The Gauntlet: Well, first of all, we’ll start with the standard—how’s the tour going so far?
Ross Dolan & Bob Vigna: Really good.
Ross Dolan: We’ve played some places we hadn’t played in a long time, like Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina…. Not your typical big market, but we did surprisingly well, especially on weeknights, we did pretty good. We were all surprised.
Bob Vigna: Big turnouts, and the people that were there were really into it, like when you get the vibe that the crowd is really going for it. And it’s cool because I noticed on this tour the crowds are getting into all the bands. It’s not just one particular band. So if Averse Sefira is opening the show, they’ll get into them, then they’ll get into Belphegor, get into us, and get into Rotting Christ. So it’s almost got that Euro feel, you know what I mean? In Europe, that’s what usually happens. The fans get into all the bands and they enjoy everything. And I’ve noticed that on this tour. The kids are there from the beginning, and they’re very supportive of every single band that’s up there, you know? So it’s been really cool. And obviously the New York area was strong, because it’s always pretty strong, not just because we’re from there, but in general for all the bands that come through.
The Gauntlet: Right, it’s a good market.
Bob: And we expect a good show tonight. Not just because it’s in—well, we’re not in Chicago, but we’re not too far, right?
Gauntlet: Well, it’s technically within the city limits. Obviously it’s not down-downtown, but people would say this is Chicago.
Bob: Alright. And it’s a Friday night, you know? So we’re hoping this will be a good one tonight. And the West Coast is always very strong. Certain areas you know to expect good turnouts and very enthusiastic crowds, so those are the places we always look forward to. And, like we said, surprisingly the other areas have been strong, too. So, so far so good. (laughs) In answer to the question.
Gauntlet: That’s good. Just before I came down I was double-checking to see whether it was at this venue. On Rotting Christ’s site it said it was at a place called The Pearl Room in Mokena?
Bob: Yeah, that’s where we originally had it.
Gauntlet: Were there just some scheduling conflicts, or…?
Bob: I don’t know. That’s what was originally on our list, but these things change. We’re always getting updates, which doesn’t really help the people coming out to the show when you’re advertising one thing and then change it. But, it happens. We don’t know why. (laughs)
Gauntlet: Well, this venue seems to consistently bring pretty decent crowds, and is obviously much closer to the downtown.
Ross & Bob: Good, good.
Gauntlet: Mokena is literally bumble. That entire city’s been built practically in the past few years, something like that.
Bob: Oh, ok, so it was a good move then. Good, good. Finally something good. Usually it’s the opposite way: “Oh, we had you in town, but we decided to put you 100 miles away.”
Gauntlet: And has there been any of that going on this tour, or is it all working out well so far?
Steve Shalaty (drums) enters.
Bob: Come in, man.
Bob: You can sit in, too. So, now we’ve got the whole band here.
Gauntlet: Yep. I think the last group interview I did was with Scar Symmetry, and they were pretty much all drunk, so—
Bob: Well, I think the only thing we’re going to be drunk on right now is tea right about now. Green tea.
Steve Shalaty: And Dayquil or Sudafed.
Gauntlet: A good combination for death metal, right?
Steve Shalaty: Like peanut butter and jelly.
Gauntlet: Good for the vocal chords, I imagine.
Woody the tour manager enters, wearing a Chicago Bears winter hat shaped like a helmet, covering his entire face.
Woody: Good evening, folks.
Ross: What the hell is going on?
Gauntlet: It is Chicago, after all, so…
Bob: That’s classic.
Gauntlet: You’ve still got the tag hanging on right there.
Woody: Oh, I know, I don’t give a shit. My friend lives here and she’s got season tickets, so we go to games sometimes, and she bought me this.
Bob: That’s great. Turn around, I want to see the side.
(General banter and joking over the hat)
Woody: I needed it today when I was walking around, man. It’s got the facemask.
Steve: Should wear that to bed.
Woody: I will.
Bob: (reading tag) “Fan Helmet, Ultimate.” Where’d you get that? Just today?
Woody: Yeah, it was her Christmas present. I haven’t seen her since. I got the gloves, too, so I’m good. Alright, I’m out. (exits)
Bob: Sorry about that.
Gauntlet: That’s quite alright. I don’t recognize him, though, is he…?
Bob: Our tour manager. Woody.
Gauntlet: Alright, the tour manager. For the sake of the interview, instead of, “Random guy interjects with Bears hat.” Alright, so, have you had any of those issues on this tour? Being moved out or into unfortunate circumstances?
Bob: Three different gigs that have changed since the original plan, but that’s about it. Those were changed before the tour started, so, other than that everything has been pretty solid.
Gauntlet: Good. Seems like this past year has been really busy for you guys. I know you were just on another tour with Suffocation and Skinless, and I really wanted to go to that. It was at…House of Blues, was it?
Ross: It might have been…no, it was at The Metro.
Gauntlet: The Metro, right. But it was on a weeknight—
Bob: A Monday night, right. But the turnout was phenomenal. It was a great show, man. But yeah, I can understand how some people wouldn’t be able to make it out during the weekdays. That’s unfortunately the price you pay, sometimes. But, yeah, we’ve been out already in the States once—this’ll be our second time—we’ve been in Europe twice already and are going back for a third time right after this tour. So this is the most touring we’ve done probably since ’96.
Ross: ‘Unholy Cult’.
Bob: No, not ‘Unholy Cult’. Did we do a lot on that?
Ross: We did, like, four full ones for that.
Bob: Ok, so, it’s been a while. For the last record, we did one U.S. tour, two fest shows in Europe and that was it. (laughs) So, this is kind of making up for that lost touring for the last album.
Gauntlet: Yeah, when we were just driving down here I had a promo of the new album and it said that you guys had done some touring in Europe with, who was it, Grave and Krisiun? That would have been a killer bill.
Bob: Yeah. And Dawn of Azazel from New Zealand. Everybody was so cool, man, and it was just a great time. We’ve known the Krisiun guys for years, we’ve known the Grave guys for years. Bill had known Dawn of Azazel, and they were really cool guys. So it was a frickin’ metal party bus.
Ross: Now we go over there with Melechesh, Goatwhore, and…
All: Sickening Horror.
Gauntlet: Oh, man. Europe gets the best tours.
Bob: Yeah. Goatwhore, we’ve toured with twice in the States, but this is the first time in Europe where we’re all going to be on the same bus and everything. I know it’s going to be a great time. The Melechesh guys we’ve met before, and they were really cool, and I’m sure Sickening Horror will be, too.
Ross: We pushed to get Goatwhore over there with us. We’ve been trying to get them over there with us for a while now, but it just happened to work out this time. Same thing with Averse Sefira. We tried to get them on tour with us here for years now, for a long time, and we finally made that happen over here for this tour. So it worked out.
