 or the sequel to "Testimony..." or whatever? You're always going to probably disappoint some people no matter what. Some people have favorite albums and whatever you do, you can't top those albums. They've been in the hearts of these people for so many years. But we wanted to make a brutal comeback. In the back of our minds, we always thought, why did we start Pestilence? The band started back in 1986, listening to hardcore punk and bands like Possessed and Death. We grew up on that brutal music and once you develop your own style, things kind of shift. You want to show how good you are with your instrument, you'll be a bit more melodic. In the end, you find yourself on a side road you didn't plan on. That's not really what we wanted to do. We wanted to do very brutal music but play it with technicality. We want it catchy so people can shout the lyrics. So we went back to the roots on "Resurrection Macabre" and we pretty much succeeded with that.

WC: The album does have its own style, it's not just a rehash. It's not a "Consuming Impulse" Part 2 or a "Testimony..." Part 2. All the Pestilence albums have their own style and I imagine that's something that's really important to you.

PM: Yeah, you hit the nail on the head. You have to reinvent yourself all the time...staying true to your style but discovering new ground to keep it interesting for yourself as well. You don't want to have the repetition that a lot of bands have over the years. They keep on in their small boundaries and their fanbase will stay steady. One can expect the next album will sound like whatever you did before. With Pestilence, it has always been a little bit different. We always wanted to come up with new stuff while staying true to the Pestilence kind of riffing. In September, we're recording a new Pestilence album called "Doctrine", which is going to top all the other stuff we've done. It's going to be different again, it's going to be haunting, it's going to be eerie. It's going to be really, really slow in parts...something we really haven't done before. It's going to be ultra-fast, also something we haven't done before. Yet it will all stay true to the Pestilence style. The vocals will change again a little bit. I like to see what my range is. If you stay in the same range all the time, you'll sound like any other death metal vocalist. It will be a bit more original.

WC: It's more about pushing the envelope. How far do you feel you can experiment with Pestilence, though? Do you think the fans can be closed-minded sometimes? How do you know where the boundary is?

PM: That's very difficult. There are two Pestilence camps. You've got the Martin van Drunen Pestilence camp and then there's the Patrick Mameli Pestilence camp. There's a lot of people that stick to the Martin van Drunen sound, which is cool. But he was in Pestilence for a couple of years and sang on two albums. And after that, I kind of took over and I did three or four albums, including live stuff. It's difficult to look into the minds of fans...they're the ones who have to buy the album. One can kind of experiment a bit, but you have to stay true to the style. If you go crazy like we did on "Spheres", it will backfire. "Spheres" came after "Testimony...", which up to that point was our most advanced album. We combined the eerie melodies with brutal death metal. There were some other bands doing that as well. A great example of a band that finds the right balance is Immolation, for example. They have changed over the years yet stayed true to their style. When they came out with their new album, it features their best production, it's got great songs. Even so, there will always be fans that say "Dawn of Possession", their debut, was the best album!

WC: But what can you do? You can't just write music for a real small clique. Some people think if it doesn't have a really raw production, it isn't worth anything. You've got to please yourself, too, correct?

PM: That's true, you're the one that's gonna have to do all these shows. If after two shows, you're like, man, I shouldn't have written the music like this, then you messed things up yourself. It has to come from the heart and there's hopefully gonna be a bunch of guys (and gals) liking that stuff, because you want the venue to be packed and everybody having a blast. That's what it's all about, the energy that comes from live shows. You can gauge from that if people are into the new stuff. Hopefully they got the new CD or at least ripped the MP3's. I don't mind people getting the MP3's as long as they get it, they understand why you do what you do.

WC: Do you think the modern fans of today accept more experimentation and different influences than fans back in the old days?

