Greetings from Hungary, Jeff. A dream of mine came true, that I have got the opportunity to do an interview with you. Sorry about the mandy questions, but I couldn't ask fewer, ha ha! I would do an thorough chat, OK?
Sounds great! It is really good to make a contact in Hungary and to hear that metal is alive and well there.
POSSESSED was established in 1983 by Mike Torrao and Mike Sus. At that time you have played in BLIZZARD. Tell us please about this band! What kind of music did you play? How many years old were you?
I was very young (about 12-13 years old). Mostly we played metal copies (MAIDEN, PRIEST, UFO etc.), but I did write some original material.
The first singer of POSSESSED was Barry Fisk, who has committed suicide. Why? How did you get in the picture? Did you know the guys before you joined the band?
Well after Barry died Mike and Mike came to my school and asked me, if I would like to try out for their band. I had recently quit BLIZZARD, because I wanted to play heavier music and they were only interested in playing commercial-type tunes. I learned seven songs (churches?) in a day and got the POSSESSED gig. We couldn't find a singer so after some coaxing I decided to do it.
Which bands did have an effect on POSSESSED? How was the scene of the Bay Area at the beginning of the 80ies? Tell us please about that times!
Definitely EXODUS, MOTÖRHEAD and all of the old metal bands. I also really like MERCYFUL FATE, RAVEN and BLACK SABBATH. The scene at the beginning of the 80s... well to sum it up... it was CRAZY!!
Tell us please about your rehearsals! How much did you rehearse on a week? How were born the legendary, classic POSSESSED songs?
We practiced about 4 hours, three times per week (Mon, Weds, and Friday). We all came from extremely different musical backgrounds and had extremely different personalities. Generally Mike Torreo would write the basic outline of the songs and by the time we all put in our parts it evolved into a collaborational piece with all of us changing the song into what became our unique "Possessed" sound.
You've recorded a three-track-demo. Which songs were on this tape? What must we know about this demo? What kind of responses did you get?
Actually the demo was just realeased on Agonia records out of Poland. The songs include Fallen Angel, Burning in Hell and Death Metal. We realeased the demo (80 copies) and were signed on Combat within 6 months.
On this demo played Brian Montana, who later was fired. Why? How did you find Larry Lalonde? Where did he play before Possessed?
Larry and me had been in BLIZZARD together. After I quit BLIZZARD and joined POSSESSED I went back and got Larry to join POSSESSED.
Your second demo was only a one track demo. What was its use? Why didn't you record more songs? Did change something your music with the entering of Larry Lalonde?
We did go back and re-do "Swing Of The Axe". This was for Brian Slagal's "Metal Massacre" compilation album. Actually Larry is listed as the gutarist on this song, but it is in fact Brian Montana playing.
I think, in those days was your music the more brutal and extreme, which didn't lose from its value. In my opinion, you were faster, more extreme and brutal than SLAYER. Do you agree with me?
Yes I do! When we initially got together we intentionally tried to be the heaviest fastest band out there. By this alone we gained recognition. SLAYER had a more commercial and selling sound, but that is not what we started out to do.
POSSESSED and DEATH (MANTAS) were the godfathers of all extreme metal music, you have had an very important effect on the scene. What do you think about it? How would you charakterize the music of POSSESSED?
I think that POSSESSED was one of the first really dark/extremely fast bands out there. People who were tired of all the glamour bands and the poser bands were hungry at that time and were ripe for a change (us included). I think it was a matter of playing what people wanted to hear at a time when the world had completely sold out.
Was back than a difference between death and thrash metal? Where were the borders of both music?
I think that thrash metal was more about violence and death metal had a distinctly darker image. But both musics has similar tempo and technical aspects.
You were on the "Metal Massacre vol. 6" with the track "Swing Of The Axe". Your song was the most popular on this compilation. Do you remember about this record? Which bands were on this compilation?
Wow. That was a long time ago. I remember being quite pleased that we had finally made it to vinyl but as far as the other bands I forget who/what was actually on that album (sorry :=)
Why weren't you sign neither by Metal Blade nor by Torrid Records? How did you get in touch with Combat? Which bands were at that time by Combat?
