Anthrax announced earlier this week that Joey Belladonna, the singer on the group's classic '80s albums, will once again be their frontman. This came after months of speculation in the wake of the departure of Dan Nelson, who departed the group acrimoniously last year, about whether John Bush—the group's previous vocalist—would return after playing a few festivals. As if that wasn't enough soap opera, he had left the band in 2005 when Belladonna re-joined the band for a brief reunion tour. So what the heck is going on?
"For me, myself, I was looking for some stability in the band," drummer Charlie Benante says. "John filled in to do some shows here and there, but he was never going to be anything else. Our manager, said, 'We really need to get this thing back on track,' and we turned to Joey."
"I don't want to say it was the right idea," Belladonna says, "but I think they thought it was a wise idea. I wish we'd done it sooner." As for why Belladonna's return didn't work out the first time, the singer says, "I don't think the communication was thorough enough, and no one made the right steps to move forward. Maybe it happened too quickly. It would have been a nice segue."
Looking back at it all, Benante says the reunion tour didn't go the way they had planned. "The idea was to do something special for our anniversary and I wanted to have the two versions of Anthrax, the John version and the Joey version, onstage together. But some people didn't like it, and suddenly it's this full-blown reunion, and we were living it. There was a Band-Aid put on some wounds, but they were still there." Reflecting on the drama that ensued with Nelson's departure, Benante continues, "The band at this point has been on an emotional roller coaster, and it almost did us in. We had kind of a nervous breakdown over this stuff. We really needed some stability. So maybe all of these things led up to Joey Belladonna again."
"John was a real stand up guy about the situation," guitarist Scott Ian said in a statement. "He knew we wanted to move forward at full speed, that we needed a total commitment to Anthrax, and he knew that wasn't what he wanted. We certainly wish John well."
By all accounts, Belladonna's return is a positive one, and he's ready to start working with the group on music. Referring to Worship Music, the album Anthrax recorded with Nelson but never released, Belladonna sees room to grow: "There's definitely going to be some more aggression. The style of writing is gonna be a bit more dark. It rips. I've heard one tune, I've explored one song at this point, and it sounds very old school, more like Persistence in one way or another, a darker vibe mixed with some real old-school atmosphere. I think it will appeal to our old-school fans, but a lot of the newer ones will dig it, too."
"We can't wait to get back in the studio," Benante says. "Joey did some work on one of the songs, and when I heard it, I got goosebumps. It sounds like something from Spreading the Disease. So maybe that's what this is all about, maybe Belladonna was meant to be through all of this drama. Sometimes, you gotta work through a lot of shit to get to the prize at the bottom."
The prize will definitely rise to the top this summer, as Anthrax participates in the "Big Four" tours with Metallica, Megadeth, and Slayer through Europe this summer. After those shows, the band will begin writing and recording new music for an early 2011 release. The best part is, they're all on the same page and they can't wait to get going. "There's no animosity in the band," Belladonna says. "We just want to move forward, let it flow." CHRIS KROVATIN
REVOLVER MAGAZINE'S SPECIAL REVOLVER GOLDEN GODS AWARDS ISSUE FEATURES ALL-STAR COVER EXCLUSIVE BEHIND-THE-SCENES COVERAGE AND COMMEMORATIVE POSTER
VH1 CLASSIC TO AIR THE REVOLVER GOLDEN GODS AWARDS SATURDAY, MAY 22
On stands now, the 2010 REVOLVER MAGAZINE GOLDEN GODS issue is not to be missed. The double-sized issue boasts an all-star cover featuring REVOLVER GOLDEN GODS AWARDS winners, performers and presenters—including OZZY OSBOURNE, LEMMY KILMISTER of Motörhead, SLASH, ROB HALFORD of Judas Priest, DAVE GROHL, ALICE COOPER, CHINO MORENO of Deftones, ROB ZOMBIE, ZAKK WYLDE of Black Label Society, VINNIE PAUL of Hellyeah, JERRY CANTRELL of Alice In Chains, CHRIS JERICHO of WWE and Fozzy, KAT VON D, MARC COLOMBO of the Dallas Cowboys and Free Reign, and many more.
Inside the issue, readers can enjoy exclusive behind-the-scenes coverage of the REVOLVER GOLDEN GODS show. Everything from the soundchecks, cover shoot, star-studded Black Carpet, and pre-show jitters to what went on backstage, the onstage mishaps, late-night after party and the action that was too hot for TV is documented in detail. The issue also includes exclusive interviews with Lifetime Achievement Award winner LEMMY KILMISTER and Golden God Award winner ROB HALFORD, as well as a powerful interview with West Memphis Three member Damien Echols straight from death row, and excerpts from MARILYN MANSON's statement on behalf of the WM3 at the Golden Gods.
From May 24th through June 10th, readers can bid to win two Epiphone guitars signed by the REVOLVER GOLDEN GODS AWARDS winners, performers and presenters including SLASH, JERRY CANTRELL, KERRY KING (of Slayer), ZAKK WYLDE and SCOTT IAN (of Anthrax and Brian Posehn's band). All proceeds from the auctions will be donated to the West Memphis Three legal defense fund. The auction will last 17 days—one day for each year the West Memphis Three have spent behind bars. June 3rd will mark the 17th anniversary of when Echols, Misskelley and Baldwin were sentenced for a crime they didn't commit. Information on how to bid can be found inside the issue and online at http://www.skeletonkeyauctions.com/.