Gauntlet: Was this because they were personal favorites of yours or friends?
Ross: Friends and, you know, we like the band. We’ve known them for something like fifteen years now, so we try to help them out. And they’re good guys, so…
Gauntlet: Right. And, aside from making up for lost time, is there any reason why you’ve been able to do so much touring for this album in particular?
Bob: Well, the opportunities fell into place a lot more this time. And Ross had his own business back on the last album and there were certain instances where we probably would have gotten and done a tour, but it was hard for him to leave that business and do the touring, you know? So we were waiting for something that we felt was really worthwhile at the time, so it was that kind of situation. Stuff came up, and it was bad timing and just didn’t work out. But since then—
Ross: I did what any touring musician would do: I sold the business.
Bob: So we go that done and now we’re a little bit more flexible. So in that particular time frame, things just didn’t work out. We did one tour and after that we just had to turn down a couple things. And with the Europe thing, we were in the middle of changing agents over there. The one guy we were working with over there, it basically just wasn’t working out. He would tell us one thing and it would turn into something else. So there was nobody really doing anything over there for us, at the time, and Massive Music, who now do our tours, was just getting started and we didn’t really know them. We did one tour in the U.S. and then Europe was like, “Well, there’s nobody over there right now,” and that was it. Now, we have a good rapport with Massive Music in Europe and things are a little easier for us over here.
Ross: They’re Vader’s management, and their manager is into booking now, too.
Bob: And they do a fantastic job. We just did the tour there, like you said, and it went phenomenal, so we’re going back right after this one.
Gauntlet: Do you find that, with all these tours set up, that you just get into this one huge blur, or is it a really different atmosphere for each one?
Ross: Definitely. There can be a different vibe for each show. (laughs)
Bob: We always get along with the bands and everything. It’s just that every tour’s got a different vibe because of the people involved, you know?
Ross: And the circumstances, too—whether you’re in the bus or in the van.
Bob: Right. For instance, we had toured with Krisiun and Grave years before, but we did it separately, because they had their vans, we had our van. It was cool, but when you’re all now traveling together under one roof, it’s a different atmosphere where you can just hang out and have a good time. Whereas before, it was like, “Hey, buddy, what’s up?” and you’re just sitting backstage, and then—
Ross: “See you tomorrow at the show, we gotta drive eight hours.”
Bob: Right, “Alright, we’re done. See you later, fellas.”
Bob: So it’s a different situation. It’s nice being able to have the bus. But I don’t think we’ve done one tour that was with anyone where we were like, “Wow, this really sucks. These guys are dicks, they really give us a hard time every night.” Nothing like that has ever happened. It’s just always a new experience every time.
Gauntlet: I can imagine all the little interesting quirks and games you guys might have, with you all being on the same bus.
Steve: Especially when you’re dealing with a bunch of different nationalities.
Ross: Right, there are those little, like you said, quirks. (laughs)
Gauntlet: And I would imagine, then, that the touring with Skinless and Suffocation, bringing together all these New York brethren, as it were, would be a pretty tight-knit group. Or, is that just the fans’ perception?
Ross: Yeah. Honestly, we’ve known Suffocation since they started, pretty much, before they even got signed. And that was the first tour that we really got to hang out with them and know them as people.
Bob: We’ve known them in the past, but you don’t really know them until you see them every day and go out on tour with them.
Ross: They’re out on Long Island, so they go to shows on Long Island, and we live closer to Manhattan, so we go to Manhattan shows. So we don’t really even run into them at shows, you know? So to actually spend a month out with them and to get to hang out and see how they are was cool, since we never had that before.
Bill Taylor: It’s the same thing you see with Deicide and such
Bill Taylor: You’d always see them at shows down there and it’s not until you spend a month on the road with them that you find out that they’re cool guys, regardless of what your perception of them was based on magazines or whatever-the-hell, you know?
Gauntlet: And the behavior that’s put up for the band and in the media…
Ross: They’re all hardworking musicians, like all of us, and they all have a sense of humor, and they all want to do the right thing every night and play a good show for the people coming out every night. And that’s the way it is for all of us.
Steve: And that’s the common ground for every band out here doing this. We’re doing it for that one reason, you know?
Bob: Yep. Everybody pitches in. This tour’s great, man. All the bands help out. They’re all using our gear, everybody helps carry it in and out every night, there’s no attitude, there’s no cockiness. We’re all here for the same reason, and it’s good to have that, you know? We all work together.
Gauntlet: Mm-hmm. And, yeah, the point you made about being closer to Manhattan than Long Island and so forth, that seems to be really true. People like to group bands together when they’re from an even remotely similar area—even if it’s an entire country in Europe. Do you guys really identify with the New York school as people seem to often say?
Bob: I think that just because we’re geographically from the same region or state…that means nothing when it comes to the music.
Steve: Especially when you’re talking about originating bands, like those earlier bands. Immo doesn’t sound like Suffo.
Ross & Bob: Right.
Bob: Yeah, they have their own thing, we have our own thing. Sure, we’re from New York, but—
Steve: I mean, after that you’re going to have your bleeding over between styles, but for the originators, you don’t have so much of that.
Bob: I mean, technically, Malevolent, Cannibal, and Deicide are all from upstate New York, you know? (laughs) But they’re down with that whole Florida thing now because of where they moved. It doesn’t dictate how the band is going to sound, it’s just a label that the media came up with.
Steve: And even those—Cannibal, Malevolent, and Deicide—sound nothing alike.
Gauntlet: Right, right. And then you can throw Death in there, too, and make it all even more diverse. Yeah, that would make sense. I remember I saw an interview with you guys that was done way back in ’91, so it was kind of interesting to see—
Bob: “And you guys said the exact same thing back then.”
Gauntlet: Well, you really made a point to focus on how uniqueness was really essential to the making of Immolation, and that seems to have carried through with you guys. And you talked a lot about finding the right production to communicate that.
Ross: Oh, yeah. Especially at that time with the first record. For us not to go down to Morrisound was something that we were very adamant about. We wanted to do something completely different. And we pretty much grew up listening to Sodom, Kreator, you know, a lot of that stuff that Harris Johns put out. So he was one of the choices we were given. It was either Scott Burns, Harris Johns, or Colin Richardson, who at the time had just done some of the early Napalm Death stuff and I think he did the second Carcass record. And we were just like, “Well, Harris Johns is probably our man because of that dirty Euro sound that we like,” you know?
Gauntlet: Yeah, really gritty.