Well we had heard horror stories about Torrid (with EXODUS and all) and with Metal Blade. At that time it seemed like bands were getting stuck in long contracts with very little compensation (as is with the underground scene now). We took these contracts to a lawyer and our lawyer advised us against signing with these labels. As far as Combat they really found us. They liked our demo and offered us a pretty good deal so we signed. I am not sure all of the bands that were on Combat back then but for sure they had Dave and MEGADETH which was a great band.
those two weeks. Those were the days!
||Your debutalbum was "Seven churches" (1985). Do you remember about the studioworkings? Tell us about the recordings, about the work, how was your mood in the studio, how did you work etc.
This album truly was a great experience for me as well as a learning experience. We had Randy Burns (MEGADETH) producing us and he was a true genius. Basically we spent two weeks at Prairy Sun Studios in Cotati California drinking, partying and recording. I think the fact that we really were hardcores at heart showed on the final mix. We ate, slept and drank metal during
As I know, you went to highschool and you could work only during the Easter holiday, couldn't you?
I believe that was the case. We all wanted to finish high school as we knew that in the end we might have to fall back on a regular existence.
Were "Seven Churches" only demo songs or did you write newer ones? The music was written by you and by the guitarists, the lyrics were made by you. Please tell us about the lyrics!
Seven Churches basically was every song we had at the time. There were many more songs besides the three original demo songs and we used them all. I kept the lyrics as dark and evil as possible as that was the only way I did things. This might sound weird but a lot of my words came either in the night-time when I was sleeping or during daydreams just imagining crazy stuff.
Please comment the debutalbum with your own words! Tell us everything about the record and about the songs! As I have listened to for the first time, I was totally shocked.
Well like I said, we were crazy back then and just trying to be the heaviest band in the scene. What we lacked in talent we made up for with heart. Everything was dark and fast and represented all of the bay area and all of the many shows that we were influenced by. I knew that the album was something special as soon as it was done. I had no idea that it would get the world wide acclaim that it did, but was well pleased when it happend.
DEATH's "Scream Bloody Gore" was compared to "Seven Churches", you have had an effect on Chuck Shuldiner. Do you agree with me? What's your opinion about the first Death album?
I think that DEATH was a great band on it's own. I do think that we had similar styles and he told me that I did influence him and I was honored. He would wear a POSSESSED shirt on stage and I always thought that was cool, too.
Did you know him personally? I mean, his death was a great loss for the metal scene.
Me and Chuck were good friends and had partied together here in California at our fan club presidents (Crystal Mahoney) house. He was an extemely dynamic talent and a great guy. He had a tremendous amount of drive and energy. That we are compared is an honor for me. He will be sadly missed by all. RIP.
Your voice displays not only at that time but also nowadays an extreme influence. Both your voice and your sound was a trademark of the band. What do you think about it?
It is always an honor when I hear that I have made an impact on the scene. Metal was/is my life and I love to hear the most extreme and growling vocals.
You have had an effect on many singers, for example on Martin van Drunen (PESTILENCE, ASPHYX). Do you know him? Did you listen to him to sing?
Unfortunately I haven't had the chance to meet him. I would love the oportunity to meet him and hear his music. It is probably because I am not as well connected with the underground nowadays.
In 1985 you have taken part on the "World War III" festival in Canada. Do you know about this event? Please tell us about this gig!
This was a HUGE show!! Canada was a great experience and I will never forget it. NASTY SAVAGE, DESTRUCTION, CELTIC FROST were among the bands and they all were fantastic. Canada seemed to really embrace the metal culture and it was the opportunity of a life time. Great beer, too!
we offered with the "BTG" album.
||In 1986 was released your second album "Beyond The Gates". In your opinion, did you develope compare to the first record? Tell us please about this album!
We played differently on the "Beyond The Gates" album because we were musically in a different period or mood at that time. Larry had more writing credit on this album and I believe that also had a great deal to do with the change of style. I personally love this album and put in a lot of hard hours in order to make it. I think that the fans wanted diversity from POSSESSED and that is what
"March To Die" was the most famous song of this album and this was also on the "Beyond Metal Zone" compilation. Do you remember about this compilation?
I never got that one? In fact I never heard of it. Please tell me where I can get it... lol!
