2009. február 2., hétfő

Massacre - Michael Borders

Massacre. What the hell do I need to introduce? Nothing. The name speaks for itself. Original member and former bassist Michael Borders answered my questions.

So Mike, in actual fact the very first Massacre formation was assembled as a cover band comprising singer Mark Brents, Allen West and JP Chartier on guitar bassist Scott Blackwood and drummer Bill Andrews, but both Mark Brents and Scott Blackwood would soon be dispensed with you took command of bass, is that correct? How did this line up get together exactly?
The "first" line up ,was , you are correct, a cover band. Bill Andrews had put together the line up. Definetly more of a thrash metal style (Mark Brents was borderline hair metal guy with an annoying high pitched voice) i actually saw them play a few shows around town before I joined. Bill had become annoyed with the direction the band was taking, and pulled the plug on the project as a way of losing Blackwood and Brents. Allen West and I had met a few times, and started to rehearse together with Greg Gall. One night I was having a party at my place, and Bill happened to be there. Allen took him to the side, we went to my garage and Bill heard me playing some riffs, and the next week we were practicing together. JP Chartier rejoined, as did Mark Brents for the time being, since we could not find a singer anywhere and we were wanting to play some shows. God he sucked. He was one of those assholes who "thought" he had talent, taking Operatic singing lessons, etc. Nothing worse than some idiot who doesn’t know his limitations.
What kind of covers did you play?
Covers? Standard early metal for the time. „Black Magic”, „Deathrider” by Anthrax, „Piranaha”, nothing special really.
What about your musical background prior to Massacre? If I'm correct, you were involved in Cyanide alongside with Allen West and Greg Gall…
Its hard to consider ANYONE from that era to have a “musical background”. Its not like any of the guys in those early bands took “formal lessons” let alone could actually read music. Really just a bunch of bedroom practicing metalheads who could convince their parents to buy them guitars. If you could play a complete song back then you pretty much had a shot at being in a band.
Have you ever recorded any material with Cyanide? How did the band sound like?
Allen and I recorded some songs, they became the songs on the first Massacre demo. Cyanide never played any show, never had a singer, we really only jammed for about 6 months.
As for yourself, how did you discover the brutal side of metal, such as Metallica, Slayer, Exodus, Dark Angel etc.? Were you always into brutal, aggressive materials or…?
I “discovered” the heavier bands pretty much the same way a young guy discovers masturbation, BOREDOM. I was bored with Judas Priest, Maiden, etc. and one day I picked up „Show no Mercy” and was like HOLY SHIT! Then I heard Motorhead, and Celtic Frost and it was all over. I went from wanting to play like Steve Harris and started scaring the shit out of my family with my practicing dark, distorted bass lines in my room all day.
Do you agree with, that Massacre were one of the earliest extreme death metal bands, acting as pioneers of a style that was a popular underground phenomenon long before gaining public attention and widespread success?
Its sounds pretty conceited to even think that, but looking back, going thru all the fanzines at the time, before we started pushing demo tapes, you obviously had Metallica, Raven, Slayer, and Possessed, etc. But the underground bands that were making a name for themselves were bands like Nasty Savage, Savatage, Medieval, Anvil, not exactly what you would consider “extreme metal”. When our first demo came out, with Kam’s vocal tracks, even with the stupid effects on piss poor recording, it was heavier than most of the tapes we had heard.
Building off the speed and complexity of thrash metal, death metal came to true prominence by the mid 1980s, what do you think about it?
Death Metal peaked early in my opinion, then lost its way. The first few years ,when it was primitive, angry, and much hungrier were interesting. Then a lot of bands, Massacre included (Promise?) wanted to be taken more seriously, maybe a new level of success, make a bit of cash, who knows, but all of a sudden production values increased( producers making more on a project than the band), a shred arms race ensued, where bands tried to be more technical than one another, trying to be more complex, and in the process, lost the art of a good heavy riff, the kind of riff that makes a young guy grind his teeth and bang his head. Overplaying became as clichéd as the Satanic Posers that filled the scene. There were lots of guys with serious chops, but they couldn’t write a good riff to save their ass.
Do you still remember how did the whole Florida death metal scene come into being? Were you familiar with the first generation of death metal, such as Mantas/Death, Hellwitch, R.A.V.A.G.E., Morbid Angel, Slaughter, Genocide/Repulsion, Master/Death Strike, Possessed, Hellhammer/Celtic Frost etc.?
All of those bands were in those great fanzines back then, I have to think, especially when I get nostalgic and break out those ancient cassette tapes, what would have happened to some of these bands if we had the internet back then?
