SUFFOCATION - BLOOD OATH - NUCLEAR BLAST
Mike Smith , the drummer for death metal band Suffocation, calls into Ali “The Metallian” and his radio show to chat about the group’s history, the Human Waste EP, the Effigy of The Forgotten LP, the upcoming first concert outside the USA and look forward to an upcoming record as well. – 13.03.1992.
METALLIAN: Mike, please give us a sense of Suffocation. What are you all about and how did you came to be a band?
MIKE: What Suffocation is a little bit is that we were all pretty much friends since we were little kids. We all played in different bands here and there, but we were always together. We were in basement bands here and there. Our singer Frank and the ex-bassist Josh Barohn started a band called Suffocation in their basement finally. They didn't get anywhere until I joined, then Terrance and our other guitar who is Doug came. Then we put out the first demo, sent it around and the name started getting around; getting known. That was our test right there to put out a demo and see if we can get known in the metal scene and we just ran from there.
METALLIAN: Right, so how stable is the line-up of the band now because I know you've lost a bassist.
MIKE: Oh yeah, we have a new bassist. He's Chris Richards formerly of another RoadRacer band, Sorrow. He left that band to join us and is working out really well.
METALLIAN: So, the line-up I assume is stable.
MIKE: Yes, definitely.
METALLIAN: How did you get a Nuclear Blast contract and how did you get on the RoadRacer stable, two labels that many musicians would like to be on? You got them both. How did it come about that you got them both?
MIKE: We put out an EP on Relapse Records. We had contracts from Century Media, Nuclear Blast and RoadRunner so we pretty much had anyone to choose from. Nuclear Blast really wanted to do an EP with us. We sent the EP around and our demo to RoadRunner and all those other labels. We were trying to decide at first between Century Media and RoadRunner, but the RoadRunner contract was the best so we decided to go with that. We had sent out our EP and did a lot of touring on our own. That's how RoadRacer picked us up.
METALLIAN: That's very surprising to my ears because, as far as I know, Century Media offers very good contracts. So how good was the RoadRacer contract?
MIKE: The thing is, Century Media… they do offer good contracts, but they couldn't revise or change anything, but with the RoadRacer contract they were willing to work with us to make things a little better for tour support, promotion and all that other stuff, which really caught our attention plus they were near home. They were right there in New York. Nuclear Blast was overseas, which made things a lot more difficult.
METALLIAN: Tell me about Jason Fligman. Fill me in on him as he was instrumental in all these deals.
MIKE: Yeah, Jay started out with the band. He took it upon himself to book a few shows and start a fan list and it just grew larger and larger. We do get a lot of fan mail. The band members don't really have time for that stuff so Jay has set up a home-office where he deals with that stuff and all the bookings. So he was with us right from the beginning.
METALLIAN: For the listeners who don't know, I guess, I should mention that Jason is the manager for the band. Does he manage any other bands?
MIKE: Yeah, he has another band called Human Remains and a band that has just now released an album called Broken Hope.
METALLIAN: On Grindcore international.
METALLIAN: Jason seems to be a very resourceful person. There seems to be one million death metal bands out there now. What would you say if I called you a follower of a trend? RoadRacer, for example, has Immolation, Gorguts, et cetra all signed at nearly the same time. How do you respond to this?
MIKE: I really don't think… there are many bands out there that sound alike, but we have some… I think we are a little faster with technicality and our guitar work is a lot different than most. That makes us a little different. There are not that many grind bands out there.
There is Napalm Death and Morbid Angel who prioritize grind and speed. We are another one of those bands.
METALLIAN: You are saying that you are different from other bands like Gorguts.
MIKE: As a matter of fact Gorguts are staying at our house tonight. Gorguts are definitely heavy, but they are not as grind as we are, but they do have the heavy parts.
METALLIAN: Do you get the feeling that the whole scene is overcrowded now or is this the right number of bands and that there is demand for all these bands?