Is it true, that "Beyond The Gates" was the most successful release of Comabat? How was your connection with them? Did they support the band?
Combat was always extremely supportive of the band. We were the highest money making band of Combat at that time. We had a great relationship. It was only after Combat sold our rights that we stopped getting paid and other people started taking their pound of flesh without compensating me. A curse upon them.
In the middle of the 80ies the Bay Area thrash was very popular, it was the hotbed of thrash metal. In your opinion, why did take shape the thrash movement here? With which bands were you in good friendship? Tell us please about this period!
Well, I believe that the because of the diversity and freedom that the SF Bay Area offers it was fertile grounds for metal. People here have extremely open minds here and embrace what many fear. Bands like METALLICA and EXODUS were pivitol back than and really set the stage for all of those who followed. I was lucky enough to know these bands and they are great guys.
For two years Paul Balloff, the singer of Exodus has died. I think, you have known him. He was one of the best thrash singers. What kind of man was he? What do you think about "Bonded By Blood"?
I did know Paul. Paul was a kind man. He had a lot of problems with drugs and alcohol and in the end that is what got him. "Bonded By Blood" was one of the most influential metal albums of all time. Paul, Gary, Tom and Rick have always been cool with me and have helped me and my band in a lot of ways. R.I.P. Paul Balloff.
||1987 "The Eyes Of Horror" EP was released. In my opinion, this was the most technical POSSESSED stuff. Your lyrics have changed too, instead of the satanic lyrics you have started to write another ones. Do you agree with me?
Yes, I do agree. Instead solely dark/evil-type lyrics I began to sing about the insanities of overindulgence. I was going through a lot of problems back then and I decided that I should incorporate this into my music. Also I incorporated some of the many horror movie influences that I have into the lyrics as well.
On this record there is the track "Swing Of The Axe", which was also on the demo. Why did you put this song on the EP? Did this version keeping with demo one?
Actually we wanted to do another well produced version as a good filler. We were under contract and were obligated to do an EP and needed more material so we just did "Swing Of The Axe" again. Also this was an older song that the fans liked and it added a bit of much needed edge to this album. This was a much less heavy album but it really gave us a chance to showcase our talent as many at that time thought we had none.
The producer of the record was Joe Satriani. How did you get in touch with him? Did he help much for you? How was to work with him?
Larry used to take guitar lessons from Joe and they became good friends. Larry simply asked Joe if he would do it and luckily Joe said that he would. Joe had tremendous talent and contributed a great deal to the concepts of production for Eyes Of Horror. He is a true professional and it was an honor to work with him.
The cover of the album is awesome, one of the best covers of all time. Your comment?
Yes Combat had a great artist. All we would do was give him an idea/concept for the covers and he would draw them. It really must hurt to be a skull on hot lava with demons flying out of your eyes... don't you think? LOL!
Tell us please about the tours and gigs of Possessed. With which bands did you play together? How did you feel yourself in Europe? How were the European fans?
Well we have had so many gigs it is hard to sum up in a paragraph (or even a book!) but I have had the great honor of playing with so many awesome bands. Bands like EXODUS, SLAYER, VENOM, VOI VOD, DEATHROW, CELTIC FROST, DESTRUCTION, SUICIDAL TENDENCIES, MEGADETH, DRI, FANG... god the list goes on! Europe was awesome. Europe felt like a whole different world with so much history and age. Some day I hope to go back and spend more time. The European fans were crazy! At one show they broke down the barracade and broke our photographer's legs, we had to fly him home. Europeans seem to really grasp the true concept of metal and are heavier than hell.
Did you record in those days videoclips? Was it the fashion to record videoclips? Were there any music chanels?
Back then death metal got very little television time. We did do a European MTV interview that was cool (I yelled Merry Christmas kill your grandmother!). We also have some underground videos in circulation. Unfortunately we never had the opportunity to record any true professional video shows.
Why and when did POSSESSED spilt up? Were there conflicts within the band? Where and when did you give your last show? I think, both you and the fans were in sorrow.
Well Larry wanted to quit and go to BLIND ILLUSION. Mike and Mike were tired of playing. I do regret breaking up but with 20/20 hind-sight it was probably a good idea. We really weren't getting along at the time and it was time to call it a day.