How about the club scene in Florida at this point?
Almost non-existent. The local bands had to go to these club owners, especially the “all –ages” venues that didn’t serve booze and BEG them to let us put on a show, pretty much offering to cover all expenses, make no money in return, just to have a chance to play a show. Later on we hooked up with a promoter who set us up with some decent shows opening for more established bands when they came into town. I think we would make one hundred bucks total between all four of us for the night if we were lucky.
Is death metal typically characterized by the use of heavily distorted guitars, harsh vocals that are low-pitched and/or growled, morbid lyrics, exceptionally fast-paced rhythms and melodies, frequent blast beats on drums, and complex song structures with multiple tempo changes?
In my opinion, you can have ALL those qualities in a band, and NOT be a death metal band. Good death metal starts with aggression, hostility, anger,etc. Without that root, you’re just a punk with a distortion pedal and some pussy screaming into a microphone, no more real than a metal version of the Backstreet boys, following the trends of a producer and a hopefull fan base. I have heard so many allegedly heavy bands that have such a complete and total lack of “pissed off” in their veins, I’d rather listen to old school jazz.
Bands like Possessed and pioneer death metal bands such as Death, Massacre and Morbid Angel are considered prime influences in the genre, right?
A lot of second generation bands consider them / us to be, I’m not as arrogant as to go around bragging that Massacre is a prime influence on anyone else.
The formation debuted live with two back to back gigs, the first supported by Executioner (later Xecutioner, then Obituary) and second as openers to Morbid Angel, what do yo urecall of these particulary gigs?
The first gig with Xecutioner was chaos. No soundman, just plug in, set up a PA and play loud. Cool thing it really didn’t matter. The kids in the audience just wanted to hear something new and heavy. For most in the area, it was their first experience headbanging and moshing outside of their parents living room. The day of the show, the center we were playing in was being used to teach Karate classes to local kids. We all show up and start lugging our gear in, 8-9 long haired metal guys with guitars, the instructor got all pissed at us, but we were so jacked we didn’t care. The second night with Morbid Angel was this huge club with a massive pa, but it was the kind of place that normally hair metal bands played, and it served alcohol ,so no one under 18 could come in. Not a lot of people showed up, and since the soundman was used to normal bands, he turned the vocals up way high in the mix, which gave Mark Brents a chance to suck at a new level. He was out a few weeks later.
Following these shows was Kam Lee pulled in as new frontman in early 1985, who was in Mantas prior to Massacre, how did he get in the picture exactly? Was he the first choice of the band?
Kam was living in Brandon with his Uncle, and somehow Bill found out he was in town. I really had no idea who he was. Me and Bill drove over to pick him up, just so he could hang with us at practice. Well ,as usual ,Allen West was too fucked up, so he was a no-show. So me and Bill just started playing, just bass and drums. Kam grabbed the mic, we played “Piranha” and “Black Magic”, Kam tore into the vocals, and that was it. New singer. We knew we couldn’t deal with Mark Brents anymore, so it was a no-brainer.
Do you still remember how did Chuck end up moving to Canada to rehearse with Slaughter? How did it happen exactly?
All I knew was Chuck was up there, it was in the fanzines, and then he was gone.
This line up recorded the first demo featuring „Aggressive tyrant", „Mutilated" and „Death in hell", how was the demo recorded? Can you give us details regarding on the demo?
It was recorded as quickly and cheaply as possible. We had no money, we knew we had to nail each song in one take, with overdubs for the guitar solos and vocals. Sounded like shit, but we were excited to be on tape that wasn’t recorded on a boom box in a garage.
As an offshoot of the Death family tree Massacre naturally relied on precision riffing and Florida crunch, how do you explain this?
It was just “how” we sounded. We didn’t go out of our way to sound a particular way, but when the four of us got together, that is how it came out. Cheap equipment, lots of aggression, lots of practice.
Would you say, that Kam Lee also figures as a catalyst, cited as the originator of the death growling of vocal, which would provide an indelible identity stamp on the genre?
I’m sure Kam would (ha ha ha)
Like other early thrash/death metal bands from Florida, you spread your name by recording demo tapes that were sent around the world and traded with various contacts, do you still remember how many copies did you manage to sell from the first demo? Did it open some doors for the band?
We sold around 300 copies of the first demo, probably gave away even more. There were some guys that had fanzines for sole purpose of getting free shit. Really didn’t care. The more people who heard us, the happier we were. When we would get letters from people in Japan or South America, we thought that was just insane.
Did this tape make a name for you and introduced the band for the fans?
