The new album has a "new", but familiar Deicide sound. And perhaps even more important, it has "new" compositions that are instantly recognisable as Deicide. Could you give us some insight in the composition of the songs? Who does what etc...
Thank you. Yeah the song writing process for the new record was not so different from previous ones. I'll demo out some songs, you know, come up with some riffs and arrange them into rough songs. At that point I have an idea what the drums are gonna be like. Like what beats I'll use where and for how many times, etc. Then I'll record some drums and lay some guitars on it. Give it a rough mix so it's a decent version of a song with no vocals on it. Then I'll hand it off to go and the fellas and wait for some feedback. Jacko wrote a few songs for the new record also, so he and I would demo his stuff and hand it to go and, same thing, wait for some feedback.
Back in 2004 I did an interview and asked you about Deicide's steady line-up. However, since then you have had your share of line-up changes. The Hoffman Bros left and Jack Owen arrived... and Ralph Santolla came and left and now he is back. Do you feel the band has become a fixed unit again?
Hehe, yeah we've had some shake ups but I suppose it's inevitable when you're in a band for along time. Once the Hoffmans left we got Jacko pretty quick. We got Dave Suzuki to fill in with Jacko for a tour we had coming up, in fact it's the tour we taped "When London Burns" on. Hehe, Dave was only with us for those two weeks of shows, but it was enough to remember him by because of that DVD. After we couldn't keep Dave permanently we started looking for another guy and Ralph was suggested by Jacko. When we took some time off a couple years ago, Ralph had to continue touring to live, so we all had no choice but to let him to what he had to do, join Obituary. At this point we want him on our records and he loves playing on them, so we'll continue to use him when we can and when he's not available we use Kevin Gurion from Order Of Ennead, my other band. He's a great dude and really tight live.
Guitarists are an important element of every metal band, what have the new guitarists given Deicide? Have they influenced compositions and sound in your opinion?
Well, like I mentioned, Jacko wrote some songs for this record and I think his style is clearly recognizable from mine. He's old school and I have a more dissonant, faster approach to my writing, at least in recent years, so that's an obvious contribution which I really dig. But even before he wrote songs for us, he brought something to the songs arrangement wise and also in character and feel and vibe and stuff like that. The stuff he did on TSOR was really cool. Ralph too, not just shredding but big thematic applications really made that record stand out. so I think they both bring a great deal to our modern deicide sound, kind of our Deicide "mach II". A lot of the old hardcore fans don't like the new Deicide sound, but it is what it is. I dig the shit out of it and think our writing has never been better, like it's more complete and cohesive.
This is your first album on a new label, why the change to Century Media?
Well, we kinda like to spread ourselves around. We did our time with Roadrunner. Did some records with Earache and that was interesting, ha! I'm sure they thought it was a blast. Our years with Earache were some of our most turbulent. I'll say this for them they spent the money to document us. Shit, they own footage of our entire guitarist transition. Anyway, so when it came time to sign another deal we just though it was time to be someplace else. I like Earache, they're all great guys, but I look forward to working with Century Media and seeing what they have in store for us. And I'm sure they're eager to see what we have in store for them.
I simply have to ask you about the sound of 'To Hell With God'. Its production sounds so different from earlier albums. I understand Steve Asheim, Glen Benton and Mark Lewis worked together on this. Do you feel the band members' influence counts for the change?
I think the main thing was the studio change. I'd done some records at Audiohammer with Mark Lewis with my other band Order of Ennead and knew we could get this modern metal sound but still be heavy as hell. OOE has a lot of blast beats and extended double base stuff and Mark hadn't really worked with stuff that intense before. So that was kind of training to get him ready for doing the Deicide stuff. We did the OOE stuff for really small budgets but they still sounded great. Once we actually went in there with some money and we were able to take as much time as we needed to make the stuff sound right, which was maybe the most important thing. The actual sound for the record I just kind of left up to mark to handle, I was more worried with content, that's my department.
This is your 10th album already; time flies. The band has been going strong for over twenty years. This means that your earlier fans, spotty teenagers then, have now become "responsible" adults (possibly). Do you rely on the old fanbase, or do you consciously aim at a new audience?
You know, I don't really think about it like that. I kind of just keep doing what I do and the fans will do what they do. Some get out of the scene, some keep going with it, new fans come along. What is cool is that in being around for so long as a band, you see the multi-generational thing coming into play. So we'll keep rolling along, picking up new fans and hopefully not alienating old ones. But hey it is what it is, you know, we do the best we can with what we have.
Your new album is marketed with phrases such as "... the band's strength and refusal to conform to continue their blasphemous career after facing a copious amount of bans, fines and strife in the name of their art". This leads me to ask whether things have changed over the years? In my country fanatic Christians are regarded as no more than a lunatic fringe, because your average Dutch person had affinity with religion and certainly isn't a regular churchgoer, but do you still evoke such powerful opposition in other countries as you did when you first arrived on the scene?
Yeah it's different in some places than in others. Some crazy shit went down in South America some years ago, a priest killed in church by some psycho who was a death metal fan or something. So we had some gigs booked down there and when we got to this particular country where this had happened and I remember the mayor of the city or some higher up made sure the gig was not gonna happen, and it didn't happen. Some places, and it is rare, people are just protesting because they're worried about their kids or something. But look at some of these places in the Middle East where they're passing the "blasphemy" laws that could result in a death sentence. That's some serious shit right there. Makes you wonder which way the world is really headed and if we're really important or not. Some people can write us off and sweep us under the rug as being cheesy or stupid, and that's fine. Some other folks just want to out-right kill us. How would that make anyone feel.
And, touching on the anti-religious aspect of your music, have you ever performed in a Muslim country?
We did play a gig in Istanbul, Turkey a year or two ago. It wasn't the greatest gig, small turnout, not organised very well. But I never felt like I wasn't welcome there. It was really cool in fact. I'd like to go back and just have a better show. Hey, metal is universal. No matter what country you go you see the kids with the black t-shirts with the band logos on them and they all know to throw up the horns. It's really great when you think about it along them lines.
This is probably a question you may have expected: what about the future? How do you see yourself in five or ten years time? Still going strong?
Yeah I've been keeping myself in top shape for just that reason, so I can keep doing this for as long as possible. I really dig what I do and look forward to another ten years of this, maybe more. We'll see what happens, but I'm ready for the long haul.
Let me end on a rather standard, but important question: Does the release of the new album also mean touring? And will we in the Netherlands be able to welcome you on our stages?
Yeah in fact we're on tour right now, in Canada, in the middle of a US run. We'll be hitting a Euro run this summer also. Around June July, doing some fests and some clubs. I think we'll be in Holland too, so I'm really looking forward to it. Always love Holland, for the obvious reasons.
Thanks for taking time out to answer my questions. If you have got anything to add, the space below is yours...
Thanks a lot for your interest and support and hope to see you out at the gigs.