I would harp on an delicate theme, if I don't affront you. In the early 90ies you have entangled in a gunfight and you were so hit the mark, that you have got unfortunately in wheelchair. What happened? Are you nowadays in wheelchair?
No problem, I don't mind talking about it at all. I was on my way home from work and was robbed by a couple of drug addicts. They shot me with a 9mm in the chest and shot off my right hand ring finger with a 22 caliber pistol. They were bad people. As it ended up they went to prison and I went to physical therapy for 6 months. It was a very hard time but I got through it. I am still in a wheelchair (for the last 13 years).
As I know, you have used drugs, too. Were you on tapering-off cure? Was it hard give up to use the drugs? When did you stop using drugs?
I have been clean for many years. I used when I was young but really I simply out grew them with age. Now I stick to beer and whiskey!
In 1991 you were invited by OBITUARY in the studio to sing in one of the songs of the "The End Complete" album. The guys have later pronounced, the cooperation didn't come off the best. Do you remeber about it? Otherwise do you like OBITUARY?
I have no problems with them. I had really just came out of the hospital and six months of Morpheine. I was going through a lot of post traumatic stress and wasn't ready for that kind of trip yet. They seemed to be really cool guys but to tell you the truth I think I scared the hell out of them! LOL!
What did you do during the 90ies, after the spiltting up of POSSESSED? Did you follow the formation of the metal scene? In your opinion, how was the situation of the metal in the 90ies? Everybody said, the metal is dead.
Well to tell you the truth I used almost the entire 90s to recover from my gunshot wounds, mentally and physically. I did listen to metal and formed a band for a while. Metal really helped me through the rough times. The 90s definitely was a bad time for metal. Metal slumped for a long time. Alternative was all the rage and it killed metal for a while. That's why now it is so cool to see metal come back in such a strong way. I have to give a shot out to Dave from FOO FIGHTERS and his PRO BOT project. It's ironic that one of the people that killed metal helped it come back in such a big way. But what truly kept metal alive was all of the hardcore fans and bands that never gave up and stayed true to the scene.
FUNERAL from Sweden will also be playing.
||In 1991 tried Mike Torrao to reform POSSESSED. Who were the members?
Well I know that Bob Yost (an old roady) played bass was in it. Other than that I didn't know the other guys besides Mike Torreo. Bob Yost is a cool dude, we are going to Hollywood this weekend where I am going to play with SADISTIC INTENT (singing the "Exorcist" as a Cameo). DARK
They have recorded two demos but nothing happened. Did you listen to these songs? What's your opinion about these demos? I think so, a Possessed song without your voice is extremely interesting.
I thought that they were really good songs. Mike sounded heavy, but it really didn't have the vibe that POSSESSED had. It was a great effort but never took off.
Why have died Mike's idea, to reform POSSESSED?
I can't speak for Mike, but I think that his heart wasn't truly into it (just my opinion).
1993 were released a POSSESSED compilation "Victims Of Death" by Relativity Records. What must we know about this record? Were on this album unreleased songs?
remained the same.
||This was really like a "Greatest Hits" album. "Victims Of Death" was simply some of the fans favorite songs off of the three main albums put onto one CD.
You have sang on the 7" EP of SADISTC INTENT. The guys have covered the legendary song "The Exorcist" and their version was made by you on the vocals. Whose idea was the cooperation? The result became excellent, your voice
Well me and Rick Cortez from SADISTIC became friends over the internet and I was also a big fan of all of SADISTIC INTENT's music. After many hours on the phone and much talk we became friends and he invited me to come down. I remain great friends with SADISTIC to this day. They invited me to L.A. (as I was saying before) this weekend and I am really looking forward to it. In fact, Bob Yost (the new POSSESSED bass player) is going with me and a couple of other old friends. I just bought a new Cadillac and we are going for a metal road trip!! LOL! Hopefully we can manage to stay out of trouble!
Many bands have covered POSSESSED songs. Did you listen to these ones? Which ones did you like and which ones were bad?