In addition to the excitement contained within these pages, readers can get a look at the final interview with PETER STEELE of TYPE O NEGATIVE before his untimely death, a fascinating story about AS I LAY DYING'S frontman TIM LAMBESIS's adopted son, an in-depth look at DEFTONES' rise from the tragedy of bassist CHI's car accident and subsequent coma, and an inspirational profile of a metal band comprised of U.S. soldiers who were injured in the line of duty and bonded through the Walter Reed Army Medical Center rehab program Musicorps. A bonus commemorative poster will also be included in the special issue. The epic poster memorializes the onstage collaboration between hard-rock icons LEMMY KILMISTER and SLASH during the 2010 REVOLVER GOLDEN GODS AWARDS.
Highlights from the REVOLVER GOLDEN GODS AWARDS show will officially air on Saturday, May 22, at 10:00pm ET/PT on VH1 Classic.
In Revolver's May/June issue, we interview Breaking Benjamin frontman Benjamin Burnley on Dear Agony (Hollywood), which deals with his chronic disease wet brain and his phobias of travel. For those of you who didn't get enough (or are too cheap to buy the magazine), here's the best of the rest of our wide-ranging chat.
REVOLVER Are you generally cautious in life?
BENJAMIN BURNLEY I like to take it slow and easy. I like the security of being a passenger in a car when somebody's driving safely. But I wasn't always like that. I used to drive a motorcycle, I cliff dove, I've rock climbed. I've done all that thrill seeking stuff and gotten it out of my system.
Any brushes with death?
I've had a couple close calls on motorcycled. Once in Paris I was following a buddy and he got off on an exit and I was trying to keep up with him, so I switched lanes quickly and I heard this deafening, "HONNNNNK!" There was literally a truck two inches from my back wheel and if it had touched me I would not be here. Another time, I had a Rebel, which is a 200CC motorcycle, and I had a friend who was a heavier guy on the back of the bike. When we went around a curve, the rim cut into the back tire and we went down. Sparks were everywhere, the bike was in. He bailed into a cornfield. I literally flipped head over heels down the highway. And now I have a big scar on my ass and my shoulder blade is shaved down a little bit and I probably still have some asphalt embedded in my skin.
What's worse, the immediate pain from a motorcycle accident or the constant discomfort of wet brain?
Man, I'd give anything to go back in time and stop myself from doing this to myself. I'd give up everything I've achieved in this band to feel normal again. It makes me mad that people take their health for granted because when your body is not there for you the way used to be, life starts to suck really quick. I just deal with it now. I deal with it strictly because I have no other choice. It's there every day in my face and I do my best to ignore it, but every day it makes itself known to me.
Do you take any painkillers or antidepressants to deal with the symptoms?
I don't take any medication because I don't know what's gonna happen when I take any drugs. So no mind altering drugs. no anti depressants, nothing. I only take Advil when I have a migraine and I smoke cigarettes and drink coffee.
Interview by Jon Wiederhorn
Abscess' Danny Coralles and Chris Reifert
"When we started Autopsy, the Bay Area thrash scene was in full swing. You know, Testament, Vio-Lence, Forbidden…all of those bands," recalls Autopsy skinsman and vocalist Chris Reifert of the band's early Nineties beginnings. "That was not something we wanted to do. When people talk about the glory days of the Bay Area, most of it was crap."
Reifert's less-than-positive sentiment towards the Bay Area thrash movement is what prompted the singer to push Autopsy's music into new extremes, combining the doom of Black Sabbath, the intensity of Possessed and the horror themes of Death.
This contrarian attitude has, for the past 20-plus years, fueled Reifert and Autopsy guitarist Danny Coralles' creative pursuits, whether in Autopsy, other projects including Mirror Snake, Eat My Fuk, the Ravenous and Death, or their most-recent cult death-punk outfit, Abscess.
"[With Abscess] we like to mix things up with brutal death metal, punk, doom and psychedelic," Reifert explains. "There are a lot of ingredients out there that you can mix to make some brutal shit." The band—rounded out by guitarist/vocalist Clint Bower and bassist/vocalist Joe Allen (ex-Von)—has just released what may be its most eclectic and brutal full-length, Dawn of Inhumanity [Peaceville].
Along with Abscess' upcoming album, Reifert and Coralles will be revisiting Autopsy this year, and hitting the stage—for the first time since their separation fifteen years ago—with the headlining spot at the Maryland Deathfest.
MetalKult recently caught up with both Reifert and Coralles for a brief chat where they discuss Dawn of Inhumanity, their musical roots, Autopsy and what it was like playing with the late Chuck Schuldiner. By Henry Yuan
Your sixth and latest Abscess record, Dawn of Inhumanity, shows the band getting closer to perfecting a true "death metal punk rock" sound. What was the writing process like?