Funny but the tape that REALLY did that was a live tape from a show we played at Rock City in Tampa. It wasn’t the live demo we put out, just a sounboard tape that got traded like mad. It kicked ass, we were on fire and the tape just captured our raw sound perfectly.
At which point and why was JP Chartier exited? Is it true, that Trevor Peres was auditioned but not choosen?
JP Chartier was out before the first demo, and before Rick Rozz came on board. He was a good guy, but just not “heavy” if you know what I mean. His heart wasn’t into it. Trevor auditioned, but just didn’t seem to fit. I like Trevor, heck of a guy, but it just didn’t seem right.
How and when did Rick Rozz get in the band? Was he the most suitable person for this position?
Myself, Bill and Kam drove to Orlando to convince Rick to join us. He was living in a tiny little travel trailer with another fat guy. Smelled in there too. We wanted Allen out of the band. Lost our patience with his drug problems. Rick would bum rides to Tampa, stay at my pace for 3-4 days, and we would practice as much as we could, finally he moved out there and he and Kam moved in to a place, along with Terry Butler.
Prior to Massacre he was involved in both Mantas and Thatcher, wasn't he?
How about his skills, since he became known of his tremolo picking solos? Did you consider him a talented guitarist?
He was no Guitar god, mater of fact he couldn’t really play the thing that well, BUT he excelled at the double picking, palm muting distorted riff style, and that is all we needed. I could care less if we had a guitar solo in a song anyway. They kind of bored me.
The second demo including „Chamber of ages", „Clangor of war", „From beyond", „Symbolic immortality" marked the introduction of Rick Rozz, did he have a big hand into the songwriting or was the material written when he had joined?
Those songs were written within a few weeks of Rick joining the band. He had a different style than Allen, and would all throw riffs and ideas at each other until we had something cool. Some riffs would be written by Rick or myself and would stay unaltered as a song, while others would be changed at another members suggestion.
How did the recording sessions go with this demo?
Two day process. Once again, we knew we had to blow the songs out in one take, couldn’t afford to re-record anything . Actually the song “Cryptic Realms” was supposed to be on the tape, but we ran out of time /money to finish it. The studio this time was actually in the home of an older musician. We sat up in different rooms, Kam in the bathroom ,Bill and I in a spare bedroom, Rick in the dining room, and we cut the songs.
What do you think about this tape after 23 years of its release? What would you tell us about the songs?
I’m actually glad we were low on cash. Rick was already talking about “better production values”, I love the raw, unpolished sound we had, lots of rumble, string noise, etc. Its what we sounded like. Looking back I wouldn’t change a thing.
How much did you develope compared to the first demo? I mean, did you become better musicians, was it a better representation of the band, did it really show your musical goals and stuff?
There really wasn’t that big a time span between the two demos. Less than a year. I think the first demo suffered from a bad mix, but more from our own inexperience in the studio, we were nervous, and our playing reflected it. The second tape we were more sure of ourselves, so I don’t think it was because of us growing as musicians, I think it was self confidence. And yes, it was a perfect representation of who we were and where we wanted to go at the time.
Were there any similarities or differences between both demos?
Main similarity was the time / money factor. My father asked me if we were playing so fast because we were on the clock. Other than that I think it sounds like a totally different band.
Is the first demo notably rawer-sounding than the second, and succeeds in being even more low-end-heavy than the „Chamber Of Ages" and the guitar sound is kinda weird?
Chalk that sound up to the combination of inexperience in the studio, a bit of nervousness, and Allen Wests full blown RAT distortion pedal tone. Funny how on the second demo, Rick didn't even use a guitar amp, that was his BC rich mockingbird plugged into my BOSS Overdrive pedal, and right into the mixing board.
Did this demo draw more fans attention to the band?
It did, but we never really “released “it as a demo for sale. It was to be used as a promotion tool to get label attention. Kam and I still mailed out a hundred or so copies to friends and anyone else who would listen.
How much promotion did you make for this demo? Was it also circulated in the tapetrading network?
Circulated yes, promoted, no.
The groups first live gig with Kam and Rick was recorded at the Streets Club in April 1986, how did the show go as a whole?
It wasn’t bad as far as “first shows” go, A few mistakes, bit of nerves, plus we had just kicked Allen West out a week before the show, so Rick was playing the songs a bit different. We got screwed by the club owner though, ended up giving away one of my bass guitars to cover the PA bill. Bastard.
The set included the Death song „Corpsegrinder", was it the only one Death song, that you played or…? Whose idea was it at all?
