"It feels great to be back. We did a tour of the States back in May, and it was brilliant. And here we are with a new album."
The speaker is Steve Tucker, three-time bassist and vocalist of Morbid Angel. He first joined the Floridian death-metal masters in 1997 for a three-album run that included the dizzyingly complex and brutal Formulas Fatal to the Flesh, Gateways to Annihilation and Heretic. In the process, he replaced longtime frontman David Vincent, who was part of the classic late-Eighties/early Nineties Morbid lineup that produced such death-metal benchmarks as Altars of Madness and Blessed Are the Sick. After Tucker departed for the second time in 2004 — he left briefly between Gateways and Heretic — Morbid Angel guitar wizard and mastermind Trey Azagthoth reunited with Vincent for 2011's Illud Divinum Insanus, an industrial-influenced abomination that not even the band's staunchest fans could defend.
Fast forward to right about now, and Tucker has been back in Morbid Angel for about two years. Along with new drummer Scott Fuller, he and Azagthoth wrote and recorded Kingdoms Disdained, the first Tucker-fronted Morbid album in 14 years. The best part? Fans need not worry about Illud Part 2: Electric Boogaloo. "Our new album is definitely heavier, meaner and more death metal," Tucker enthuses. "Everybody who was waiting and hoping this would happen, here it is."
WERE YOU SURPRISED WHEN YOU GOT THE CALL TO REJOIN MORBID ANGEL?
STEVE TUCKER Man, that's a loaded question … [Laughs] To an extent, but then again, no — not really. You never really know what's going on [with the band], but I could sense there were maybe some people disgruntled, you know what I mean? What happened was, I was talking to a mutual friend who basically said Trey was asking for my number. After a few conversations with Trey, he asked if I'd be interested in making some more music. I thought about it and it became pretty simple: Did I want to create music with someone who I think is a fucking genius? Absolutely.
SO YOU HADN'T REALLY STAYED IN TOUCH WITH TREY SINCE YOU LEFT THE BAND IN '04?
We emailed from time to time, but we didn't talk a lot. There wasn't really a lot to talk about. I mean, I know what he was doing: He was busy touring. [Laughs]
YOU HAVEN'T DONE AN ALBUM WITH MORBID SINCE 2003'S HERETIC. WHAT DID YOU HAVE TO DO TO GET BACK INTO MORBID ANGEL MODE?
It was much more natural than you would think, after not being around each other for years. The process of writing the songs was a year and a half at least, so by that time I had just fallen back into it. First I had to get familiar with the music that Trey had already written, but once I got used to the songs and added my own element to them, that's when the feeling of being back in Morbid Angel started coming into effect — and I realized the album would be pretty cool. But like I said, I think Trey is a genius. He's come up with more amazing riffs than anyone I can think of, with maybe the exception of Tony Iommi.
THIS IS YOUR THIRD STINT WITH THE BAND. WHAT KEEPS YOU COMING BACK?
When I was young, I played sports. Because of that, I've always liked a challenge — anything that puts a fire under my ass, so to speak. So the challenge of writing songs again with Trey, I'm totally into it. Honestly, I just wanna see what the guy comes up with next. To me, every album Morbid Angel does is pushing what people consider to be the standard. People have been saying that Morbid Angel is more like "typical death metal" on this record. I think it's odd to think of Morbid Angel as "typical," but I get what they're saying: Every song is brutal. But underneath that, there's a lot of layers, and I'm thrilled with the results. There's a chemical reaction when certain people get together, and I really like the chemical reaction that happens when Trey and I write music. I think it makes me a much better musician.
AS YOU KNOW, THE LAST ALBUM MORBID ANGEL DID WITH DAVID VINCENT WAS NOT WELL RECEIVED …
I'm not going to say my personal feelings about that record, but what I said about me and Trey working together — that chemical reaction — I think it's the same for David and Trey. It's just two different approaches. I know about the last record, dude — I've been asked about it millions of times — but in my opinion it kept people talking about Morbid Angel. Even if the album didn't succeed, it kept Morbid Angel relevant.
WHEN YOU REJOINED, DID YOU TALK WITH TREY ABOUT THE DIRECTION YOU FELT MORBID SHOULD GO IN ON THIS RECORD?
No, I absolutely did not. I didn't feel that was necessary. When Trey contacted me, I knew what he wanted. I knew he wanted the songs to be darker and meaner than the last album.
HOW DID THE NEW DRUMMER, SCOTT FULLER, COME INTO THE PICTURE?
When Trey called me, we didn't really know what we were gonna do for a drummer. But the fact that Morbid has been around a long time and has influenced a lot of people gave us the luxury of a lot of options. So there were a lot of people who came to the table, and I have to say: There are so many fucking amazing drummers out there right now. Trey and I would send each other YouTube links of different guys back and forth, and Scotty was just consistently at the top of the heap. Eventually, Trey just said, "I think he's the guy." Then we jammed with him and it was amazing.