Danny Coralles One of us will bring riff ideas to practice where they may or may not be manipulated altered or perverted by the band. Then vocals, solos, harmonies, twizzles, etc. are all figured in. Guitar solos are either written or improvised on the spot - gotta love the spontaneity of a crazed mind! We'll tweak a song up until the last second before recording but there really are no rules.
How important is punk to your playing and as a person? Is there anything about it that grabs you that death metal can't?
Chris Reifert Punk is great with death metal if it's
done right and it's definitely important for Abscess and what we do. It's just as important as the other things that make our sound.
Coralles It's a natural progression of the extreme. As a kid I was there for the dawn of punk: The Stooges, New York Dolls, Dead Boys, The Ramones, Sex Pistols, The Plasmatics… I just loved that fuck-it-all attitude. It didn't matter if they were great players—you could feel the aggression in their music. However, punk became New Wave and you could buy anarchy purses at Target. That's when I had to look elsewhere for brutality. Metal was there throughout the whole punk era, which I also worshiped, so they both grabbed me the same way: by the throat!
Aside from the death, doom and punk influences, I also hear psychedelic rock creep into some of the riffs, especially with the use of feedback and ringed out notes. The atmospheric aspect of Abscess really comes to life with Dawn of Inhumanity. Does playing in Mirror Snake, and your other bands, influence the writing for Abscess?
Reifert Hmm, I don't know. It's all metal, you know? I mean, at least in our minds. It's just the way these things are approached. Like I said, it's important for us to mix things to create this sound. They're all important. We've done some other projects and they all have their own personality but we try not to get that in the way of our own sound. You can always tell if something sounds like us.
Coralles Back in the mid seventies when I was listening to early punk, I was also listening to everything from Deep Purple, The Who, Alice Cooper, UFO, Rick Derringer… just a ton of stuff. Later on, you find yourself listening to Venom, King Diamond, Repulsion, Impetigo, Blasphemy, Voivod, etc. Everything I've done in my life seems to blend together with Abscess so I reserve the right to draw on any of lives experiences at any time.
Reifert I think that's what makes us who we are. We just play what's going through our own minds. I mean, we're all music fans and there are definitely bands that we like or look up to but when it comes to writing, we never shoot to sound like anything or anyone. If it bleeds through, it's definitely unintentional. When we write for Abscess, we clear our minds and focus on what Abscess should write.
Reifert playing...without no f'ng triggers!
How did the band come in contact with Darkthrone and Tyrant Syndicate? How has working with them been?
Reifert We kinda knew those guys through Peaceville from way back. We definitely like their music and there's a mutual respect between us. This was before they had their own label and then later on when they started Tyrant Syndicate through Peaceville, they wanted to release some stuff from Abscess. That's pretty much how it went down. Working with those guys is great. They definitely know what our attitude is and are really supportive of what we do. It's just great.
Coralles Both Nocturno Culto and Fenriz actually have guest vocals on Dawn Of Inhumanity. Tyrant Syndicate had a great run. RIP Tyrant Syndicate.
Dennis Dread once again created the cover art for you guys, and the results are brutal to say the least. Was there a concept that you guys wanted to explore?
Coralles Usually we'll have a rough idea that we'll tell the artist. When he's about half way through we'll check it and sometimes make major changes. However, this time I think we just let Dennis do his thing and—as usual—it came out sick!
Reifert We're definitely happy with it. It looks killer and it goes great with the music. I hope it comes out on vinyl one day because that would be one awesome gatefold cover right there. [laughs] But yeah, he's great to work with and his stuff matches our sound pretty well.
Danny, what gear did you use during the sessions for the album and was there a particular reason for using them? Was there a specific sound you wanted to achieve?
Coralles I have an Ampeg Lee Jackson 100 watt head. For some reason, we weren't getting the sound we wanted out of it so we ended up running a bass distortion pedal through it for the rhythms. For my solos, I used a Vox Wah and a bit of delay. The search for the perfect tone never ends!
Chris, how do you approach your drumming? What are your thoughts about modern death metal drumming (specifically the use of triggers)?
Reifert Oh, man! You said the "T" word! Ugh! I hate it – I really can't stand it. I play what I like to play and for me, I like to hit the drums really hard. I like to use all the drums and not just the kick and the snare. It keeps it exciting for me. Some of my favorite drummers are Keith Moon from The Who and [Slayer's] Dave Lombardo who everyone knows. Somewhere in the middle between those two guys is the perfect drumming. You got the crazy, out of control style of Keith and Dave Lombardo. I'm not perfect, but I try to play aggressively and make it count.
I hate triggers, click tracks and things like that. I just don't understand why anyone would want to use that stuff unless they have a problem playing or hitting the drum hard enough [laughs]. I've seen bands play where the drummers would blast away at light speed and sound really impressive but when I take a closer look, their sticks aren't even coming an inch off the drum. What the fuck? Hit that thing! I don't like that stuff. I like to sound real. I don't record with a click track, either. I consider it cheating. If you're a drummer, you're supposed to know how to play in time anyway.