Ross: That’s what we grew up with in the early-to-mid 80’s. And it was important for us to not be lumped in with that whole Morrisound thing. Not that it was a bad sound—the records sounded immense. But you began to notice a pattern, you know? A lot of those bands began to sound very similar, had the same drum tone on every record, and we sounded completely different and we wanted to maintain that uniqueness and identity.
Gauntlet: Yeah. Even nowadays there are those particular studios that have those ‘sounds’, like Peter Tatrgren and The Abyss or Devin Townsend—
Ross: Yeah, yeah. Great sounding records, but you know right away when you listen to it who the producer is.
Gauntlet: And you had some different producers for a number of your early albums, is that right?
Bob: We had Harris Johns, and then Wayne Dorell did the second one. We just happened to a place in Hoboken, New Jersey, that we found out about and was close. So that worked out, because the second record had a different sound and was a little clearer. But then we hooked up with Paul Orofino up in Millbrook, and after that we just kept going back to him because we enjoyed the place, liked Paul, and liked the work that he did. And that just stuck and we’ve been with him for the past five records now.
Gauntlet: Do you have a sound in mind that you keep trying to get or do you take it as it comes along?
Ross: We never quite get there. (Laughs)
Bob: It’s tough, you know? I guess you have a sound in your mind and it gets close sometimes. I think the last record really came out good. It’s a smooth-sounding record, and we do like that. I mean, there’s something about every record, I think, and if you ask any band they’ll say there’s always something on it they would have wanted to be different. And that happens. It holds true for us and I’m sure a lot of other bands. But, so far as the overall goes, I think he does a really good job, and I think the last record was very close to what we’re looking for. We want it to be dark, we want it to be clear, we want it to have atmosphere, so we like to have a bit of everything, and it’s tough.
Ross: We’re very picky customers.
Bob: It has a very good atmosphere and a very smooth sound, but at the same time it’s still very heavy and a little dingy at the same time. So we’re pretty happy with how it came out.
Gauntlet: Yeah, very dark. I remember the first time I hit play and that fill just exploded out of the speakers. It’s not the same sound as past Immolation albums, but it still has that Immolation quality to it.
Bob: Yeah. Which is good, I think. A big compliment for any band is when you put it on and immediately know who it is, by the sound and the vibe. And it’s important for a band to have that identity.
Gauntlet: To turn the focus to line-ups a bit. The perceptions of people might not always be the same as the band’s, so when we look at a band and see that they’ve had some member changes they assume a “tumultuous line-up” or they have “line-up instability.” But that’s not always the case from the band’s perspective. What’s yours on this? I mean, obviously the line-up you have presently seems to be pretty darn good, I would say—
Bob: Yeah, I think this is probably the strongest ever.
Bob: But you gotta figure—this was back in ’90, ’91—that we were pretty young back then, and that time goes on people tend to need to do different things. Tom [Wilkinson], for instance, right after the second record was pretty much out. He got into his own business, he got married, had kids in the years after that, whatever. Peoples’ lives changes, their priorities change, and their lives take a different turn, so you’ve got to realize it’s going to happen. His name was probably on two or three records after he wasn’t there—it was a weird situation with him, because he was kind of still part of things, but at the same time wasn’t out there playing or recoding or anything. And then Bill [Taylor] came in and slowly became a permanent guy. The thing with Alex [Hernandez], he wanted to go in a different direction with what he was doing, so that was when we got Steve [Shalaty]. But you know, it takes that time, sometimes. At this point, with Bill and Steve getting into the band, they already made that decision that this is what they want to do, whereas with the other guys, they got to a point where they didn’t want to do it anymore.
Ross: They got into it young and then got to a point where they were like, “Alright, I’ve had enough.”
Bob: Right, it’s not an easy lifestyle.
Steve: It’s not like these guys are dicks or that they repulse people, if that’s what your question was getting at.
Gauntlet: Oh, no, no. I wouldn’t assume that.
Steve: I don’t ever think it’s been a personality issue.
Bob: Yeah, it’s always more that they lost interest, you know? Whereas with me and Ross, we just happened to get into it—
Bob: A 100% into it, and luckily we’ve joined with Bill and Steve who are also 100% into it. So now we’re at a point where everyone in the band is 100% into it, and I don’t see that changing anymore.
Ross: Now it’s easier to make decisions regarding tours and things of that nature. “We’re going to do ‘this’. Does that work out for you guys? Ok, great.”
Bob: Yeah. We’re all at that point, we’ve all been doing this a long time separately, and now that we’re together, “Ok, we have a tour coming up in a month. What songs are we doing?” Everybody goes through it on their own, since, obviously, Bill’s in Florida, Steve’s in Ohio, and Ross and me are in New York. So a week before the tour, we all get together at Steve’s, everybody knows the songs, we practice for a few days and we’re on the road, you know? There were times with our old drummer where we’d have to sit there and practice with him day in and day out for months, just because…. But with Steve, it’s just like, “These are the songs we’re doing.” “Ok,” (immediately starts air drumming) “I haven’t played this song before. I’ve got a problem with this one part.” “It goes like this.” “Ok,” (starts playing again).
Bob: You know? It’s so much easier now. Everybody knows what they’ve got to do, they do it, we get together and we’re on the road. And it’s nice. Honestly, I think the way we did things in the early days, we used to practice all year round, practically. And you know, it’s better to get away from it for a while, so that when you come back to it—
Ross: Otherwise, it becomes like a fucking chore, you know?
Bill: If you torture yourself for a month before the tour getting every note absolutely perfect, you’re going to get sick of the songs before you even head out. Whereas with a week, it’s done before we have a chance to get sick of it.
Bob: Yeah, was just going to say that, man. It’s exciting. And we’re so much more focused when we do get together, and we’re pumped.
Steve: “Time to slay,” you know what I mean? Different than your average 9-to-5, or whatever we do when we’re home. Now it’s like, “Alright. Game time.”
Gauntlet: And how was it, Steve, that you came into the fold with all this?
Ross: It was Woody. (laughs)
Bob: The guy you just met, yeah.
Ross: It was a weird situation. We did a very long tour in Europe right before Alex departed.
Bill: Seven weeks.
Ross: Yeah. We did a month with Cradle of Filth and right after that we jumped on with Marduk and Malevolent. And during that whole run, Alex I think just fell out of it, in a lot of ways.
Bill: He confessed a certain amount of desire to do something different with himself to me. Which I am completely fine with. If you’re not into it, then step off, absolutely. I’d rather you leave than be fake, you know? Just don’t screw us. Give us plenty of time to find a replacement. And, well…he didn’t.
Bob: And then, after the Euro tour, like, three days before the U.S. tour, he decided to drop the bomb on us.
Gauntlet: Ohh. So what did he expect you to do?