YOU'VE ALSO GOT A NEW SECOND GUITARIST IN DAN VADIM VON. WHAT'S HIS STORY?
Dan had been working with the band, doing some web and graphic design, for a number of years, so Trey wanted to give him the first shot. He did his homework and was tight right away. But we decided to not bring Dan in for the making of the album because the three of us had already been working for weeks, so we just streamlined the process and did it like we did on Formulas and Heretic, where Trey played all the guitars. In the end, we added a solo that Dan did for one of the songs, so everyone contributed. And he did a great job on tour.
WHAT INSPIRED THE LYRICS ON THIS ALBUM? SOME OF THE SONGS SEEM VERY MUCH INFLUENCED BY CURRENT EVENTS …
What's going on in the world was weighing heavy on me — the hypocrisy, the ridiculousness, the pettiness of everything that's going on in the political arena worldwide. The stuff that people have lowered themselves to argue about made me, in a spiritual way, angry and disgusted. I'm nobody's hippie, dude, but I'm very aware of our ecosystem and nature, and on some of these songs I write from the perspective of a god. If there's a god, and they saw the way we treat the earth — and treat each other — what would they do? They'd cause earthquakes and floods and hurricanes and volcanoes — and ironically all that shit is happening all over the place right now. But at the same time I realize there are a lot of intelligent people who don't participate in all that, who actually look at facts before making statements or pointing fingers. I really appreciate those people, and that's who I'm writing these songs for.
DO YOU CONSIDER KINGDOMS A POLITICAL RECORD?
Accidentally, maybe. But I'm not taking sides with anyone. I think both sides are complete bullshit. It's all petty and ridiculous. We argue about stuff like, do people have the right to water? I mean, why should we have to pay for water? Because some rich person played with someone's greed and purchased that water and now they're gonna hold us ransom? Then they wanna argue about whether marijuana should be legal. Fuck you — of course it should! It grows anywhere and treats a lot of people. How can they tell you that's illegal but you can drink whiskey and take pills? It's about following rules — and if you're following all the rules, you're definitely not thinking for yourself.
We're at a point where politics and personal life are intermingled. Now you meet someone and the first thing they ask is who you voted for or do you believe in such-and-such or do you think gay people should get married. To me, these are all private matters. But people wanna scream their opinion in other people's faces, and that's why there's so much conflict. What happened to a good debate? What happened to real facts? It's all hate slinging and half-truths now.
SPEAKING OF POLITICS, WHAT'S YOUR TAKE ON WHAT DAVID VINCENT AND TIM YEUNG ARE DOING WITH I AM MORBID, WHICH IS ESSENTIALLY TWO EX-MORBID ANGEL MEMBERS PLAYING MORBID ANGEL SONGS?
I don't really have a take on it. If he wants to do it and people want to see it, why not? I'm not buying a ticket, though.
DO YOU VIEW THEM AS COMPETITION?
Absolutely not, and I don't mean that in an insulting way. Are they gonna make an album? Then yeah, possibly. I'm all about competition. But if they're just going out and playing these songs that he had a part in writing, I would think it's his right to go out and make a living if people wanna see it.
ARE YOU FRIENDLY WITH DAVID?
I don't really know him, to be honest, but we have a lot of mutual friends. And the times we've met, we've always been cool with each other. When it was first announced that I was back in the band, I may have got a little over-rambunctious and kinda went into wrestler mode a little bit. When it was announced that I was back in the band, the first question I was asked was, "Is it gonna be death metal?" It was also the second question I was asked. [Laughs] So my answer immediately was, "I play death metal. That's what I do. If I'm in a band, it's gonna be death metal." I heard that may have upset someone, but I think I followed through on that statement. And to be honest, I was probably a little emotional at the time. It was a big deal for me, too, you know? So if I came across snarky — and I probably was — I could've been cooler about it. But I have nothing but respect for David Vincent. He's on some of my favorite albums. For many years, he was the frontman that other frontmen were measured by, and he was good at it. But what he wanted Morbid Angel to be is one thing, and what I envision it to be is another thing. Whoever's right or wrong isn't relevant, but he's on some incredible albums.
SO THERE'S NO ANIMOSITY THERE?
There's no beef. I wouldn't say we're friends, but we have a lot in common with each other. And there were times in the past when David and his wife came out to Morbid shows in Tampa or Orlando when I was in the band, and they were nothing but super cool. When I first got into Morbid and we were rehearsing for the Formulas album, we were actually rehearsing in a building that David owned. We were renting a room from him. I know people are always gonna see it as me versus David, but the reality is that we're just two dudes who happen to do the same job.