I like them all. I love the "Seven Gates Of Horror" tribute album. It is wicked to hear all these bands playing my songs. Of course CANNIBAL CORPSE is awesome with their rendition of "Confessions" as well as all of the bands. I was truly honored and felt like I had made it when the tribute album came out.
What do you think about playing covers? Did Possessed played at that time covers?
We never played covers in POSSESSED. I have nothing against it but we only played originals. Except on one occasion in Europe with VOI VOD/DEATHROW we all came out together and played "Batman".
Karmageddon Records released a POSSESSED tribute album, which was titled "The seven gates of horror". Did you listen to it? I think, it is a great honour to you, because you are respectively were the greatest. Hail POSSESSED!
Again, I LOVED that album. It was truly a great honor for me. I would have never thought in a million years that these bands would recognize my works. I really can't praise these bands enough for their works and it is really the greatest compliment of my career. Where's the party?!?!
Do you like listening to tribute albums? What do you think about them?
I really like the POSSESSED tribute album (of course!!). But sometimes when you see like a KISS tribute band it just seems dumb. I think that when bands just cover a few songs that is ok, but when the band has no originals that is wierd and bordering on stupidity.
Last year Agonia Records released a picture 10" LP and on this record there are the POSSESSED demos. It was a good idea, to release this stuff. Are you satisfied with it? Do you have also a copy from it?
I have a copy. I think that it is a good idea to re-release some old stuff for the hard-core POSSESSED collectors. This kind of stuff is not mixed well but looks great hanging on the wall! This was also a great chance to put out a song from a side project band of mine called SIDE EFFECT. True metal heads can mix sound in their heads.
On this album was a new track "Hemorrhage" which was done by SIDE EFFECT. Is this your new band? Do you want to release an album or to go on tour? Do you play with the guys POSSESSED songs too?
Actually this is just a fun side project that me and some friends got together on. We may release some more stuff but that is yet to be decided. We do not play POSSESSED songs and we have no plans to tour.
This label has released a live album "Agony In Paradise", but previously was released an another live CD, too: "Live In San Diego '84 & San Francisco '86". What's your opinion about these releases? Are they official stuffs or bootlegs? What do you think about bootlegs?
They are not official but not bootlegs either. I have given permission and I love it when people put out my stuff. Live albums are also for the hardcore collector. Although they are not studio sound they are a cool addition to a collection.
Back to POSSESSED. We know, Larry plays in PRIMUS, but what do the other POSSESSED members nowadays do? Are they still in the music business? Are you in connection with them?
I do not have any contact with them. We have all simple grown apart and do not speak anymore. Larry has always been cool, but the two Mikes are non-social with me.
Who was your best friend from the band? How would you charakterize humanly yourself and the other POSSESSED musicians?
We all were in the same band but were different people. Larry was probably my favorite person in the band. Larry was always happy-go-lucky and a cool kind of hippie type. Mike T. was always mad about something, and Sus was a kind of distant guy. Mostly I hung around with the crowd/fans, the groupies, and the other bands.
Something other. What do you know about Hungary? What is the capitol of our country? Have you ever been in Hungary? O you know famous Hungarian foods, drinks, people or words?
No. But I wish that I did. Wasn't Dracula from Hungary? LoL! Sorry but you are a world away from me.
Have you ever listened to Hungarian metal bands? Are you interesting in the Hungarian metal scene? Can I send you some record or tape?
Unfortunatly I don't know anything about Hungarian metal bands which is embarassing for me. I would love you to send me some tapes as I am always interested in metal that I haven't heard.
You are a family man. Since when are you married? As I as know, you are a father of two children. Tell us please a little bit about your family! Will your children play metal music? Do they know, that their daddy very famous person? Ha ha!
Yes I am a family man. I have been married for over 4 years and I have a 4 year old son Jeffrey Jr. and my daughter Sonny (Sonya) will be 1 year old in August. I have a beautiful young wife Sheila whom I adore. My son Jeff Jr. already plays guitar and drums and his favorite music is metal (death). Sonny doesn't play yet. My son knows that I was in POSSESSED and we play together often. Hopefully he will start up the new POSSESSED to carry on the tradition whenever he is older.