Ross: Exactly. The tour was booked, Grave was coming over… It was Grave—
Bob: Goatwhore, right?
Ross: Grave, Goatwhore, and Crematorium, and everything was ready to go and we could not pull out. We even got to the point where Bob was thinking about playing drums.
Bob: We actually practiced. I was playing the songs with him playing the bass and we went through them.
Gauntlet: Wow. Did you record it?
Bob & Ross: No.
Gauntlet: Oh, that would have been interesting.
Ross: And then we thought about going to the studio and having Paul just put the drum tracks down, and we would just play along with them.
Bob: But that idea was like, “Ah, no, scratch that.”
Bill: We called every drummer we knew, and everybody was either committed to a tour or to the studio. We had a couple really good guys, and they could do it, just not in the three-to-five day stretch of time that they would have to learn Immolation’s style.
Ross: We really asked everybody. Everybody you can think of that’s a phenomenal drummer, we asked.
Ross: Yeah. And then we got a call from Woody, and he said, “Listen, I know this guy from a Cleveland band. He’s a local guy and I think he could do it.” So I got Steve’s number and called him up and said, “Alright, man, here’s the deal.” (laughs) “Just tell me if you think you can do it. If you can’t, no problem. We don’t want to waste time, since we’ve got no time to waste.”
Steve: And you said, “Let me know in an hour.”
Ross: Yeah. (laughs) And he was like, “I can do it, man, I’m confident I can do it.” And it was just the way he sounded, he really did sound confident, so I said, “Let’s do it.”
Steve: They had never met me. Well, they met me when I was a fan on tour, but that’s it.
Ross: He flew out the next day—we paid for his ticket to fly him out—and he got in my garage with Bob, and they got through ‘Of Martyrs and Men’, the first song they went through, in less than an hour. They were playing it through and I was like (nodding), “It’s gonna work.”
Ross: He learned 10 songs in, like, three days. And then our old drummer, Alex, actually played the New York show—
Bob: Which was one of the first shows. We had actually missed the Canadian shows that we’d had over that weekend, but we had to cancel those. And then New York, Alex played, which was in a way good since Steve got to see Alex play them. And the next day—
Ross: We played the first show with Steve. And we did it, man, we did it. The next day we played in Worcester, Mass., and we got there four hours early, set up all our shit, and we played through the set like five times in a row. We just kept going through the songs, and that was it.
Gauntlet: Wow. What are the chances of that? Steve, you’d said you met them when you were a fan, but were you really familiar with all of their discography and played it before?
Steve: No, not a whole lot. The earlier stuff I practiced. Like ‘Dawn…’, everybody knows ‘Dawn…’ and ‘Here In After’. So I was familiar with it, but other than ‘Dawn…’ I hadn’t played to it, like, popped in the CD and jammed to it on my kit, you know? So when I talked to him that day, when he asked me he was like, “Well, call me back and let me know in an hour.” So when I called back he gave me a list of songs right there. I went out, gathered up the material and just started listening to it the whole way out on the plane. Just completely buried myself in the tunes. And like they said, we just spent a few days in the garage and tweaked it.
Ross: It was all good once we got him his first dose of New York pizza, sitting in my garage.
Gauntlet: Right. And that’s particularly impressive, since Immolation doesn’t really have the straight driving drums, you know, like—
Steve: (shakes head) No.
Ross & Bob: (laughing)
Steve: A lot of weird shit. I remember on ‘Father, You’re Not A Father’, I was like, “What is that? Is that a keyboard thing you’re doing?” He was playing this off-beat on the china, and it just sounded like a keyboard. Didn’t even sound real, and I couldn’t figure out how to do it. And Bob said, “No, he’s doing that on a china,” and I was like, “Oh, fuck.”
Steve: Plus, with two different drummers, there’s a lot of weird stuff going on with their different styles.
Gauntlet: Yeah, you’ve got a lot to work out.
Bob: But, yeah, Steve came through with flying colors, I’ll tell you that.
Gauntlet: So when you deal with a shift band members, does that change how you approach your songwriting or is that more incidental?
Bob: Not really. The only thing that’s shifted, mainly with Steve coming into the band, was that we went from playing the songs at over 300 rpms faster than they’re supposed to be played to the actual speed. So, for the first couple of shows with Steve, it felt like we were playing…
Bob: Exactly. And it was so weird. We didn’t realize—well, we had heard people say things in the past, but we didn’t really comprehend how fast we had been playing until we played with Steve and then listened back to it. And those songs actually sounded like the songs we made, you know?
Ross: If you see the DVD ‘Bringing Down the World’, that shit is so fast it doesn’t even sound like us.
Bob: It’s so fast it loses the atmosphere—
Bill: The mood. It sounds almost happy and upbeat.
Bob: And when you’re playing it onstage you know it’s kind of quick, but you don’t realize how quick it is until you go back and listen to it and it sounds like you’ve got a 33 playing at 45.
Steve: Those few days when I was playing in the garage, I was playing to the CD, you know? If I had a question, Bob would come over after work and we would go through it every night. But the whole day I was in that garage sweating to the CD and learning everything to that, whereas these guys were used to playing it at that live tempo, that lightning speed. So the first show that we played together was the first time I jammed with them as a group.
Ross: Yeah, pretty much, that’s true.
Steve: So, their tempo…
Bob: It was so weird. But it’s great now, because we know we’re playing stuff at the right speeds. And not only do we play it better because of that, but it also sounds better to the people who are listening to it.
Steve: Yeah, it sounds like the album. Heavy.
Bob: Now the heavy parts sound heavy and they don’t sound all happy and gay because they’re being played super-fast, you know?
Ross: Even in rehearsal for us now, we’ll pick a song list and burn it on a CD. And I’ll just go and play along with the stereo, right to the CD. It’s so easy, now. And we know when we get to Steve’s house it’s going to be like that, and it’s not going to be fast.
Bob: But as far as songwriting goes, to answer your question. The basic writing is still there, but now with Steve in the band, since he’s learned the old stuff that we had done before, learning the style of two other drummers and what we did with them…now we’ve got all that plus Steve’s unique style. And all that does is add to it all, which makes it even better. There’s stuff on this last couple of records that Steve would go into doing and I would never think of doing it that way and it comes out really cool. He’s got the jazz background and he’s just got a way of doing things…at first even I was like, “Huh, is this going to work?”, and then it was like, “Oh, this is pretty cool.” So it’s just adding to what we’d already had and is just making it that much better.
Gauntlet: That’s good. I’m curious, though: why was it you were playing so much faster in the live setting as opposed to on record?
Bob: Because Alex would play…a million miles an hour.
