|So Mike, let us start this chat with your musical past. How did you get in touch with metal? How old were you at that time?
When I was a young kid about 14 there was a record store that opened by my house called "Asylum" and the guy there was always getting in cool Metal stuff from Europe, like IRON MAIDEN and ANGELWITCH, once I heard ANGELWITCH I was hooked!
What kind of metal styles did you prefer? I mean were you into the melodic, commercial bands or rather into the more brutal, aggressive ones?
Well, even before that I liked BLACK SABBATH, LED ZEPPELIN and PINK FLOYD, but once I heard the European style metal like ANGELWITCH and MERCYFUL FATE that was when I really started getting interested in playing metal. Back then there really wasn't anything like death metal, so you were pretty limited in what you had to listen to. There wasn't any internet either, I am an ancient one!
What were your influences to become metal musician?
Mainly BLACK SABBATH, SLAYER, ANGELWITCH, MERCYFUL FATE, CELTIC FROST and stuff like that.
How did your choice fall on the drums? Do you play perhaps other instruments as well? Were you self-taught or did you take some lessons?
I took drums in school when I was in 7th grade (about 13) and continued to play in school almost until I graduated, but once I bought a drumset I was more interested inplaying in a band more than a school band, so I concentrated more on that! I really like to mess around with keyboards a lot, but I am not classically trained at all. I am more into making strange sounds with them and I use a Theremin too. But I never really was able to learn guitar, if I had more time though I would like to learn a bit of that too!
Did your parents always support your career?
Yes. my mom even sang in a small local rock band when I was about 10 years old! So I have always been around music with my mom, she was always playing albums! I can still remember being very young, probably about 5 or 6 and seeing that first Black Sabbath album cover with the green witch on the front, it was very scary looking back then, but for some reason I was very attracted to it as well, so I would say maybe even that cover itself had something to do with warping my mind into what I have become today!!!!!!
Did you play in several bands before you joined MORBID ANGEL?
Not at all, I had jammed with people here and there, but Trey and I both really started trying to have a real band back in 1982.
and I drums.
||The band was formed in 1983, by you, Trey Azagthoth and Dallas Ward, how did you know each other? Did you have the same interests, the same musical taste etc.?
I knew Trey from High School and he knew Dallas, I think from his old neighborhood, but I am not sure when they actually met. But yeah Trey and I were like the only two kids in that school that were into the occult and it just happened that he played guitar
The name of the band was ICE, then you renamed yourself HERETIC and then you became MORBID ANGEL, how and by whom came MORBID ANGEL? Were you perhaps dissatisfied with the previous names?
ICE didn't last long and Dallas wasn't in it at first, but Trey really wasn't happy with the name anymore so he changed it to Heretic (he came up with ICE as well) and almost right away we found out that there was another HERETIC, so Trey came up with MORBID ANGEL, because someone told him our stuff sounded really morbid!
In your early days you played covers of ANGEL WITCH, SLAYER and MERCYFUL FATE, which songs of these bands did you play?
A lot of them actually! By ANGELWITCH we played "Baphomet" (still one of my most favorite songs ever) "Angel Of Death" and a few others off the first album. We did a few songs off the first two SLAYER albums as well and we did instrumental versions of a lot of old MERCYFUL FATE, too! Too many too list, we played almost everything off "Melissa" and the first EP!
Didn't you play at that time VAN HALEN covers? As I know, Trey is/was a great fan of VAN HALEN, right?
No VAN HALEN! We never played any of that at all.
How do you recall the early MORBID ANGEL rehearsals? How often did you rehearse, how was your rehearsal place etc.?
We played everywhere and anywhere! We would always try our houses first and we used to go to this park that had a small hill and a neat covered gazeebo that was pretty big and had electricity, so we would carry all our stuff up that hill and just start jamming until someone would finally complain and stop us. We even rented a generator and played on the beach a few times, that drew huge crowds and of course lots of parties!
Did you take MORBID ANGEL seriously right from the start?
Once we got Dallas, we really started taking the band seriously!!! Before that the few other people we played with were really not into the occult, but Dallas was too, so once Trey and I found that 3rd person that had the same interested we got really serious.
How was the scene of Tampa at that time? AVATAR (later SAVATAGE), NASTY SAVAGE, MORBID ANGEL, MANTAS were the first bands, is that correct? Was there a healthy club scene? Could you tell us more about this legendary period?