PM: Well, I think there have been some changes in the metal scene. Bands have pushed the envelope so much with extreme hyperblasts and crazy shit like Brain Drill. You can't top stuff like that anymore. You have to go back to the roots or else musicians will get lost in a rat race, you know? You have to find out for yourself what you really like and not think about what's popular at the moment. Death metal died some time ago and now it's back, but it will fade away again and there will just be a handful of bands. You've got to do things for yourself. If it's really, really insane and fast, you will lose some technicality and you will lose some melody. We'd rather stick to the stuff we really, really like and not listen too much to other bands. Although I do like listening to music, but I feel if I listen too much to the same style of music that we play, it's eventually going to subconsciously get to you and you will start to sound just like those bands.

WC: It's funny you should mention Immolation. I talked to Ross Dolan not long ago and he mentioned that Pestilence was one of his favorite bands.

PM: That's crazy! When we were on the Neurotic Deathfest together here in Holland, in Tilburg, we shared a backstage room with Immolation. We never really met or sat down and talked extensively but there was a mutual respect. I like those guys a lot, man...they have a great sound, they have great technical skills and their music is catchy! It's as catchy as hell. It's brutal, played technically and it has a kind of melody, so it's somewhat similar to what Pestilence is doing.

WC: They also ignore whatever the current trend is and stick to their own thing...

PM: Which is really good. I think on their last album, "Majesty and Decay", that they are topping themselves. They are adding to their style. Some bands, when their new album comes out, it sounds almost exactly like their second or third album. It's almost like they reversed one of their old songs on a computer, said "oh, that';s a great riff" and it's just a reversal of what they've done in the past. We are not that way. We want to reinvent ourselves while staying true to our style, which is very, very difficult. You will always have fans that like the first album the best.

WC: What were the highest point and lowest point in the history of Pestilence?

PM: The highest point we still have to reach. One of the highlights was when Pestilence got back together after 16 years, getting a record deal and recording "Resurrection Macabre"...that gave me such a kick. I think the new album is going to be over the top...crazy, insane music. I've got five songs written already and they are crazy, man! I like them, the other guys like them, the insiders say it's gonna be our best effort ever. But after the album "Spheres", when the fans dropped us and we pretty much knew the album wasn't going to do anything, that was pretty much one of the most depressing and low moments. We were so fed up and frustrated with the music industry at that time. We didn't get the proper support from the record company because they were signing all these bands and the market was saturated with death metal bands. We felt our musical creativity was gone. It took us 16 years to get our appetite back for making music again.

WC: Around 1993 and 1994, the industry changed radically anyway. A lot of death metal bands had trouble back then. But there's a real grass roots support for it. I'm optimistic that it will be around in some form.

PM: I pretty much agree on that. There are certain musical styles where you will always have fans that stick on that band until they die. Now you have metalheads that are over 50. They still like to listen to Slayer and go to the shows. That's an amazing phenomenon that shows the effect this music has on people. It's almost like a drug.

WC: I'm 47 and I've been into heavy music since 1973. I still try to go see shows. I think though that the giant arena metal shows are just about at the end. Recently, Dio passed away. There are not any guys coming up who can take the torch from him, I think.

PM: That's so true, that is so true.

WC In the 80's, I first encountered the real heavy stuff and just like you said, I became addicted to it. It was a shock the first time I picked up the Venom "Welcome To Hell" album. The first two weeks, I thought, what is this noise? But I kept coming back to it time and time again. And now it's grown into areas you couldn't have imagined before. The scene is healthy, but the age of gods like Dio is passing.

PM: Yeah, and he was one of the few guys that was there from the start. Not even bands like Slayer and Metallica have the mystique of Dio, Judas Priest, those bands.

WC: I think we have finally come to the end of Black Sabbath. I don't think Ozzy will rejoin them and I can't really see Ian Gillan or Tony Martin doing that. I hope they don't keep dragging themselves out by getting somebody new.

PM: That's with any band, really. Sometimes it's good to call it quits and not relive those good old days that you can't really top. But there are some bands...and I include Pestilence in that group.,..that still have that holy fire and still have the same intensity when they started out. Now I'm 42, you know, and I'm a little older as well. I don't have my long hair any more so I can't do my head spins. (laughter) But it still feels great to play death metal, it still gives me a rush.