Autopsy is a band whose legacy lasted a powerful effect on the death metal and underground scenes at the dawn of the 90's with the release of Severed Survival. The band was left for dead once Abscess started rolling. However, you guys recorded two new tracks for Peaceville's reissue of the album and are confirmed for this year's Maryland Deathfest in May. What triggered the decision to resurrect Autopsy?
Reifert We actually broke off Autopsy when we started Abscess. We didn't let it die in vain. We started Abscess so we can still play and we've been going strong for 16 years now. The two Autopsy tracks we did for the 20th anniversary of Severed Survival was something special because it's a big event for us. We wanted to make it over the top. At first, we wanted to do one new song and it was so fun that it turned into two. It was a great time and I think the tracks came out great. It just seemed like it was the time to do more stuff. We got a call from the Maryland Deathfest people, talked to them and decided it'd be cool to play the show.
Coralles Severed Survival had already been reissued a number of times so we figured, what could we do for the 20th anniversary release that would make it extra special? We had unreleased material but we needed something more. We had never planned on being Autopsy again but I think that's what made it a good idea: we were doing it because it felt natural. We stumbled upon the idea as something fun to do as opposed to just wanting to cash in on it. It was a great time to do it. We got Clint and Joe from Abscess to play the bass tracks.
We thought that was the end of it. Then, we played The Maryland Deathfest last year as Abscess. When Pestilence cancelled, we heard rumors that Autopsy was the secret replacement band. I thought, that's crazy! Well, now a year later, we're headlining the fest as Autopsy! What a great honor! We plan to slay this event, for sure. From my experience, the MDF is the best run, most awesome metal fest the States has to offer. Ryan and Evan [the organizers of Maryland Deathfest] rule!
Nirvana 2002 just got announced for MDF, along with reunited death metal pioneers Pestilence, Asphyx and Gorguts. How do you feel about the resurgence of interest with old-school death metal and these classic bands breathing new life?
Reifert Oh, it's great. I'm all for more metal, you know? As far as we're concerned, we never stopped or slowed down one minute. We just kept chugging away between Abscess and Autopsy. If other bands are getting back together and sound like they mean it and not fresh out of ideas, then that's great. There are definitely some cases where these things have no soul or any new ideas left. Whether this stuff is popular or not, we're gonna continue to do our thing.
It's kind of crazy how some of these kids weren't even born when these bands were at their peak.
Reifert Yeah, man. It's pretty crazy but it's great. It's great that there's an excitement with these kids when they hear a band for the first time or the tenth time. It's just great, man. I still remember freaking out when I was 14 or 15 at the hardest shit I can find. It's an awesome feeling. I'm glad that we can be a part of the same excitement for these kids.
Do you feel that one possible reason for this is because kids are fed up with the new, "plastic"-sounding death metal bands?
Reifert It could be, but I hear bands who still sound like that even when they do play old-sounding stuff. It just depends on the band. We all know how sometimes when something turns 20 years old, it all of a sudden becomes cool again. I don't know why it is, but it happens.
Looking back at the Autopsy days, what were some of the high and low points?
Reifert The high points were pretty much everything. There were definitely some crappy moments but everything that we did we did because we believed in it. We didn't do anything that makes us look back and say, oh man, that's no good. Getting our first album out was exciting as well as going to Europe a couple of times. Low points started to happen towards the very end when it just wasn't fun anymore. That was when we decided to break up the band and it wasn't even a low point from an outsider's view. It just got to the point where we just went, man, this is starting suck.
Coralles Whatever the low points were, they seem to fade with time. I suppose low turn outs, Nebraska Ticks, long plane flights, sleeping in vans and eating like shit were low points… oh yea, it's all coming back to me now. The high points: our first European tour with Bolt Thrower, Pestilence and Morgoth, the satisfaction of knowing our shit kicked ass, drinkin', smokin' and Zombie pokin'!
What can you recall from being in the Bay Area underground scene during those days?
Reifert There were some good bands, like Possessed, but most of them weren't good. We stuck out like sore thumbs because we wanted to go full-on with the horror theme and not sing about being in the pit of banging your head. [laughs] We just wanted to be brutal and talk about the gore all the way unapologetically. You can say we weren't popular around here [laughs].
Coralles We really didn't fit in with the thrash and the hardcore scene at the time but we just kept plodding along doing our own thing. As long as we thought it was crushing, we were happy.
So Chris, I assume that when you met Chuck [Schuldiner] for the first time, you were probably really stoked to meet someone like-minded.
Reifert Oh yeah! Absolutely. I had been collecting the Death demos already and I totally loved them. I never thought I would ever be in the band! I was totally a fan. When I found out he was out here looking for musicians, I was just like, great. Then I met him and it worked out pretty well.
How was it like working with him?
Reifert It was great. I can't really say anything bad, you know? I had a whole lot of fun. I don't know what other people thought because there were people who didn't get along with him much, but I always did and had fun. Maybe it was because it was way before the real, real pressure with the band. We were pretty young and innocent at the time of the first album [Scream Bloody Gore] and then things got way bigger later, of course. Maybe there were personality differences but I've always had lots of fun and we got along great.
Did you guys keep in touch when you went your separate ways?