It was amazing!!! All those bands and more! There was another band called ARGUS that was a metal band much like SAVATAGE, but they did more cover songs than originals, but it was killer stuff like old MAIDEN and ANGELWITCH, I used to watch them all the time back then, but their singer quit and they never found anyone that was as near as good of a singer and frontman as he was, so they eventually just fell apart and broke up. But two years ago I saw one of the guitar players and he said that they were going to reform again wih the original singer and both guitar players and they needed a drummer, so I joined and we started doing a lot of shows last year, but one of the guitar players and his brother who was playing bass, ended up not having enough time to play in a band, so they both quit and Demain from AFTER DEATH joined on guitar a few months ago and we got another bass player and actually began writing all new stuff, so we are working on that right now, soon we will have some new stuff recorded!!!
Evil! Speed wasn't really something we were that into back then, it was more about the mystique of the band itself and calling forth The Ancient Ones!
||Would you say, that with the foundation of MANTAS and MORBID ANGEL started a very new, unknown style, which was labelled death metal? Was your approach different compared to for example SLAYER, RAZOR, DARK ANGEL, METALLICA or EXODUS?
I definitely think so, I mean MORBID ANGEL didn't sound like anybody at all, especially back then and MANTAS was really heavy, heavier than most of the bands back then!
The fact was to play uncommercial, fast and aggressiv music, right?
For me it was always to be as origainal as possible and as
Although POSSESSED were the first who used the notation "death metal" on their classic "Seven Churches" record, would you say, that the Florida based bands have had an effect on POSSESSED? Were you familiar with them?
POSSESSED was way heavier than most of the bands out back then, but to tell you the truth, I'm not sure when they actually formed, they were all really young back then, younger than me and I know a lot of heavy stuff had already been realeased by other bands for a while.
Would you say that the great death metal boom was around 1985/86?
A lot of bands came into being, such as XECUTIONER (OBITUARY), HELLWITCH, ATHEIST etc. For sure!!! It started around '85 and pretty much stayed pretty strong until about 1992.
There was two scenes in Florida, in Tampa and in Fort Lauderdale. Why did Florida become the center of death metal? Were there differences between the scenes of Tampa and Fort Lauderdale?
I guess that the Tampa bands were maybe just a bit more extreme and original and there was always a bigger crowd in Tampa, so the support of the people probably helped a lot too.
When did you start writing own material? Was it a conscious, logic step from your part to write more aggressive and brutal stuff compared to the covers?
Well, it's cool to play covers you like, but we always kind of did them our own way anyway, but the idea was to create not to copy!!!
In 1985 joined Kenny Bamber the band, what about his musical past? Was he the good friend of the band?
He had been in a few rock bands and said he could sing like King Diamond and he owned a huge PA and light system, he was older than us at the time and he seemed to know a lot about the music business in general, so there were a lot of reasons why we tried him, but in reality it only lasted a few months, he just didn't fit in with us.
You recorded a two track demo featuring "Demon Seed" and "Welcome To Hell", were these songs the very first MORBID ANGEL ones? As I know, it was an instrumental recording, wasn't it?
The first professionally recorded stuff was with Kenny on vocals and Dallas did some vocals as well on it, if it was instrumental that you heard than it was probably just some kind of a rehearsal tape. We had tons of jambox recordings back then, I wish I still had a lot of those old recordings, Dallas had most of them, but we always recorded our rehearsals!
In August 1985 you recorded "The Beginning" demo and the vocal duties took over both Dallas Ward and Kenny Bamber, why did sing both of them?
Basically the demo contains two songs "The Gate/Demon Seed" and "Evil Spells" plus two instrumental ones. We didn't really like the stuff Kenny did, so while we were still in the studio Dallas also did versions with him singing, so we could have them in case we didn't keep Kenny, which of course we didn't!
Who wrote the lyrics and the music in the early ages? Was a concept behind them? Did you have a kind of image, as far as your music, lyrics, clothes etc.?
Mostly everything was written by Trey, although Dallas wrote a lot of stuff too and it wasn't until Dallas left and I started singing that I started writing lyrics too. We all were really into the occult and the Necronomicon as well, so that was our biggest influences!
How and when did Richard Brunelle get in the picture as frontman guitarist/vocalist? In which bands did he play earlier? Why did both Dallas and Kenny leave the band?
We thought it would be a good idea to get two guitar players since Trey liked to play a lot of leads and we saw Richard at a party, he never really played in any bands before, but he was also interested in the occult, so we thought he would be a great choice. Dallas went to jail and Kenny just didn't fit in with us and what we wanted to do with the band.
"Hellspawn", could you tell us more about this tape?
||Then joined John Ortega the band so could Richard concentrate only on the vocals, what about John's musical past?
