As the founding guitarist and mastermind behind Morbid Angel, Trey Azagthoth has helmed the revered Floridian death metal outfit through 34 years, nine studio albums and a list of former members about a mile long. In fact, he's the only musician who's been in Morbid Angel since the band's humble beginnings in Tampa back in 1983.
After recording genre-defining albums like Altars of Madness and Blessed Are the Sick in the late Eighties and early Nineties with vocalist-bassist David Vincent, Azagthoth joined forces with vocalist-bassist Steve Tucker for a three-album run beginning with 1998's Formulas Fatal to the Flesh and ending with 2003's Heretic. Then Vincent returned to Morbid for 2011's industrial-flavored Illud Divinum Insanus, a highly criticized album that left many fans disappointed. Azagthoth reunited with Tucker in 2015, and recorded the new Kingdoms Disdained with an all-new lineup.
As many Morbid Angel fans know, Azagthoth has a well-earned reputation for eccentricity. The reclusive guitar wizard born George Emmanuel III has at various times expressed an inordinate amount of enthusiasm for cartoons, online video games (especially Doom and Quake III: Arena) and the works of self-help guru Tony Robbins. Over the years, Azagthoth has become increasingly less interested in interviews, but agreed to answer some questions from Revolver via email. The exchange that follows has been lightly edited for clarity …
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO HAVE STEVE TUCKER BACK IN MORBID ANGEL?
TREY AZAGTHOTH I love working with Steve Tucker. We made great things in the past and he likes the ugly sick polyrhythms. His voice is underground sounds and it fits this material most perfectly.
KINGDOMS DISDAINED IS THE FIRST ALBUM YOU'VE DONE WITH HIM SINCE 2003'S HERETIC. DID IT TAKE A WHILE TO GET USED TO WORKING WITH STEVE AGAIN AFTER ALL THOSE YEARS?
No. He knows what the stuff is and worked with it perfect, I think.
HOW IS WORKING WITH STEVE DIFFERENT THAN WORKING WITH DAVID VINCENT?
I don't wanna talk about David so much, Me and David Vincent did a lot of great things for the early years. As David said, we are not compatible anymore. It is the truth. When working with Steve I could do the more advanced sick stuff musically and I don't know what more to say.
WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE OTHER NEW MEMBERS, SCOTT FULLER AND DAN VADIM VON? HOW DID YOU KNOW THEY WERE THE RIGHT MUSICIANS FOR THE JOB?
Dan is awesome as an artist even beyond music and I had him play one solo on the new record. Scotty is awesome to have and I feel lucky to have him. He is super with the swing and grooves and hard beats. He does the single-foot upbeat blast instead of the new school duck-walk shit. I'm very happy to be working with Scotty Fuller. He is a super drummer.
YOU'VE GOT AN ENTIRELY NEW LINEUP FOR THIS RECORD. DID MAKING THIS ALBUM FEEL LIKE STARTING OVER — OR LIKE YOU HAD A CLEAN SLATE TO WORK WITH?
Well, I started writing for this new record in 2015. I wanted to first ask Steve Tucker to be a part of it because we made great music and tours together in the past. We got lucky with Scotty Fuller because [of] his skill set and our music and me and Steve working with Scotty. I think we made some good stuff. [On] the USA tour, we only played tunes from the records with Steve and I working together, and we even played a few tracks the band never played before. What is the question again? Ok, my new lineup and having Steve Tucker back is totally underground sounds. Thanx for listening.
WHAT INSPIRED THE TITLE OF THE NEW ALBUM?
Thundarr the Barbarian. Man's civilization is cast in ruin. 2000 years later Earth is reborn. A strange new world rises from the old — a world of savagery, super science and sorcery.
No puppy huggers survived such an event, but they cry to their mommy. One man burst his bonds to fight for justice and with his companions — Ookla the Mok and Princess Ariel — he pits his strength, his courage and his fabulous Sun Sword against the forces of evil. WE MUST BE FREE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Free from the dummies on this planet.
WHAT KINDS OF THINGS DID YOU AND STEVE DISCUSS IN TERMS OF LYRICAL DIRECTION/INSPIRATION?
Me and Steve are good like that — we gel together. Steve wrote all the lyrics for this record. Steve is awesome and ask him about the lyrics.
MUSICALLY SPEAKING, HOW DID YOU APPROACH KINGDOMS DIFFERENTLY THAN YOU DID 2011'S ILLUD DIVINUM INSANUS?
Honestly, I don't care to talk so much about such things so I will give you a silly answer: Momma's little baby likes shortnin' shortnin', Momma's little baby likes shortnin' bread.
Cori-Bell, those weeds are growing faster than you pulling them. Mary-Bell, your daddy watching the way you planting that and it don't look straight…Lilly-Bell, that plow is not gonna plow without a little elbow grease. Momma's little baby likes shortnin' shortnin', Momma's little baby likes shortnin' bread. There you go.
IS KINGDOMS IN ANY WAY A REACTION TO THAT ALBUM?
Kingdoms Disdained is just a new record, man. MO NUKES!!!!!!
DO YOU SEE ILLUD AS AN OUTLIER IN THE MORBID CATALOG AT THIS POINT?
I have no more comments about this older record with David Vincent.
I THINK FANS WILL VIEW KINGDOMS AS A WELCOME RETURN TO FORM FOR MORBID ANGEL. ARE YOU THINKING OF IT THAT WAY AS WELL?
Kingdoms Disdained is complete acid and terror. We [are] just getting going now with this new lineup. Much more freaky things to come.
DO YOU VIEW DAVID VINCENT'S BAND I AM MORBID AS COMPETITION IN ANY WAY? THEY'RE PLAYING MORBID ANGEL SONGS, AND YOUR EX-DRUMMER TIM YEUNG IS ALSO A MEMBER …
I can't be bothered talking about Illud and David's silly "I Am Morbid" band. Bro, I skipped two other questions about David. I don't wanna talk bad about David Vincent. He is a freaky artist like me and we did awesome stuff for many years.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST, IS THERE ANYTHING IN PARTICULAR YOU'D LIKE FANS TO KNOW ABOUT THE NEW ALBUM THAT WE HAVEN'T ALREADY TOUCHED ON?
MO NUKES. The Ancient Gods are against how many humans [there] are these days. It is embarrassing. Get it together or die!!!!!!