Steve: It happens without that reference point, if you don’t go back and play to the CD. It eve happens to us to a certain degree on tour. With the tunes you’ll hear tonight, they’re going to be slightly faster.
Bob: Yeah, but not like that. (laughs)
Steve: They had been playing live without any reference point, like they were saying.
Bill: You can hear even bands like Vader that have been doing songs like ‘Xeper’ over and over and over on tour, because they’ve been rehearsing it with each other and not to a reference point, it just picks up the pace.
Steve: And the more you get away from that, the more you don’t check it—it’s not necessarily something that happens voluntarily, but pretty soon the tempos are out of wack and you don’t even realize it.
Bill: It’s a natural progression.
Steve: Like they said, even on Youtube, I would go back and study old footage of them maybe playing some of the old tunes that were just so happy and skippy fast, it was like, “Wow, this doesn’t even sound like the song I’m playing.” So it’s a natural thing and it happens with every band I’ve ever been in. You play live, you play faster.
Bob: But I don’t mind. We’re always going to play things a little quicker and that’s not a problem. But when it gets to the point where it’s like, “Well, what the fuck is that?” then it’s ridiculous. And that’s what it was. It was at that point where Woody, who’s been with us, and people that we know, they were just like, “Eh, you guys played that really fast…” They really noticed it.
Ross: When I watch that DVD, I sometimes can’t even make out the song. That’s how bad it was, and I’m even a member of the band, and I’m just like, “What the fuck is that?”
Bill: For ‘Of Martyrs of Men’, they did a really phenomenal sync job trying to get the footage to match up.
Bob: Yeah, because the video that was put out from it, it was kind of used as a video clip.
Bill: And it’s at least 25% faster than the original tune.
Bob: So they had to slow everything down from the video just for that one song that we did as a video clip. I mean, if you get the DVD that’s obviously the live sound. But if you look on YouTube and you see the video, that’s obviously the song from the record and they edited that video to match it. But you can just look at it and tell. They really had to do a number on it to match them up.
Bill: You can really see it, too, if you play the two of them back to back.
Bob: Oh, totally.
Bill: It’s so…peppy. Yecch.
Bob: So, needless to say, we’re very happy with everyone in the band now. I think we all work together better than anything we’ve done in the past with previous members. Because this is probably the longest we’ve had a line-up, as far as being solid and into it 100%. Everyone’s got that same direction, and all the live stuff we’ve done with just the four of us here has probably outweighed anything we’ve done in the past. So we’ve really got a good clique going on now and that definitely helps.
Gauntlet: Yeah. Looking at your timeline, it seems that there was that hiccup and then you settled back into a groove.
Gauntlet: And it really comes through in what you’ve been writing. And I guess it makes sense that if you start a band as early as you guys did, there will be those people—everyone wants to be in a band when you’re a kid, you know? But once it takes off…
Ross: Yeah, that’s the way it goes, man.
Steve: Nobody joins a death metal band expecting it to go anywhere. But when it does and you realize the sacrifice it takes to keep that sort of thing going, then a lot of people are like, “See ya.”
Gauntlet: Hmm. To focus more on the new album, then. We talked a little bit about the production of it—did you go into this album with a particular sound that you had in mind? It seems to be pretty distinct from some previous things that you have tried.
Bob: We always we go in just wanting to, obviously, make the best-sounding record that we have or can do, you know what I mean? We always have that kind of sound in our mind, but the outcome always becomes—
Ross: Like something totally different.
Bob: (laughs) So you go in there saying, like, “I want it to be heavier than what we’ve done, I want it to be clear…” You just want a good production. That’s what it is.
Ross: You always carry over things from the previous record that you want to improve. “Oh, we need to bring this up more in the mix on the new release.” “We have to make sure you can hear this better.” Or maybe the guitar overlays, or the snare has to be brought up in some of the fast parts more, or whatever it may be. There’re always things that we try to look out for. But, then, in focusing on that, you forget about other things and lose them. So there’s always a running list. (laughs)
Gauntlet: Right. The songwriting for this one seemed to be really tight, really taut. Almost stripped-down, I want to say.
Gauntlet: Maybe one song over four minutes, or five minutes, maybe, the last one. And I’ve read that you guys do a lot of your songwriting in a very quick, intense style. So, with this album, were you conscious of how you were writing this one?
Bob: Yeah. On this album, surprisingly enough, with how we’ve done albums in the past and how we kind of did this album, this was the most prepared we’ve been in the studio in a long, long time. And even though it came together quickly, it was the fact that by the time we got into the studio we had all the basics done. And one reason for that, I think, is that I’d recorded just a ton of riffs. I’d just sat there for a few weeks and recorded riff after riff on three different tapes and then started putting stuff together. And then once we got one song done we had other stuff and could keep going and writing. Then, when we ran into a brick wall, there were the tapes, and I could just play stuff and sit around and someone would say, “You know what, I think that one would work right there.”
Steve: “We need something like this,” and then we’d go through the tapes and find something and say, “Oh, well, that fits the bill.” We did a lot of hacking away, too. We had a huge amount of material for this album and a huge spread, as far as the variety.
Bob: Yeah, some very weird things going on. The song ‘World Agony’ was definitely one of the strangest ones when we first got it all together. For instance, the end part went about twice as long, but eventually we cut that down to make it all work. But this is what you do. You go in, you keep hacking away like Steve said, and try different things to see what’s going to work here and there. And I think that was good. Because normally I’ll write most of the actual song structures, and then we’ll come in and nitpick stuff. And with this I would do that, but then everyone else was there when we ran into that brick wall. Steve would be like, “Hey, this riff sounds good there,” and then Ross, “Why don’t we try this?” Probably on this record more than any other, it was everybody—
Steve: More of a collaboration.
Bob: Yeah, more collaboration, and it really worked out great. I mean, I’m definitely happy. I think this is one of the best records we’ve ever written, so I think it worked out pretty good. And, yeah, I agree, it’s very solid.
Steve: When you have a massive amount of material like that, though, you don’t really have—well, I don’t know if Bob did, but—it was hard to get a picture of the whole album and what it was going to be. Like I said, there’s a range of different material, so you can’t really have any preconceived idea until you hack away and keep the stronger stuff. And then what you’re left with becomes the album.
Bob: We don’t even know what it sounds like until we get in there, you know? We have basics, go in and at the least get them done. Then Steve will hear the album and lay down his drum tracks and know at least the rhythms. By the time he comes back and I’ve done all the overlays, the leads, and Ross has done his vocals, it’s like a whole new thing. Like, “What the hell is that? Wow!” (laughs)
Steve: He’s got it all in his brain. He’s got the guitar, rhythm guitars, the leads. He’s got all that in his head. But I only get to hear the guitar rhythm when I play the drum tracks. So when I come back after everything’s said and done there’s this whole song, you know what I mean?