Reifert Yeah we did here and there. I was passing by his way one time and I stayed over his place for a couple of days and we called each other from time to time. There were gaps where we didn't speak to each other for years at a time but it wasn't because we didn't want to or hated each other. We were just out doing our thing. I talked to him for a few minutes shortly before he passed away, which was nice. I didn't know it was getting near the end. It was cool just to talk with him. But yeah, we were always cool.
Finally, what's in store for Abscess and Autopsy in the future?
Reifert Well, the Abscess album is just about to come out and we're gonna see how that does and basing our decisions on that, you know, let it circulate a little bit. For Autopsy, we got Maryland Deathfest coming up and we'll just take it from there. We got plenty to keep busy with.
Coralles That's the joy of life: you just don't know. Whether it's Autopsy, Abscess, Eat My Fuk, Mirror Snake, The Ravenous, Doomed or whatever's next, I can guarantee you it will be Maximum Death n' Roll!
After nearly four decades of drumming for one of hard rock's most iconic and notoriously debauched bands, Aerosmith's Joey Kramer has lived through the stuff of fiction. His recent book, Hit Hard: A Story of Hitting Rock Bottom at the Top (HarperOne), though, is all too real. (Incidentally, Kramer has also launched a rhythm-game iPhone app of the same name.) In the book, he details the personal demons that have troubled him, as well as the rock-and-roll excesses that famously led to the band's temporary demise in the '80s. Kramer recently spoke to Revolver about the issues contained in his memoir and about Aerosmith's enduring status in the music landscape.
REVOLVER How did the book come about?
JOEY KRAMER It took me about four years to do it. I was journaling and writing some stuff down and a couple of people suggested to me that I write a book and, you know, I was of the opinion well, you know, Who's going to be interested in reading a book that I have to write? Then I realized that, you know, my story was a little but more interesting than just a plain old rock-and-roll memoir; the same old stuff in it, the same old war stories and how much drugs this guy took or I took on any given night, you know, the women and all the stuff that goes along with a rock-and-roll memoir. I started thinking about all the other things that I had been through during the course of my life, at the same time as having Aerosmith as a backdrop for my life and the drug addictions and the alcoholism and the depression and the anxiety and all the other stuff that I had been through. I thought that that might make for a more interesting read if I combined it all together. And that's what I did. And I find that people are really identifying with it and very much relating to it and I'm getting a lot of positive feedback on it.
What were some of the events that you remembered when working on the book?
Well there was a lot of things about my father and things that I had forgotten about and things that I remembered. I remembered a lot of the abuse, but I didn't remember specific instances. Where when I was writing the book, you know, stuff started to come back to me and specific instances came back that I had stored away in my memory that I wasn't really in touch with, but they came back when I started to write.
How have your bandmates reacted to the book?
I've gotten comments about how I have a lot of balls to write it to begin with and I've gotten other comments about how, you know, they're really proud of me for writing the story the way that it is and they know that it's true because they were there.
In closing the book, you say that "I'm a feel player and right now I feel pretty good." Given that your mindset is so much different and improved from how it's been in the past, is the music you produce also different because of that?
I don't know that the music is different. I think that I'm different and so by virtue of me being different and feeling different, then that makes the music different, even though it's the same.
Does that go with the music produced by the band as a whole as well?
I think so. I think that everybody's matured and kind of grown up hopefully a little bit more. I think that everybody's in a pretty good place right now and I know that everybody's really looking forward to playing and getting out there because I think as you get older you learn to appreciate what it is, you know, the gift that you've been given. And as you get older and the closer to the end of it you get, the more you appreciate it, you know.
What's the secret to how Aerosmith is still going strong after all that's happened to you guys personally and as a band?
I don't think there is a secret. I think it's pretty simple that is the one common denominator that we all still have is we love to play music and we have the vehicle that we have in order to do it. And, you know, it's the greatest thing because no matter what happens we all get out there onstage and we do what we do and it still feels good and as long as it feels good, we'll do it.
What have you made to the reaction to Steven Tyler's decision to take some time out away from the band?
I think it was probably a little bit out of proportion. He has a desire like everybody else to go out and do his own thing. There's nothing wrong with that, but you don't have to not do one thing in order to do another. If you do it correctly and in a positive fashion, you can do everything that you want.
In the book, you say that when you're touring you always come out to watch the support act, to keep in touch of the current music scene. What do you make of the rock scene currently?
Well, I don't think there's really a lot of rock music out there at the moment, compared to say what we do, what AC/DC does or what Van Halen does or some of my favorite bands. There's not a lot of rock out there. It's all techno and hip-hop and the state-of-the-art of whatever is out there, which a lot of times I have, sometimes I have difficulty being able to appreciate that, although I try. But, you know, I like good old rock music; that's what I do and that's what I love.
You recently just launched you own iPhone App, where people can try to emulate your drumming. How does that feel?
It feels great man, you know, come on, I'm doing some fun stuff, trying to step out a little bit.
How did you do on it?
Uhh… I don't even want to say. [Laughs] But it's a good one and I've been getting a lot of really good feedback on that too.
