Hi Chris, how are you doing? The new record ‘Corrupting Influence’ is about to get released and I have to say it sounds killer! How have the reactions been so far and how is the vibe in the Internal Bleeding camp at the moment?
Hey Dennis, cheers from Colorado. I am currently on tour with Arsis, Pyrexia and Within Destruction, and finally found a few free minutes to answer your questions. Anyway, so far, the reactions to ‘Corrupting Influence’ have been great. I think our fans appreciate that we keep expanding our sound, but never lose sight of who we are and what we do. The vibes within our camp are pretty good, we’re feeling confident and really looking forward to pushing our album as hard as possible over the next year or so. As I said earlier, we are currently on tour, and we’re planning a European run this coming spring. We’re looking forward to getting out there and making new fans, as well as meeting old ones.
You are calling yourselves the ‘undisputed gods of slam’. Can you explain what ‘slam’ means to you and why Internal Bleeding are the gods of slam?.
Slam as a concept is music that is designed to make the body move. It’s pit-friendly, heavy on groove, with an emphasis on syncopated drum beats backed by quality guitar hooks and grooves. Many people (in my view) misunderstand the concept of slam. They think it is one type of riff (a breakdown riff or a slow, chromatic riff), when in reality it is an all-encompassing approach to writing music that’s completely focused on groove – even the fast parts.
We’ve been at the forefront of this for over 25+ years, we’re the ones who coined the term slam as applied to death metal, and consequently set our own rules for what slam is. This whole slam thing has become kind of funny in the underground with people fighting over definitions of it, etc. It’s all quite interesting. It doesn’t matter whether you think we are ‘true slam’ or whatever, we know who we are, where we came from and what we do to crowds when we play, and that’s the most important thing. As for the ‘undisputed gods of slam’ thing, well, that’s just some fun hyperbole…maybe (wink wink).
In April last year, you lost your friend, long-time drummer and founding member of Internal Bleeding, Bill Tolley, who died from a tragic accident in line of duty as a firefighter in New York. This must have been quite a blow to the band, but what made you decide to continue as a band?
It was a terrible blow. Not only was Bill a talented drummer, but he was my best friend, confidante and an integral part of the band. We were all ripped apart when he died. That being said, there was never any question as to whether we should pack it in and quit. Internal Bleeding was one of Bill’s biggest passions, and simply throwing our hands up and giving in would be the last thing he wanted. As a matter of fact, if we gave up, he’d come right from the afterlife and beat the shit out of all of us. Bill Tolley was a great man and a thoroughly decent human being, and every time we record, practice or hit the stage, we do it for his legacy.
One of his last works with Internal Bleeding was the recording of the video for the new song ‘Final Justice’. It was released a day after his passing away. Was the release already planned for this specific day or did you decide to speed things up after the tragic events?
The song was slated to be released on the day after he died. We contemplated on whether to delay the release but realized that the best way to honor him was to get the video out on schedule so that people could see that Billy was more than just a firefighter — he was one hell of a musician. It was really hard to put that video out, but we knew in our hearts that it was the right thing to do. In hindsight, I am glad we did it because the reaction to it was overwhelming, and we really felt the love and saw the impact Bill had on fans far and wide.
Originally ‘Final Justice’ was meant to be a teaser for the new material to come, but it ended up as a tribute to Bill Tolley and I think it turned out really great, almost heartbreaking to see him walk in the video and play drums not knowing what his fate would be. How do you feel about the video nowadays?
It’s very hard for me to watch the video. I haven’t watched it in months, and the last time I watched it, I ended up in a puddle of tears. I hope with some time I can watch it and smile, but right now it’s too difficult for me to do. I will go back and watch it eventually, it’s just going to take time.
Was ‘Final Justice’ at that time the only song you had written for this album? Or are there more songs on ‘Corrupting Influence’ that were written with Bill still in the band?
Final Justice was the first song written for the album, but by the time we made that video, we had 3 more songs completed: ‘Corrupting Influence’, ‘Fatal Dependency’ and ‘Surrounded from the Inside’. I think the only reason we chose to make a video for ‘Final Justice’ was purely budgetary — it was the shortest of the four songs we had written, and the least complex, which meant we could record it and make a video of it far easier than the other songs. That being said, we did think it best represented where we were at musically at the time, we had played it live quite a bit and fans seemed to really dig it.
When did you write the rest of the material of ‘Corrupting Influence’? Does Internal Bleeding write songs as a band in the rehearsal room of are you, as the only remaining founding member of the band write all the material yourself?