Gauntlet: Yeah, a whole new sound.
Bob: And a lot of the stuff is done spontaneously, too. Like, I’ll know that this section will have an overlay, or Ross will say, “We should do something over here.” We don’t know what it’s going to be, but it’ll eventually come. I’ll just sit there, I’ll tell them to loop the tape and whatever sounds good…. I’ll go in and do some leads and say, “Alright, here’s the lead section. Just put that on loop for the next 15 minutes,” and I’ll sit there and start working on stuff. And then an hour, hour and a half, I’ll be like, “Alright, I’m ready.” And we’ll fill in the spots as I go. It’s all very spontaneous. So I think one thing about us that’s a little different is the fact that in the end you get the planned stuff, but at the same time it has a lot of that spontaneous feel to it, because that’s exactly what it is.
Steve: Yeah. It’s not like Behemoth or a band like that, who goes into the studio, like, six months early and lays down tracks and fiddles with the songs.
Gauntlet: And that makes a lot of sense. Because, with Immolation there’s that very strong rhythmic foundation, but a lot of the solos and leads are just so unorthodox and out there.
Bob: Yeah, I mean, some stuff I’ll come up with right there, and then there will still be a few gaps. So then not only is that stuff spontaneous, but then I’ve still got the gaps to fill. So I’ll just be like (mimics guitar riff), “Ok, that sounded good. Let’s move on.” Which is kind of cool, because in that situation you come up with a lot of stuff that you normally wouldn’t, because it’s just off the cuff and you do something that you might normally not do and surprise yourself.
Gauntlet: Insofar as your sound goes…. You mentioned some of the older bands you were inspired by, but when I listen to Immolation I get the feeling that some of you might be interested in really dissonant stuff or noise artists. Would that be true at all?
Ross & Bob: (shaking heads)
Bob: I don’t know. Me, personally, I like a lot of different kind of things. Not a lot of noise stuff, though. Some stuff I’ve heard is cool, in that respect, but I don’t listen to a lot of it. But, yeah, most different kinds of music—
Steve: They like the really down-spirited miserable shit. You probably won’t hear them humming any happy tunes. The things they listen to that aren’t metal related or crossover is all really—(makes miserable face, slumps over)
Bob: What’s that one…oh, Dead Can Dance. That’s some cool stuff, you know?
Bob: Just all kinds of things. And you know, when we’re writing an Immolation song, obviously it’s not going to sound like that, but all those little things from all those different kinds of music eventually take shape in your mind. Or you take little bits and pieces unconsciously, because you listen to so many different things. To me, I think that’s cool—
Steve: It teaches you how to reproduce a mood or create a feeling.
Bob: Yeah, and I think our music benefits from that. I mean, you wouldn’t listen to it and say, “Wow, that sounds like something totally not metal,” but maybe something got in there subliminally, and when we do it our way it takes on a whole different shape. So, for us it just enhances the music.
Gauntlet: Yeah. And that’s a good thing. As Steve said, after the first wave of bands in a movement there’s the bleed-over between groups, since they’re all just listening to each other and there really isn’t much of an influx of creativity.
Steve: Right. No innovation. And if there’s a band that can get away with doing anything unorthodox, it’s Immolation. I mean, it’s pretty wide open, you know what I mean?
Bob: Anything goes.
Gauntlet: Yeah. The lyrics for this album—well, I suppose most Immolation stuff—also really seem to be in their own unique field, particularly in this realm of death metal. Like ‘World Agony’, you mentioned. I remember the first time I heard it, I was thinking, “Wow, this is interesting. Not quite what I’d expected from Immolation.” And then reading the lyrics, especially the last phrases that are so stark, it almost feels like a death metal protest song, if you take my meaning.
Ross: Ah, in a sense it is. I mean, we’re just commenting on a lot of things we see around us today going on in the world. And I think it’s that for the last couple of records it’s been more than just myself or Tom, our old guitar player, writing the lyrics. Bob has a lot to do with the writing of the lyrics now. Just having a fresh perspective on a lot of things helps the creative process. The lyrics have gone in a slightly different direction; they’re not completely anti-religious, like they used to be, you know? Not that we’ve pinned ourselves in a corner, but we were starting to get redundant with a lot of that stuff. And although a lot of those ideas and concepts are still there, they’re done in fresh ways now and are also very subtle. There are a lot of things that are relevant to what’s going on today in the world, whether it be the war, what’s going on here at home, or even personal things. Like, ‘Breathing the Dark’ is a very personal song, ‘Tarnished’ is a personal song. There are things like that that we haven’t really explored a lot in the past. But they’re there in such a way that you can get…
Steve: Multiple meanings.
Bob: Yeah. I think that goes with all our lyrics, even from the past, but now it’s more so than ever. There’ll be hints of political stuff, things like that, but we do it in a way so that someone on the outside just from first glance would think that a song’s about something else. But if you really look at it, you’ll realize, “Oh, ok, that’s what they’re trying to say.” So, we kind of keep the roots in that dark feeling, but at the same time I think the newer stuff, like Ross said especially on these past two records, it’s more broad. We’re looking at everything going on in the world—the war, the terrorism—and things that are relevant and have a little bit more meaning, you know?
Ross: The last record in particular: ‘Harnessing Ruin’, ‘Son of Iniquity’, ‘Swarm of Terror’, ‘Crown the Liar’, were all very political songs dealing with everything from our government to terrorism to how we’re handling things. And, again, it’s subtle, but it’s there. And that was what we had in mind when we wrote the songs. But someone may not get that out of them at all, you know what I’m saying? We choose not to be a political band—I’m not really interested in politics—but obviously we all feel strongly about a lot of issues. So this is an outlet for a lot of issues.
Steve: But nobody in the band is very preachy, you know? We’re not going to go and shove our opinions down your throat. Most of it comes out almost like a commentary.
Ross: Absolutely, and that’s what it is. We just write about what we see and what we feel. And that’s it. Take from it what you will, you know? (laughs)
Bob: Exactly. I mean, there’s people that listen to the records sometimes and are like, “Oh, this is really dark, and this song’s about this or that.” And we’re just like (shrugs), “Ok.” That’s not exactly what we wrote it about, but if that’s what you get out of it, that’s fine. Because, who’s to say? Everything is going to mean something different to everyone.
Steve: Wasn’t some girl saying that one of the songs helped her quit cigarettes or something like that?
Ross: Yeah, yeah. I forgot which song, though.