Interview by Jason Le Miere // Photo by Ross Halfin
Norwegian black-metal legends Immortal conclude their four-date North American tour in support of their excellent new album, All Shall Fall (Nuclear Blast), tonight. This week and last week, we have been posting a lengthy interview Revolver did with frontman Abbath Doom Occulta about his career. For the final entry, he talks about Varg Vikernes (née Kristian Vikernes), the man behind the one-man black-metal group Burzum and one of the most controversial musicians in black-metal history. Vikernes was imprisoned for murdering Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth, the guitarist of the Oslo black-metal group Mayhem, as well as church burnings in the early '90s. Prior to all of this, Vikernes played in the death-metal group Old Funeral with Abbath across the country from Mayhem in Bergen. Here, Abbath remembers Vikernes from the time before the controversy. Click 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 to read the previous parts of the interview.
REVOLVER Before you were in Immortal, you played in a band called Old Funeral. Burzum's Varg Vikernes was also a member of that band. What do you remember about him then?
ABBATH Well Varg, or Kristian as we know him, before he changed his name to Varg, was very good guy. We never had problems with him. I remember I invited him into Old Funeral a short while before I left the band. One things for sure, Varg was not the reason I left Old Funeral. It was those two other guys. They didn't develop in the same direction as me mentally, and I met with Demonaz and we clicked. Since then we have been brothers; we are fucking soul mates. But you know Varg, he wanted to be involved with me and Demonaz's thing, but we couldn't involve any others at that point, but he went on with his stuff. And he also got into contact with Oslo, and the rest is history. Now he's out and I wish him well. I hope he lives a good life for his family for the rest of his life, you know what I mean? I mean he's been in jail for many, many years, how many years, like 17, 16?
Yeah, I think, sure, he has many of the same ideas about things. But come on, I don't think he wants to go back there, and he has family and kids. I wish him a good life. Actually he has served his time, and I hope he follows the right path for himself.
But it was a tragedy what happened. Euronymous was also a guy whom we got to know a lot. We had a lot of contact with him. We were not involved with his projects; he was not involved in our projects, but we had a certain kind of respect for each other. And we got to meet him. We came over there [to Oslo] sometimes; he came over here sometimes. But Varg. he got very, very involved with him and the scene over there and it all was out of our hands. And what happened was just very tragic, very tragic, I'm still very sad about it.
A lot of things happened back then and after a while, people even got killed or passed away. A lot of young people, like Erik, our old drummer [who commited suicide with a drug overdose in 1999]. He was out of the band, we had to fire him [in 1994]—not for his personality—he just didn't improve. He had to move on and he had problems with depression and he was on medicine. His death happened years after, but I mean a lot of people died for the wrong reasons. Like Mayhem, Euronymous. If he focused more on Mayhem back in those days, Mayhem would be the greatest, biggest bad on the fuckin' planet right now. Euronymous wanted to do everything himself. He didn't want to involve anyone and then he got involved with Burzum. I mean we were up there [in Bergen, across the country] the whole time. We didn't see everything.
I don't think Varg will bother anyone anymore, and I don't think he wants anyone to bother him either. You know what I mean?
I appreciate you being so candid about everything.
Well, usually I don't talk about Varg, or that whole thing, so please be cautious with what you write.
Old Funeral LP featuring vintage pictures of Abbath (who went by his real first name, Olve) and Varg (miscredited as C. Vikernes)
By Kory Grow // Immortal photo by Peter Beste; Old Funeral image found on Cult Metal
Norwegian black-metal legends Immortal are currently on a four-date North American tour, supporting their latest album, All Shall Fall (Nuclear Blast). For this installment of Revolver's lengthy interview with frontman Abbath and the band's lyricist and former guitarist Demonaz—who had to stop playing due to severe tendonitis—we talked about guitar riffs, both for Immortal and Abbath's band I, which he formed during Immortal's hiatus. Click 1, 2, 3, and 4 to read the previous parts of the interview.
REVOLVER How did you record All Shall Fall?
ABBATH Horgh went to Abyss [Studio] to record the drums and I did the guitars and the rest here in Bergen. Then I went to [producer] Peter Tägtgren's place and mixed it. When it came out, the final results of All Shall Fall, it was like "Wow." At least five of these songs are great live songs.
We're trying to stay a little fit, none of us are in our 40s but very, very close. I think Demonaz is first, he's 39 now, and Horgh is becoming 38, and I'm 36 and Apollyon is also 36. We can't—and we don't want to—party like the way we did, you know. When we're out touring we never party the night before a show. If we go to a festival I don't drink the day before we travel or the day after, you know, and I just can't wait to get up on that stage you know.
Demonaz, you don't play in Immortal anymore, but you still play guitar. Did you contribute any riffs to All Shall Fall?
DEMONAZ There was this night I was sitting at my home, very late at night. I couldn't sleep 'cause I got into this strange mood and had this vision of an opening of a song and I just call Abbath, and said, "Hey, what about this?" It became the opening of "Norden on Fire." I didn't even play it on guitar. He worked on it and it came out just the way I showed it to him.
What time of night did you call him?
DEMONAZ 2 o'clock or something.
Did you wake him up?