WC: When you don't feel that anymore, that's the time to hang it up, I guess.

PM: Yeah, definitely.

WC: You guys are coming over for the Maryland Deathfest. What can the fans expect to see?

PM: Last time we set our foot on American soil we were interrogated for four hours because we didn't have our visas in order. That was a bummer. They put us on the next plane right back. Now there's great anticipation on both sides. I think we're going to destroy. I have such fond memories of the fans in the States. Not only are they loyal, but they really appreciate the music a lot. Especially the bands coming from Europe.

WC: It kills me that I can't make that show. The line up is just unbelievable!

PM: Isn't it? That is true! I remember when we did the Blood Brother tour with Autopsy opening up for us. We were friends with Chris (Reifert) for a long time and we lost track, but it's gonna be great seeing those guys. We're older, they're older, it's going to be fun. Everybody's gonna be coughing on stage and sweating!(laughs) Too bad you can't be there.

WC: Are you playing on Saturday night?

PM: No, I believe we're playing on Sunday. They've stretched things out a little bit. On Sunday, everybody's already dead from the two days before. Hopefully we can still make an impact.

WC: I'm not too worried about that! Are you still producing bands, are you working with anybody right now?

PM: Actually, no. The whole composing effort for Pestilence takes so much time. I have a regular job, I got a wife, I got two kids...my time is so limited. I'll be producing the new Pestilence album of course, but no other bands at the moment.

WC: The other project you were involved with, C-187, is that no more?

PM: Yeah, that band is no more. It's such a shame because I thought it was such a great album, but people want to see me in a death metal and not making crossover music. I think Sean did a great job on that album drumming. I think we only sold 2000 copies of it. It's like no use if you're playing in front of 50 people, I can't even pay the guys in the band.

WC: Do you think as time goes on that people will be more accepting of it?

PM: Well, I would have thought people would have been more accepting of it considering I was gone for 15 years! But metal fans will always be metal fans and the shit you did 15 years ago will still be fresh in their minds. They will never forget if you do something wrong, They will never forget! There will definitely not be any more C-187 albums.

WC: What was the last CD you got just because you wanted to hear the band?

PM: Wow, I think that was a while ago. I think it was the Hate Eternal album "I, Monarch". I'm a big fan of Derek Roddy, you know. That record kind of turned me back on to playing extreme metal. Some of the people who knew from the past said, "I know you're into drummers and I know you listen to a lot of jazz and fusion and blah blah blah, but check this guy out!" When I heard it, I was like, what is this? I've never heard this stuff before! This guy is so fast and so brutal! That kind of turned me back on to making extreme music again. I guess I gotta give props to Erik Rutan and Derek for that!

WC: I'm sure they'll take that as a big compliment. What was the last band you saw live because you wanted to check them out?

PM: Ummm, OK, that's difficult. I've seen so many bands live and there's just a few that stick in your head. Years ago, I saw Kreator on the "Pleasure to Kill" tour and that made a huge impact on me. Also Ozzy Osbourne with Jake E. Lee when they did the "Bark At the Moon" tour. But seeing Hate Eternal live was something I really wanted to see as well. That was a great show. I loved every second of it!

WC: In the history of Pestilence, has there ever been a Spinal Tap moment that you can share with the fans?

PM: Well, most things that went wrong happened in the Martin van Drunen era. When you have Martin around, you know something is about to go wrong. (chuckles) With the new line-up, we're a little bit older. Martin would do all kinds of crazy stuff and he wouldn't even know why he did it. Right before a show, he would pick up a rock and start throwing it through a fancy car windshield. Then he'd have to run because people would be fuckin' chasing him. Those things happen! We did our share of crazy things but not as crazy as some of the other bands around.

WC: Any last words?

PM: We will make it back to the States after the Maryland Deathfest. We'll be touring for our new album "Doctrine" next year probably around February. The Pestilence is back and we still have a couple of albums to go!