It’s really a combination of different approaches. It usually starts with me writing a song, or most of a song, then recording it on my computer with a drum machine. Then I usually get together with Chris McCarthy (my partner in crime) to go over what I’ve written. He and I put our heads together and he adds riffs, makes suggestions and changes to what I’ve written etc., then we come to a point where the song is presentable to the band. We let the rest of the guys listen to it and let them give us their reactions. We take their reactions into account and add or change things accordingly. Finally, we begin jamming the song in the rehearsal room and make further changes if necessary. If we have time, we jam the song live and refine pacing/speed, etc. Once the song is done, usually me, Chris and Joe get together over some drinks and smokes and write lyrics to the song. Finally, once we get into the studio, we make more changes if inspiration strikes.
You recorded ‘Corrupting Influence’ with Joe Cincotta at Full Force studios who also produced your last album ‘Imperium’ and Suffocation’s ‘Of The Dark Light’ album. Why did you choose for Cincotta, was it a smooth process to record there and would you recommend this studio to other bands as well?
Joe is not only an incredible engineer, but he’s a good friend of ours and that counts for a lot when you are in an intimate environment such as a recording studio. He has a thorough grasp of our sound and also offers a lot of creative input which helps add some dimensions to our songs that we may not have contemplated. We were pretty well rehearsed before we went into the studio, so the process went smoothly, and that left us a little time and budget to experiment a little and play around with things. I would absolutely recommend full force to anyone — Joe’s a very talented engineer.
The artwork of ‘Corrupting Influence’ was designed by yourself and does not look like your typical death metal cover. What is the idea behind the cover artwork?
Well, first and foremost we specifically wanted a cover that was not your traditional death metal cover. Seriously, how many 12 headed hydra, snakes, Satanic images, naked bodies etc. on covers do we need? The scene is littered with covers that all look and feel the same. We wanted a cover that stands out from the rest and has relevance to the material within. Every visual on the cover represents the meanings of our songs and reinforces the message that we are trying to get across, which is that mass media is turning us into robots — eternally hooked into the media grid/internet, and voraciously consuming useless information for survival. In the process we are losing our humanity and becoming nothing more than drones. The young man on the cover is raging against this transformation — the corrupting influence of mass media — but it’s useless.
And again, your new record will be released by Unique Leader Records, who seem to be doing a good job for Internal Bleeding?
Unique Leader is a good label and Erik Lindmark is a good guy. He’s gone through a lot of medical issues recently and it screwed up the release of our album, so I am quite disappointed at the moment. Even though I am upset about the release getting messed up, it’s completely understandable — Erik needs to get back on his feet and be healthy, so he can continue to do what he does. I just wish he had some succession plans in place in case an emergency situation came about. I hope he gets better soon.
About a month after Bill’s passing away you went on tour in the US with Kyle Eddy on drums. I guess the tour was already booked when the tragic incident happened. How did you manage to find a replacement so quick? And did you ever consider cancelling this tour?
Well, when we were planning the tour, we already knew that Bill couldn’t do the whole thing, so we called on Kyle Eddy to back Bill up on the dates he wouldn’t be able to do. Kyle filled in for Bill 12 years ago on our ‘Onward to Mecca’ tour, so it was only natural that we ask if he could fill in for the US tour. When Bill passed, we asked Kyle if he could do the entire tour, and he said yes. About halfway through the tour, we all realized that we really were having a great time, and Kyle’s personality matched ours, so we asked him to be an official member of the band while on the tour. It’s really kind of mind blowing how it all worked out and sometimes you have to wonder if Bill had some kind of hand in all this.
How does it feel to be working with a different drummer after so many years?
At first, it was incredibly uncomfortable. I did my best to hide it from Kyle and really struggled to adapt to his nuances. I never wanted to Kyle to think that he would always be in Bill’s shadow, that’s not fair, so I really worked hard at gelling with him. And, to Kyle’s eternal credit, he understood the Internal Bleeding sound and approach, so he fit in quite seamlessly. I’d say the first few weeks of the tour were very difficult for me, as I had to struggle to deal without Bill being there, but I know he wanted us to always push the band forward no matter what happened, and I took a lot of comfort in that.
When you released ‘Imperium’ in 2014, it was your first album in ten years’ time. Internal Bleeding split up in 2004 but was brought back to life in 2011. Why did you break up in the first place and what made you decide to give it another go?
There are many reasons for the band’s hiatus. A lot of it had to do with the eternal abuse from labels, press and others as well as the exhaustion we endured since we began way back in 1991. The band was out of gas, so to speak, and it just fell into disrepair. I had left the band right before the ‘Onward to Mecca’ album was recorded, and I think without a ‘captain of the ship’ things just fell apart. Jerry Lowe (the vocalist at the time) did the best he could to keep things going, but it just wasn’t working anymore. When 2011 rolled around, I decided to rescue the band, right the ship and get it back on course. I needed to do this because I feel we had a lot of unfinished business that needed to be taken care of. I am glad we did it.