Steve: Didn’t know you could get that out of it—
Bob: But that’s cool. (laughs) So everyone gets their own meaning, and that’s great. They’ll just look at the words and what they mean to them. And we put a lot of thought and effort into it. So obviously we’re trying to say something, but if along the line somebody takes it in a different way, there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s fine.
Ross: A great thing about music, you know?
Bob: Same thing with art. Some people will be like, “This is that,” others will say, “No, that is this.” And whether it’s abstract or whatever, it can be anything to any body, depending on what you get out of it.
Ross: “I see a clown.” “No, I see a hat.”
Bob: (laughs) Exactly.
Steve: Being in New York helps, too, because you’re right on the pulse of a lot of things every day. It’s not like if I were living out in farm country trying to write about world events—these guys are in it.
Ross: ‘The Tractor of Death’
Steve: And it lends a lot credibility to it to, you know? Not some fantasy boy living in his bedroom writing about how horrible the world is. These guys live in Yonkers.
Gauntlet: So, I would imagine that could free up the songwriting, too, if you’re taking on new ideas. Or, I think I read that you write a lot of your lyrics after the songs?
Bob: Sometimes. It depends. The cool thing about this album—I ended up being at Steve’s for over two weeks because we went into the studio a week late. Not that this was a good thing, but our producer, Paul, was sick, so he had to postpone. For us it worked out because we got to prepare stuff a bit more. While I was at Steve’s I was able to write two more songs and just sit down and write lyrics. And sometimes I’d have a song in mind and I’d tell Ross and he’d be like, “Oh, that works perfectly for this song.” But then I’d write and think of something, but we’d be like, “No, that fits this song better,” and add it to that one. And then edit it to make it work within the song structure. Or you might have an idea for a song, then hear the music, and then you write lyrics to that.
Ross: Yeah. I’m weird like that. I have to have the song first, because if you have an idea or a concept, you really feed off the music. Certain songs are just darker or lent to a certain topic. Like ‘Son of Iniquity’ from the last record, we were just talking about that. To me, that’s a very dark song, probably one of our darkest. And I think we had that idea for one of the other songs, musically, but we changed the middle section and all right away I was like, “This has got to be it,” because it’s just such a creepy, heavy, dark song.
Bob: There are times where Ross will be like, “This one will think that better,” I’ll be like, “Oh, I kind of had an idea for that one.” Then once all is said and done and we maybe go in the other direction I’ll say, “Yeah, ok, that does work out better.” And then times I’ll write lyrics for something and they’ll be like, “Eh, that isn’t going to work,” but then when I’m all done with it he’s like, “Oh, alright, that looks pretty good.”
Gauntlet: Right. I imagine, too, that when you’re the one doing the vocals it’d be better to have the music to go off of.
Bob: But another thing with the lyrics is that there are certain ways we’ll have to edit it down because he’s got to feel comfortable with either what he’s saying or the way it’s being sung. And there’s times he’s dialed it and realized it isn’t comfortable that way and then it comes across that way, too, you know?
Ross: It’ll come across as awkward.
Bob: Right. If the words are falling a certain way and it doesn’t feeling comfortable for Ross, it’s not going to come across well. So we edit it down. If we’re doing six words, maybe we have to cut it down to four, but you can still make it work. It takes a little tailoring to do that and you kind of have to fine tune it and make it make sense, too. But we’ve gotten pretty good at that because we’ve been doing it a long time. And I think with every album it becomes more like a system and you get that knack for doing it. We’re like, “Alright, this is how it’s got to work,” and we know what we’ve got to do with it we go in there and edit it up.
Steve: Once you run into a problem you’ve already had before, chances are you know what you’ve got to do to modify it.
Ross: Vocals are easy, too. You can modify them on the spot. Try this, and if it doesn’t work, try something else. You can pretty much go all night and do it. It’s not like Steve playing the drums.
Steve: It’s really like icing on the cake, so far as studio projects are concerned.
Ross: It’s fun. That and leads are like the coolest part. You can just sit there and say, “Oh, that sounds cool…try this!” (laughs)
Gauntlet: Right, without messing up the rest of the arrangement.
Bob: Yeah. Obviously, when we’re all playing the song we have to know what the hell we’re doing, you know? Whereas with a lead, I don’t need to know what the hell I’m doing, I just need what sounds good in the end.
Bob: You can get away with throwing some other stuff in there because you’re the only one doing it. Trying to get everyone on the same page has to be planned out.
Ross: The only shitty part about the vocals is that, yeah, it’s all fun and games in the studio, but once it’s all done, now I’ve got to learn how to play and sing. And that sucks. (laughs)
Gauntlet: Right. Do you ever find it difficult, if you’re playing a lead spontaneously, to try to recreate that if you decide it’s the one you want to use?
Bob: Oh, every time before every tour before every song, yeah, absolutely. (laughs) Every time it’s like, “So, we’re going on tour. What songs are we doing? Alright, I’ve got to learn those leads again.” With the riffs even, we’ll forget how we played it. And then once you get it you’re like, “Ok, I remember now.” Your mind and your hands remember, you know? I’ll have to go back to 1991 and be like, (sighs) “‘Internal Decadence’, how was I doing that?” And as I go through it, I’ll have to remember how I played it then, because I play differently now. I’ll remember the style I was in back then, and that’ll lead me to where the notes are, you know? And once you get into that pocket, that’s it. Because I think to myself, whether I did it once or I did it fifty times, I played that, so I should be able to play it again. Sometimes it’s a little challenging, but for the most part, when it comes to show-time we’re good to go.
Gauntlet: And that change that you’re talking about. Is that a maturation process or a specific change that you made in your player?
Bob: It’s just that over the years you learn to play better. There are just certain things that I did back then or a way I would go about doing something, whereas now I would go about it a little differently, when it comes to lead-work, especially. Because I know more now, too.
Steve: Like with techniques…
Bob: Yeah, technique and how I would play. Back then I was still learning—I’m still learning now, who am I kidding?
Bob: But back then, it was obviously over 10 years ago, so it’s been developing. And now I just know certain runs or avenues I use to make things work, whereas then I would take a different route. Listening back, it eventually comes back automatically. I think, “Oh, I was doing it this way,” and it clicks back in. That’s the only way I can describe it.
Gauntlet: Right. Thinking a little more about the lyrics comment: I think it’s less that it’s necessarily a protest song. Rather, where in so much of death metal it’s a celebration of evil or iniquity or something like that, you guys are commenting on it as an ill in society instead. That contrast…
Bob: Well, yeah. And ‘World Agony’ is a good example. Basically, we’re just saying, “Look at what we’re doing here.” Obviously we’re headed in a bad direction, you know? So, yeah, we do talk about a lot of negative stuff, but I guess you could say it’s in a positive way. We’re trying to show you what we see going on in the world, and that’s it. Like Steve said, it’s a comment. We’re not always praising one thing or the other, we’re just commenting on what we see and what’s going on. Do we usually see that the darker things in life take precedence over the better things in life? Absolutely. That’s the world, you know? And that’s what this kind of music is about. Sure, there are great things that are still around, obviously, and we’re actually pretty upbeat people and pretty laid-back, but in this kind of music you’re trying to bring out and show the darker things in the world and in life. That’s what it’s about. So we’re not going to talk about sunshine and flowers.