DEMONAZ He was awake, 'cause he was also in the working process that night. I think that it's a little telepathic. I can't explain it when I called him, he was like, "Yeah, just wait two seconds." He found his guitar, and it just like that. We know that even if we didn't speak… it just happens sometimes.
Abbath, what other elements inspire your riffs?
ABBATH You can also hear on, for example, [Immortal's 1999 album] At the Heart of Winter, some of the main riffs there are inspired by AC/DC, the "Hells Bells" song. The opening riff on "Mountains of Might" is inspired by Star Trek, the song when the Bird of Prey from when the Klingons come flying in, with the disguise… And you have this riff on [the band's 1993 release] Pure Holocaust, which is inspired by the imperial march for Darth Vader, from Star Wars.
But for example, the opening riff on the I album, "The Storm I Ride," that's inspired by "Ladies in Waiting" from Kiss, from the Dressed to Kill album in 1975. On the I song "Cursed We Are," felt more that the opening is inspired by "Bark at the Moon" from Ozzy and at the same time the whole thing is inspired by "I've Had Enough (Into the Fire)" from KISS from their 1984 album Animalize.
Why do you think the I album was a success?
ABBATH I didn't have to prove something to nobody else but to myself with I. I just felt free to make and do an album that I felt like, at that point, without thinking Immortal and it became a very special album I think.
Interview by Kory Grow // Photos by Peter Beste
Raven have a history like few other bands, having been a minor player in a couple of metal's major turning points. Formed in 1974, the group was part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. And in 1983, they toured the United States with an unknown band opening for them called Metallica, on their first-ever tour. They've always stayed true to their thrashy, self-proclaimed "athletic rock" sound and just this week released Walk Through Fire (Metal Blade). They will be touring the U.S. in September. Below, the ever entertaining John Gallagher fills us in on Raven's last decade.
REVOLVER What have you and the other members of Raven been up to over the last decade?
JOHN GALLAGHER We got "slightly" derailed back in 2001 as my brother Mark [Raven guitarist] suffered an extremely serious accident where a large building wall fell on him, crushing his legs. At first the doctors did not know if he would survive, then they thought they'd have to amputate a leg and he'd never walk again. But being made of sterner stuff than most, and being a stubborn Geordie [a native of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, U.K.] he proved them all wrong. It took almost three years but we did a few gigs with him first in a wheelchair, then a Mad Max–style leg brace, and this winter he was skiing again! So during this period we slowly planned the new album.
Why did you want to restart the band now?
It's not like we had broken up. The accident stopped us in our tracks for some time. Once Mark was literally "back on his feet" we started on the new album.
What inspired your new album lyrically?
Quite a few songs deal with adversity and rising above your troubles. We went through our fair share during this period, losing our dad, then [drummer] Joe [Hasselvander's] mom, then our mom, and Mark's accident just for starters! But there are other themes. "Trainwreck" is about the TMZ-style celebrities out there and "Armageddon" is sci-fi, so there's lyrical variety, but sonically we wanted that energy and power combination and it's there!
You've been grouped into the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. How do you feel about that? What do people misunderstand about that time?
Before then, the major labels could not give a toss about metal, but once the indie labels started to have success they wanted "in." The bands are probably all a little more friendly now than then!
What's your favorite memory of touring with Metallica?
Probably watching Lars' face as our drum roadie told him, "I might have to work for you, but I don't have to eat next to you—fuck off!" Or being entertained by Cliff [Burton] playing guitar, just playing nonsense songs at a soundcheck in Boston. He was such a character! The whole tour was quite special and looking back, I do not know how we all got through it. It was their first tour and in opening for us, we got to "show them the ropes." I remember this one show in Oklahoma that was quite literally identical to the scene in the movie The Blues Brothers, you know, the gig with the chicken wire?? Except no chicken wire at this one: Metallica got up and got abuse through the whole show. Shit thrown at them, the whole deal. Now when we got up, we'd been used to playing to punks and skins back in England and instead of cowering, we just gave it back, screamed at them, jumped on the tables, and kicked their ass into enjoying it or else. And that's what it's about: get a reaction, and then feed it—even if it's a bad one!.
Interview by Kory Grow // Photos by Yuki Kuroyanagi
Norwegian black-metal legends Immortal are currently on a four-date North American tour, playing Brooklyn, tonight. Since we're excited about this tour, we have been posting a lengthy interview with frontman Abbath and the band's lyricist and former guitarist Demonaz (read part one here and part two here). For this installment, the duo discuss their relationship, which they've both called almost psychic and which as been the band's foundation since the beginning.
REVOLVER You've often spoken in interviews about the connection you guys have, you just described it as telepathic. When did you first kind of start feeling that connection with him?
DEMONAZ When we started this band and when we started to work together. I think that when we work together I know his shit and he knows my shit, in a way, 'cause we never disagree. When we did this album, I think we never disagreed on anything… I really don't understand it myself, 'cause I work with a lot of other people, too, but with Abbath and me, it becomes Immortal; it becomes this kind of thing, which is very crucial to us.
ABBATH Maybe that's a problem: We agree too much. [Laughs] But we have Horgh, he doesn't always agree with us and that helps.