’Imperium’ was recorded with founding members Brian Hobbie and yourselves on guitar, Bill Tolley on drums and former Catastrophic and Pyrexia singer Keith Devito and Jason Liff on bass. How come this line-up did not last?
The simple answer is life and careers. Both Jay and Brian simply could not tour, and I wanted the band to ramp up touring quite a bit, so it eventually came time to replace them with members who could tour and commit the proper amount of time to practice, etc. Keith had many physical problems stemming from his job that made touring quite difficult for him, so he had to leave as well. I hate constant line-up changes, but unfortunately it is part of life. Unless you are an elite band making good money on the road, a touring lifestyle is very difficult maintain. Fortunately, I own my own business and can leave for tour whenever I want, the other members in the band have jobs that allow them to tour. Hopefully it will last, but you never know.
For the new record you recruited Kyle Eddy on drums as mentioned before, but also Chris McCarthy on guitars Joe Marchese on vocals and Pyrexia bassist Shaun Kennedy. Was it hard to get this new line-up together?
Actually, it was quite easy! Chris McCarthy had already done plenty of fill in touring with us, and he was helping me write parts on ‘Imperium,’ so asking him to be full time was a no-brainer. Shaun and Joe have always been in the band’s orbit as both friend and fans, so asking them to pitch in and join was another good solution to our membership problems. Once Jay, Keith and Brian were out, the new guys stepped up and stepped in.
You have been touring the US and Europe with this new line-up, I saw you play at the Netherlands Deathfest last year and the crowd was really wild and happy to see you guys play and seemed very supportive. How did you experience this tour in Europe without Bill?
Well, quite simply, we kept Billy’s spirit alive during the whole tour. Many nights were spent reminiscing about our last European tour, and many drinks were had in Billy’s honor. You see, Bill may be gone physically, but he is so ingrained in the DNA of this band, that he’ll never leave us. He’s always there, pushing us to be the best we can be, and his memory will live eternally in our music.
I also noticed you are doing the Bloodletting North America tour in October and November with Decrepit Birth, Arsis and Pyrexia and you are bringing your old singer Frank Rini from the first two albums ‘Voracious Concept’ and ‘The Extinction of Benevolence’ on tour. Is this only a temporary solution because your singer Joe Marchese cannot make it on tour? And why did you specifically ask him back?
Due to the fact that Joe has two young children to contend with, this tour’s timing was really bad, so he had to miss it. On a whim, I decided to ask Frank if he’d like to step in for a few weeks and tour. He loved the idea and really jumped at it. It felt great to be back on stage with him, and we had a blast! I am sure Frank will be back for some limited engagements and special shows. He is an important part of the band’s legacy so doing some special shows or tours with him could be a possibility.
Also your bassist Shaun Kennedy is not going out on tour with you guys and his replacement is Ryan Giordano of Mercy Blow and Flesh Tomb. Is Shaun playing with his other band Pyrexia on this tour?
Shaun is only doing the European leg of the Pyrexia tour. Due to some personal stuff going on in his life, he couldn’t do the US tour with either us or Pyrexia. Ryan is doing a great job filling Shaun’s shoes and we really had the good fortune to recruit him for this tour — he’s a solid player with a great sense of humor and good work ethic.
What do you like best about touring and this upcoming tour in particular?
The best parts about touring are playing your music every night, meeting fans, making new fans, seeing the world and enjoying the camaraderie that comes with spending a month on the road with your bandmates and other bands. I really am enjoying the Bloodletting tour because it is a cool combination of different bands ranging from deathcore, to NY death metal to melodic/technical death metal. It’s a bill that has a little bit of everything for everyone!
You were playing at the annual FDNY William N. Tolley Fundraiser… What is the thought behind this fundraiser?
It’s a fundraiser to help Bill’s family cope with expenses such as college, mortgage payments, etc. It’s the least we can do to help his family out. I hope that we get to play a few more and raise even more money for a very worthy cause.
What are the plans for the band after the Bloodletting America tour? What else do you have in store for the fans?
More touring! We have a lot of tour ideas in the works, and hopefully a lot of them will come to fruition. We plan on really pushing this album as hard as possible and getting out in front of people’s faces!
Will we see you guys any time soon in Europe again?
Absolutely! We’re actually working on something for March/April. I cannot really discuss it now, but if it goes through, it will be a pretty crazy lineup! I cannot wait to get back to Europe!
Thanks for your time to answer these questions. Good luck with the new release!
Thank you so much for the great interview! Make sure to check us out and keep in touch with us on Facebook! Cheers.