Steve: This is not the theater for it.
Bob: Yeah. It’s almost like it’s a dark art, so that’s the form it’s going to take on. We’re not going to speak about certain things—
Ross: I like that. “Dark art”.
Bob: Absolutely. That’s what it is, you know? So that’s what we’re going to talk about and that’s what we see. But, yeah, it’s definitely more about commenting and just showing how we see it.
Gauntlet: Mm-hmm. And then, wrapping up, because I’ve taken up a lot of your time and I really do appreciate it. And, as you said, ‘generally up-beat guys’, with the phone conversations we’ve had I really appreciate your patience.
Bob: Oh, sure.
Gauntlet: Well, you never know. Some people…
Bob: We were stuck in traffic, I was in the car and we were going—well, we didn’t know the name of the store anyway—
Bob: So, anyway, we were in the car and he calls and says, “Yeah, I’m sorry, I’m going to be there in an hour, I got stuck in traffic.” I’m like, “Really. That’s unacceptable.” He’s like, “(long pause) Haha.” And I was like, “Yeah, so are we. I’ll see you back at the venue.”
Ross: “You’d better be here in five minutes…or we’ll kill you.”
Gauntlet: I’d better turn around now, then, and go home and save my life. That reminds me, then—was it Metal Haven that you were going to, maybe?
Bob: I think so, yeah.
Gauntlet: Had you just heard about it or were you…?
Bob: I heard about it two seconds before I got in the car, but, Jeff and Sam from Averse Sefira, we have a mutual friend named Tammy who was going to take them there. I heard about it and was like, “Alright, I’m in.” We’re headed out there and there was some confusion as far as left or right somewhere over there and before we knew it we were in traffic, it was getting late, and these guys were like, “I gotta put my corpsepaint on, so we gotta get back.”
Bob: So we just turned around and came back.
Gauntlet: Black metal in the city. But actually it’s a really great store. Really is.
Bob: I know, too bad. Next time.
Ross: You’re like, “Not to rub it in, but it’s the Best Store Ever.”
Gauntlet: But the question I was going to ask. There are obviously a lot of religious lyrics you’ve had throughout the years; is it specifically anti-Christian or are you really just not into all religion?
Ross: It’s more that we’re not really into the whole concept of religion. And you know what it is, the whole anti-Christian thing comes across because we were all involved in that when we were younger. Catholic high schools, you know? So there was a lot of fuel added to that fire. Tom, when he was in the band, his mom was a born-again Christian, so he really had that going on and had a really heavy hatred for that whole scene. So that’s where it stems from. Plus, some of the stuff that we were listening to, as well. I mean, you grow up with stuff like Slayer and all this other stuff, like early Sepultura. All that metal, you know?
Steve: We always knew that religion was a little…something wasn’t right there, you know? Now, getting older, you start to mature your views to where you’re not just lashing out against it, it’s more like, “Look, this whole thing is kind of fucked up.”
Bob: I mean, look at ‘Father, You’re Not A Father’. We did that song, and then shortly after that album came out they had that whole explosion with the Catholic Church and the priests. So we’re just looking at what we see and the darker side of that. And how, to us, the ultimate thing that was so dark was that you were looking at something that was supposed to be so holy and good, and now they’re showing their true side. Not that it’s all bad—it’s not all bad.
Ross: It depends on the individual. For certain people it can be a positive thing in their lives, but, to me, I have a problem with fairy tales and stories and bullshit. And it’s all man-made, you know?
Bob: And the fact that that man-made stuff controls what goes on around us—
Steve: And when everybody in your government is religious in some way. They’re believing in these fairy tales and we’re sitting here going, “Ehhh….”
Gauntlet: Ending the campaign speeches with “God bless America…”
Ross: Right. So now these people that are running the world that’s supposed to be very down to reality and, meanwhile, are praising Santa Claus. (laughs) It’s insane, it really is, that in today’s day and age you’ve got to deal with that.
Steve: Time’s coming. Times coming when people are either going to have to wake up or getting ploughed under, because it’s getting ridiculous. It’s causing way too many problems for what it’s worth right now.
Bob: It really is. And I think what we always focus on are the downsides of that. People being forced to believe in things, being brainwashed and stuff like that.
Bob: Yeah, fooled into it. The negative stuff is what we always look at.
Gauntlet: The catholic school system seems to have had a tremendous backfire in that respect. I remember interviewing Vital Remains, and as soon as I mentioned anything having to do with religion—I was interviewing Tony—he just exploded and went on this half-hour tangent about religion and the Church. And I suppose it could be unfortunate for some people involved, but for metal fans it’s turned out some pretty good musicians.
Ross: It wasn’t really a terrible experience, but it was eye-opening to an extent. And the older you get, you kind of know. You’re like, “This is…a bunch of malarkey.”
Ross: And you know, I don’t dwell on it because it wasn’t something that stifled me as a kid. My family was not that religious. But it was something that was always there and it was around you. And being from New York isn’t like being from the South, you know? There’re a lot of open-minded people. But it’s still something that we felt strongly about.
Gauntlet: Right. Well, I’m glad to see, not that writing about it was a bad thing, but I’m glad to see the horizons expanding of things that are covered.
Ross: Yeah. I think it’s better for everybody.
Steve: You grow and learn, you know.
Bob: We want to expand musically and lyrically, you know? It’s more challenging that way, too, than to do the same old thing over and over again.
Gauntlet: Mm-hmm. Developing the ‘dark art’, as it were.
Ross: Yeah, without a doubt.
Bob: (nods) Touché.
Gauntlet: (laughs) Well, in closing, was there anything else you wanted to say our put out there?
Bob: Just thanks for doing the interview, to all the people that are coming to check us out and support the tour. All the crowds have been really cool, whether big or small, they’re all into all the bands and really supporting everybody. We’ve even had people come up to the merchandise and buy one thing from every band, and I haven’t seen that in a long time. So it’s actually pretty cool to see a lot of support for the bands.
Steve: We all feel very fortunate to be here every night doing it. No matter how many people show up, whatever, it’s always cool. We never take it for granted, that’s for sure.
Gauntlet: Good to hear. And I think that’s all I’ve got. Thanks very much.