Well how are you different form one another?
DEMONAZ Well, I'm more like ummm… thinking through things. Abbath is more impulsive, and he is a live character. As persons, we are different but we agree on everything. I understand his skills, and he understands my skills, you know, and together we have the skills. It becomes a two-headed monster.
Since you're talking about the close bind you guys had, what was it that actually led immortal to disband after Sons of Northern Darkness?
ABBATH The band's spirit was not there. Me and Horgh, we were out, we did the studio, we did the music, the touring, everything, and Demonaz only did all the lyrics. He wasn't that much involved, just the lyrics, and we didn't have a permanent bass player. [Touring bassist] Saroth, he was good onstage and all that, but we didn't feel like a band at the time you know. So the band's spirit was not there, so we just took a break and now and also because we were kind of fed up, especially me. We could have continued and made more money, but that's not the first issue in this band. Immortal is about the brotherhood; Immortal is a sacred thing, you know, it's not only for the money.
DEMONAZ I think that there wasn't an issue between me and Abbath or Horgh or anybody else; it was more like everything around us wasn't right at the time. We didn't have proper management, and the industry was more interested in us for the money side than the musical side. We felt like it was maybe time to say, "Well let's put the band on ice for some time and do some thing else 'cause we've been doing this for a very long time and we had several issues which happened to us."
What brought you two together as friends again, what rekindled that?
DEMONAZ Two weeks after we put the band on ice, we didn't stop seeing each other. Me and Abbath hooked up on doing a project together, 'cause even if the band stopped, we didn't stop writing music or writing things. Abbath came with his riffs and I came up with this idea of a band name: Instead of making a new band name and trying to make a new band, it will be different. We just want to make "I," like a monument. He came with his riffs and arrangements, and I came with some ideas and he also worked a little with [guitarist] Ice Dale for the preproduction. Even before the I album came out me and Abbath started to talk about doing immortal again, 'cause during this process we saw that well, I told Abbath, "We have to do Immortal in 2007 and we have to go for a new album." And he said it to me or I said it to him. We just hooked up on that. It got us back together.
What is it that you learned about Immortal when looking back at it objectively?
DEMONAZ I learned that the band was much bigger for everyone than it was when we were in it. I also realized how much the fans really understand what we do, the die-hard fans, they really understand Immortal much more than I ever was hoping for.
Abbath, what did you learn most from the I project?
ABBATH Maybe that now we can do anything. I found out that my way of writing music is kind of paramount for what this is all about.
Below, I (Abbath is second from right)
Interview by Kory Grow // Immortal photo by Peter Beste
In the second part of Revolver's interview with the members of Immortal, we discuss the way the internet has affected the band. As previously mentioned, the Norwegian black-metal legends will be playing four dates in North America beginning this weekend. To read the first part of this interview, click here.
REVOLVER In the seven years between albums, the internet has become a lot more prevalent in promoting bands. How do you feel about that?
DEMONAZ Only on the internet do they make a lot of parodies. Maybe we should make a Benny Hill T-shirt with Immortal on the front? No, seriously I don't mean that… Bloggers are always wanting to write some shit about you. I don't know, I think that is something that follows every band.
Abbath, do the internet parodies bother you?
ABBATH No, no not at all. It did in the beginning, because especially after '99 when we released At the Heart of Winter, there was this mistake. We were experimenting with this guy and had this photo session with him, and none of the pictures came out right. So with the outfits and everything we had on us, so we decided to not use those pictures. But only a couple of pictures of me and Horgh's faces, which came out really good. And we sent those pictures on a disk to Osmose [Productions, the band's old label] and but some-fucking-how all those fucking pictures came over to Osmose and suddenly the whole booklet was full of them and after that, you know, the internet was coming up and we were sitting duck. [Laughs] In Immortal, we have self-irony; we understand, we can have a laugh about it too, but we are a serious band, we take it serious. I mean we still have the same image.
I still use that axe on the new album, you know. People have a laugh about that axe because it was on the Sons of Northern Darkness cover, but for me that's the ultimate axe. I love that axe and if it for some people looks like a butterfly I can understand that but hey, so what? Maybe it is a butterfly. Maybe that's the meaning. Like what's more evil than a butterfly, black butterfly, or a fucking bat? They all come from the freaky kind of nature. [Laughs] Whatever. I mean we're gonna have the last laugh anyway. The people who do not take us serious… I think it's our fans doing this.
What do you mean?
ABBATH All this manipulating of Immortal pictures on the net and all this video stuff like "The Call of the Wintermoon" video we did, the first video. That was just a total mistake. It was out of our hands. There was this TV company who just wanted to do this thing with us and we said "OK." And it was out of our hands suddenly. What can you do? It came out, and now it's on YouTube for everybody to see, and I thought, That's shit. That's fucked. But then I saw they had manipulated it; they had made like a Benny Hill version of it with the Benny Hill music and the fast-forward filming. And then I thought, Fucking hell, that's funny. That's really funny. Now I can finally laugh about it, too. [Laughs]
Interview by Kory Grow // Photos by Peter Beste