POSSESSED have had an a big effect on the metal scene, no question. Would you have think, when POSSESSED was established, that you will be famous? Are you proud of the career of the band? Did they parents always support your career?
To tell you the truth whenever I was younger all I thought about was becoming famous. I think like every musician I am a show-off by nature. That was after all our goal. I am very proud of the work that I did in POSSESSED and of our accomplishments. My parents were/are always ever supportive of what I do. After all it was my mom and dad that turned me on to music and rock and roll in the 70s.
What do you think about the present metal scene? Which bands do you like? What would you say about the present scene compared to the 80ies one? Do you go often concerts?
I think that the scene (at least in California) is alive and strong. Metal is making a slow but steady comeback nowadays. As far as bands that I like I am still pretty old school. I like MOTÖRHEAD, SABBATH, MERCYFUL FATE, SADISTIC INTENT, CANNIBAL CORPSE, JUDAS PRIEST, OZZY, RAINBOW, EXODUS and basically and heavy Death Metal bands that are fast and hard.
About what would you change, when you would have to start your life or POSSESSED?
I wouldn't change a thing. I have had a great life and if I died today I would be happy with what I have done and where I have been. These are the best days of my life.
Which is your favourite POSSESSED song and record? Why? Which are your first ten all time favourite albums?
I don't really have a favorite POSSESSED song. To tell you the truth I put so much blood sweat and tears into our songs that they are all my favorite. I know this must sound egotistical but POSSESSED is my favorite band.
Here is my top ten list:
#1 - Exodus Bonded By Blood
#2 - Black Sabbath (any)
#3 - Ozzy Diary of a Madman
#4 - Iron Maiden Killers
#5 - Mercyful Fate Melissa
#6 - Judas Priest Sin After Sin
#7 - Venom Black Metal
#8 - Slayer Show No Mercy
#9 - Sepultura Beneath The Remains
#10 - AC/DC Back In Black
Plus I want to give a shot out to all of the Sadistic Intent records.
Do you have a great CD collection? Do you buy or do you order often CDs, tapes or LPs?
My CD collection is not as good as it should be. I lost much of my stuff after my injury. To tell you the truth most of my stuff I get from friends from around the world who send it to me on request. Whenever I do order something I usually get it from Dark Realm Records in Downey, California as that is Sadistic Intents record store and I like to support them. I do try and get a lot of taped recordings as I only have a cassette player in my car.
For example EXODUS, HEATHEN, NASTY SAVAGE, AGENT STEEL, DEATH ANGEL or NUCLEAR ASSUALT are back, they are active again, they released or will be released new albums. What do you think about it? Why did they return again? Did you listen to the brandnew EXODUS, NASTY SAVAGE or DEATH ANGEL albums?
I think that it shows that people still have an interest in these old school bands. I think that it is great and we all should still play as long as we can. Music is eternal. I also think that this is a good jump start to get real metal back out there. I have heard the new EXODUS and DEATH ANGEL and I think both these albums are destined to be classics.
This is a stupid question, but I have to ask: will POSSESSED have a reunion with the classic line up?
Definitely not. Me and the guys have really moved away from that idea. I believe that we did what we had to do and I wouldn't want to spoil the name by trying to do it again.
Do you often get e-mails because of interviews? Do you answer kindly the questions, although nobody can ask you any news from you, ha ha!
Actually I do get a lot of requests for interviews. People all over the world call, write and email me. It really is amazing the response that POSSESSED has had over the years. I like to do interviews as it gives me a chance to hear from other people about the scene in different parts of the world.
My last question: what is the meaning of life, respectively what is the meaning of your life? Are you a happy man? Did your dreams come true?
The meaning of life? Wow that is a heavy question! I think the meaning of my life is to live how I want to live, be happy and take care of my family. I am extremely happy nowadays, as I said these are the best days of my life. As far as my dreams comming true, many have but I still have many more dreams to come. The world is your oyster!
Jeff, thank you for the answers and for patience, I hope my questions weren't boring. I wish you all the best and for you.
Thank you very much David it is always a pleasure. As always I would like to send my love to my family Sheila, Jeffrey Jr., and Sonny Becerra who are my light and world forever. Stay Metal Forever 666. Jeff B. Becerra Sr.
Interview: David Laszlo