MIKE: No, I don't think the scene is overcrowded at all. It can always grow bigger. The more bands we have out there of different varieties, the more popular the music gets and now it is becoming more popular in all categories.
METALLIAN: Could you quote any sales figures both for your EP and your album?
MIKE: The EP is doing really good over in Europe. We don't really have figures because we haven't received the royalties for it yet. Effigy… is really selling good. The Foundations’ magazine had it at number 29 in its Top 100. It's really selling good so far and the sales have not stopped. The stores are selling out and the stores have to restock it. I figure after the tour the album is going to be picked up a lot more, but we really cannot complain now.
METALLIAN: That takes me to my next question. I know you've been playing out quite a bit and you played a big festival in New York City with Nuclear Assault on March 7…
MIKE: No, no, no… we are playing with Nuclear Assault tomorrow night which is the 14th.
METALLIAN: Okay, just give me a sense of the shows you have been playing.
MIKE: We just started playing shows again recently this month. We just got back from Buffalo where we played a few shows with Revenant. We are playing with Grave and Massacre tomorrow. We haven't played with either of those bands so far.
METALLIAN: Compare the response you get with the response other bands get.
MIKE: When we play at the same show you mean? It depends on whether we headline, which we have been recently. The response at most shows is not that good, but when we come on the crowds go crazy! We are also playing in our area too so… we will see what happens when we play shows out of state, but the response so far seems to be really good.
METALLIAN: So the Montreal show is the very first out of USA show that you are playing?
METALLIAN: What sort of a response are you expecting? Are you getting nervous?
MIKE: No, no. I am not getting nervous. We get a lot of fan mail from around there too. I really couldn't say. I don't know how the scene really is in Montreal. I figure since the last few shows have all been getting bigger the response and the turnout has to be really good. So if the record is distributed out there I think it will turn out really good plus we are playing with a really good band.
METALLIAN: Massacre played Montreal two nights ago. You will be playing Montreal with the local band Necrosis next Thursday. Why would anyone come out and shell out any amount of money?
MIKE: If they are fans of death metal… I don't know if you have shows out there regularly. if they are into the music and plus Necrosis, I hear they are really good. it's all the fans’ gain. I don't really know how big we are down there yet. That's to be determined.
METALLIAN: So how big is Canada in Suffocation’s scheme of things?
MIKE: No, no you don't ignore anything. The goal is to get to every place no matter where it is as long as we hear that there is a scene out there we will be there and that's why we are coming to Canada. I expect the turn-out to be good. You know, I do hear that it's somewhat of a big scene even though I don't know bands from here that played out there.
METALLIAN: Well, I can guarantee you a very good turn-out knowing the scene here.
MIKE: You know, we really think it would be. Everyone's getting together in the scene and supporting it by going to the shows.
METALLIAN: If I were to give you a chance to say one sentence to Montreal fans in order to motivate people to turn out then this is your chance…
MIKE: I really think that all of Montreal will really see a good show. We're coming out there with intentions to destroy a lot of stuff and if the crowd is with us I think it will just make it better and make it an even better show.
METALLIAN: That sounds promising! What are the future plans where do you go from here?
MIKE: After Montreal we will be playing in Saint-Sébastien in Canada and then from there we split to Europe. We leave to Europe on April 6th. We will be there for a good month. As for the new album we don't really have a new date for when we are going to go in to record it, but it is more than halfway done.
METALLIAN: Who will you be playing with in Europe?
MIKE: We are going with Atheist. And there's a possibility that Monstrosity will come too, but we're not really sure about that.
METALLIAN: So you have new songs. You were talking about recording a new album.
MIKE: Yes, we have five new songs now.
METALLIAN: How do they sound?
MIKE: it's fast. it's a lot faster. Well, it's about the same speed, but there's a lot more going into it and we have a lot more guitars so it is more technical, but it still has that raw sound. The crowd can get into it and slam.
METALLIAN: That sounds promising. I have got Steve of Necrosis sitting here clapping away (everyone laughs).