John joined because Dallas went to jail! Before that Dallas did most of the vocals and Richard did a few, but he couldn't play and sing at the same time, so in reality if Dallas hadn't of went to jail then he would have been MORBID ANGEL's vocalist and I would have never even tried singing!
This line-up recorded a live demo in Tampa 1986 featuring "Bleed For The Devil", "Chapel Of Ghouls", "Abominations", "Morbid Angel" and
That wasn't a demo, it was just a soundboard tape of a show we did that got circultaed in the underground. It was here in Tampa at a place called "The Power Company" and we played on the PA that was owned by ARGUS back then, that was in 1984!
Was Richard the perfect man for the position of the vocalist? Didn't you think about to admit a real singer/growler?
No he couldn't sing and play at the same time, that's why I believe that Dallss would have ended up as the frontman.
Talking about the live gigs of MORBID ANGEL, could you tell us more about them? Any memories about those shows, when you played in the band?
It was always a very magical event when we played, we always had incense and the proper things to set the mood before we played. I don't want to go into too much details but we did a lot of ritual type stuff before shows!
I have a DVD in my collection which titles "Live In Tampa" 1986.
Could be either "Rocky Point" which was outside or "Sidestreets" which was inside. If it is neither than let me know so I can get a copy!!!
For a little period you rehearsed with a female singer Evilynn as well, what about this period? Did you also give shows with her in the band?
Lynn was Trey's girlfriend and we never did any shows with her and she only jammed with us a couple of times when we rehearsed, so she was never actually in the band at all. I think it was only two or three practices at the most.
Why had she leave the band?
She was never really in the band, but her and Trey broke up anyway, they weren't together for too long.
After Evilynn's departure you took over the vocals, were you forced to do the vocals or couldn't you find real singer? Could you concentrate both on the vocals and on the drumming at the same time?
We were tired of trying to find a singer, especially someone that really fit in with what we were into as far as the occult and music. So I said I will try and bought a headset microphone and tried and it worked pretty naturally for me and today I am still singing and playing drums together. In Nocturnus I did the same thing and toured all over Europe and the United States and thosands of people have seen that I have no problem playing and singing at the same time.
Dan Beehler of EXCITER was also drummer/vocalist?
Yeah, I still remeber "Black Witch", what a classic song!
In 1986 you cut a four song demo "Scream Fourth Blasphemy" including "Hellspawn", "Chapel Of Ghouls", "Angel Of Disease" and "Abominations", did you develope compared to your previous recordings?
Nope we never did a demo, that may have been another rehearsal tape that got out and circulated around, but we never recorded anything after what we did with Kenny until we recorded that full length "Abominataions Of Desolation" LP. Which was in truth MA's real first album, not Altars of Madness.
The demo spread the name of the band worldwide, it found its way onto the underground trading market, did you think at that time that the demo will be successful? Did more fans start interesting in the band?
I am not sure what this demo is that you are talking about, maybe you can send me a copy, because it's probably just a really good sounding rehearsal and I don't even have a copy of it!
Did you get letter from fans worldwide who wanted to buy the demo? Do you still remember how many copies was sold from the demo?
Trey did most of the mail for MORBID ANGEL back then, so you would have to ask him that question.
At that time, thus 1986, started interesting labels into the band, which labels did show an interest into the band? Did they offer you a curious deal? Did you have discussions with them or were they rather investigations?
We really hadn't talked to any labels at all yet, but an old friend of mine from Tampa that had moved to North Carolina had called me and he said he was in a band called BARREN CEMETARY and that the bass player had a record label and he wanted to hear our stuff, so we sent him a rehearsal tape and he sent us a contract, that person who owned the label happened to be David Vincent (Evil D), the contract was really good and he wanted Bill Metoyer (of old SLAYER fame and countless other bands) to engineer the album, so we signed it right away.
Gorque Records, which owner was David Vincent, was interested also in the band, is that correct?
Yep, just like I mentioned, but he was really the first to be serious about signing us, so instead of waiting we just went ahead and signed a deal with him.
Do you still remember what kind of releases did David have at that time? Which bands did he sign at that time?
We were the first to be on Goreque, but he was also very interested in MASSACRE at the time.
He must have released the debutalbum of MASSACRE, but the plans miscarried, do you know something about it?
I am not sure what actually happened with the MASSACRE thing, but I remeber the deal fell through pretty much when David got in MORBID ANGEL.
Was the tape a real demo or would you name it as a preproduction of the "Abominations Of Desolation" record?
Like I said we never recorded a demo in the studio after Kenney so it had to be a rehearsal tape.
Then you went to North Carolina in May 1986 to record the debut album "Abominations Of Desolation", why didn't you record it in Florida? Didn't still Morrisound open their doors at that time? Weren't suitable, good studios in Tampa?