MIKE: (To Steve) What's up??? Tell him he will hear a new song because we will play a new song.
METALLIAN: So we will be treated to a brand new Suffocation song. Make sure you will be there. Anyway, Mike thank-you very much for calling. Why don’t you send a last message to the Canadian fans?
MIKE: Thank-you. All right, we will see you Thursday night at the Show and check out CRSG in Montreal. Turn it up!
The band, comprised of singer Frank Mullen, guitarists Doug Cerrito and Terrance Hobbs, bassist Chris Richards and my interview partner drummer Mike Smith, played Montreal alongside openers Necrosis, Purulence and Crypt Keeper on March 19th, 1992.
Highly respected on the metal scene for its sheer organized brutality, N.Y.’s SUFFOCATION has now released its third full-length album. In what appears to be a case of two steps forward (improved production as well as maintaining the heavy writing style); one step backward (the lessened depth of the vocals), the new album Pierced From Within, the new amazing offering of vocalist Frank Mullen, guitarists Doug Cerrito and Terrance Hobbs, bassist Chris Richards and drummer Doug Bohn is an album, which, to Ali “The Metallian”, is reminiscent of MONSTROSITY’s Imperial Doom album. - 1995
The band disagrees with that assessment, but my first question for guitarist Cerrito pertains to those vocals mentioned earlier. I have heard that you had to resort to scuffles in the studio to have the vocals changed. “We were trying to get the vocals as clear as possible without losing the power,” he elaborates, as if ready for the question. “It took a little while, but we got it. There were no scuffles; I don’t know who your sources are. We didn’t want people to put the album on and only hear the vocals. We still have the very low vocals in some parts to maintain versatility though.”
I, for one, miss the older vocals. Regardless, what was your reaction when Frank was pondering leaving the band due to family commitments? Cerrito denies any knowledge. “I don’t know where you heard that from. That is not true.”
Even though I stand by my information we move on to the departure of drummer Mike Smith and the entry of Doug Bohn. “Mike was not getting along with a couple of us,” explains Cerrito, “ and his musical tastes were changing. He wanted to do side-projects. We had to change drummers as it was taking time away from Suffocation. Our new drummer is a friend and was in a band called Social Disease. At first, we weren’t sure about him because he comes from the hardcore scene, but he picked up amazingly well.”
What do you think of my Monstrosity analogy and my opinion that the band is getting a tad too technical in its composition? “We weren’t too technical on this album. We actually tried to veer away from that, as we felt we were too technical on our last album. This album is faster than our last. When writing for this album we were on our guards against becoming too technical.”
The obvious improvement over the last album is the great production the quintet has gotten. “Last time, due to discouragement by our label Roadrunner, we didn’t go to Morrisound Studio. That experiment was a failure. Morrisound is the best. Producer Scott Burns is the best to work with. It’s moderately expensive, but it’s worth it. I don’t know why the label was so anti-Morrisound last time. It was a stupid mistake on their part. Roadrunner kept us away from a studio where we can get a good sound! They said that studio is trendy. How can getting a good sound be trendy?”
On another front, what did the band think about Nuclear Blast approaching Roadrunner Records to buy Suffocation’s remaining album rights? Well, turns out the band is ignorant of the above. “We don’t know anything about this. Neither does our manager; I am sure, because he tells us everything. Perhaps they kept us out of it because the deal didn’t go through?”
In conclusion, let’s look ahead. What is next? “Um... I don’t know,” the six-stringer ponders. “The promotion for us and Deicide has been lacking so we will go on tour. We were looking to open for someone, but many bands don’t want to tour with death metal bands. Even bands like Death or Morbid Angel want to tour with other styles of bands to reach new people.”
Suffocation’s trek will see them on tour with Deicide and Broken Hope in some areas and with Crowbar in others. Seeing that the fans are the bread and butter of the music industry, here’s a question: which leg of the tour would you prefer to see? Enough said!
This interview initially appeared in Pit Magazine No. 15.
If you enjoyed this, read Amon Amarth