David wanted us to use some expensive fancy studio where he lived, so we drove up there in a rented truck with our stuff and he flew in Bill Metoyer from California and we recorded in some studio that did a lot of country music, the guys that owned the studio didn't know what to think about our music!
The material consists of old tracks, but "Azagthoth" and "Lord Of All Fevers And Plague" were brandnew tunes, right? When did you write them?
Trey and I were always writing a bunch of stuff, one thing that never got recorded was the song "Morbid Angel", I believe it was over 10 minutes long!
What about the recording sessions? Any memories of it?
We did all the recording in a few days and then David sent me and Richard and Johnny back to Tampa and kept Trey there by himself for the mixing, little did we know that the whole thing was a plan by David to try to get Trey to quit MA and join his band! And in the end it worked.
Who played the bassparts of the record? Were they played by John Ortega or was Sterling Von Scarborough already the member of the band?
They were played by John Ortega, David convinced Trey to fire Johnny and it was David who hooked us up with Sterling. We never knew Sterling before he tried out for MORBID ANGEL. But David didn't want me or Johnny or David, he wanted Trey for himself, and it wasn't until Trey and I got in an actual fight when I caught him with my girlfriend and beat his ass really bad and that was the real reason why Trey and Richard left Florida to play with David Vincent.
The album was shelved due to the band disintigrating in a physichal argument over your girlfriend, what happened? Didn't the bandmembers go well with your girlfriend?
As I just said I guess Trey got along too good with my girlfriend, I caught them together at Trey's moms house where he lived at the time and I beat his ass so bad that was the end of me being in Morbid Angel and jamming with Trey! The next day he came and got his equipment from the house that Richard, Sterling and I lived in and that was the last time we ever played together.
The album wasn't released, because you weren't satisfied with the sound of it, what was the reason of it? Weren't any good equipments, you haven't had enough time to finish the recordings, it was a non-professional staff or?
That was the real reason because I beat Trey up!!! There were a lot of excuses that Trey made after that, because he didn't want the people to know what really happened!!! But the only thing we really weren't happy about was the bass playing, we were pretty happy with the rest of the recording, so it was still supposed to come out, it's just that Trey and I got in that fight and everything changed from that point on.
When "Abominations..." would have been released in 1986, would it have been the very first death metal record?
I doubt that! There was lots of other stuff out by that time I think!
"Abominations..." was released later in 1991 by Earache, how happened? Did you the material re-record? Were you satisfied with the end result?
David sold the album to Earache just as it was recorded back in 1986. I didn't even know anything about it until after it was already out and in the stores, so I had no say in anything, they weren't even going to give me any royalties or any credit for it at all, David and Trey were going to make all of the money off of it, but they ended up paying me some little royalties but they never gave anything to Richard or Johnny at all even though they both played on it and no credit or information as to who even played on it was given either. even to this day on the official Morbid Angel website it says that Abominations was a demo, but it is clear to see it is a full length record and no Sterling did not play on it either! So even to this day Trey is not telling the real truth about Abominations and who played on it.
The titles of the MORBID ANGEL records follow the alphabetical order, is this a conception? When and who came with this idea?
I came up with Abominations of Desolation, it's from Aleister Crowleys Book Of The Law. About the rest of the albums I don't know if it was done on purpose at first, I think it was just something that happened and after a few albums they noticed it and then kept it going.
In your opinion, how much did develope the music and the lyrics of MORBID ANGEL as far as the other records? Were David Vincent and Steven Tucker good singers, did they fit to the band?
MORBID ANGEL has changed a lot, David Vincent brought in a lot of lyrics that were not occult oriented, it's pretty clear to see that MA is now a corporate type of band that is all about making money more than true soul inspired musick!
How do you see the career of MORBID ANGEL as a whole?
I think they hit their high back around "Domination" and they will make a really good come back if they record with David again, but like I said it's all about the money now!
Why and when did you leave the band? Did Sterling von Scarborough join the band after your departure?
As I mentioned earlier after Trey and I got into that fight, he and Richard actually left Florida altogether and Sterling and I reformed his old band INCUBUS with a new guitar player Gino Marino. so Sterling was in the band before I left, he had just joined and we did just one show with him on bass, but unfortunately that show never got recorded in video or audio!
At that time has John Ortega left he band as well, why did he decide to quit the band? Was the reason of his departure that he founded a new band called MATRICIDE?
Johnny was fired by Trey right after we recorded that album and Sterling was brought in as his replacement. It was after that that he formed MATRICIDE.
Interview: David Laszlo
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