Kam and Ricks idea. I wasn’t too thrilled by it at the time, but after seeing the audience get into it, I was won over. Funny thing is my nephew, who played Football for the University of Notre Dame, and now the Seattle Seahawks has “corpsegrinder” in his Ipod as part of his pre-game ritual. Song is as old as he is.
Your next show was at the Metal Mania Festival in Tampa on the 25th May 1986, do you still remember this event? Can you tell us more about it?
Once again, club owner screwed us all. Forced us to start the show mid day, when it was supposed to start around seven p.m. Only about half the audience that should have been there made the show. It was ungodly hot, and I was puking between songs from the heat. Trey from Morbid Angel almost got nailed by a tent support during their set when the wind picked up.
Did it succeed in doing a great buzz around the band? Did you have a great amount of followers as for the underground scene? I mean, did the demos and your live shows help to expand the band's popularity in the underground?
Underground yes. Locally no. We were getting letters, tape orders, etc from around the world, and could barely get an audience in our own hometown.
Experimenting once again with a twin guitar sound the vacancy was briefly filled for a few shows by Robin Goodwin, at which point did he get in the band and what about his previously musical experiences? How long did he stay in the band? What went wrong with him?
Robby Godwin was a friend of Ricks, don’t know where he came from, he used to hang out at all the Nasty Savage gigs. Rick wanted a second guitarist so he could solo more. He was still in the band when I was booted. From what I heard Robby was kicked out for being a stoner and it interfering with his playing.
Have you ever recorded a material titled "Infestation of death"?
Infestation of Death was never recorded in the studio, it made it on the live demo, and it was on one of the hundreds of practice tapes that Kam or myself mailed out. The main riff was written by JP Chartier actually, we added a few more parts as time went on, song had a great riff in the middle that always seemed to get the pit moving. That was a bootleg release of the two demo tapes released by Moritaka Recors in Japan. Incorrectly gave Terry Butler credit for playing bass on the two tapes as well.
Rumors, that the group had signed to Cobra Records for an album given a title „From Beyond" proved premature, correct? Were there any labels interest inthe band at this point at all?
Yes and no. Were were in contact with a few small labels, but Rick would take any contact as “we’re getting signed” and run his mouth to everyone he could.
Massacre recorded two demos and one EP which was never released since David Vincent, the owner of Goreque Productions, joined Morbid Angel instead (he was also going to release an EP from Morbid Angel at the time), does it mean that he offered you a deal or…?
He never formally offered anyone a deal, us or Morbid Angel. I think Dave spread that rumour. Yea, he came down to Tampa and was talking to everyone about how he had connections with some big outfit to back his project, and when you’re a broke metal guy, you’ll listen to anyone that tells you he can help you make a living headbanging.
What about this EP? Is this the material, that became „Second coming" later on?
EP was probably Second Coming. I had nothing to do with that pile of shit.
Why and when did you leave the band? Were you involved in other outfits after you quit the band?
Once again, not like we were all best friends to begin with, but Rick and I started to butt heads, hard. All of a sudden “Massacre was HIS band” and he thought he was in charge of everything. I had done all the leg work, laid out all the recording cash, the money to print t shirts, done all the mail, the copying and sending of tapes and stuff to fans and fanzines, and now all of a sudden he was going to take over and do it his way. Had a big blow out at practice one night and that was it. I moved to South Florida after that, played in a few other bands, but nothing serious. Not much of a scene down there to say the least.
Did you follow what's going on in the death metal scene? Do you agree with, that in the late 1980s and early 1990s, death metal gained more media attention as popular record labels like Earache Records, Nuclear Blast and Roadrunner Records began to sign death metal bands at a rapid rate?
The labels that turned us down were signing bands that sounded like us left and right. A lot were better than we were, but a lot weren’t . I still follow whats going on as best I can, listen to whats new, whats old, anything that sounds heavy enough to fuel my morning workout. Funny how Stormtroopers of Death still finds its way into my headset every now and then. GREAT music to lift weights too.
In the late 80s death metal and extreme thrash were becoming increasingly popular, and bands were much more widespread than when Massacre was formed, what's your opinion about it?
Timing is everything. Plus the internet, and the creation of slicker, glossier more readily available magazines. I remember grabbing an issue of some trendy metal magazine at a gas station and fucking Deicide was in it. Right next to a story about the new Iron Maiden. Blew my mind. Hell yesterday I read where Morbid Angel are opening for Iron Maiden in Mexico in a few months. Holy Shit, who would have EVER thought that would happen 20 years ago. I give Trey a lot of credit for hanging in there all these years.
In 2006 German label IronPegasus released the „Aggressive tyrant" CD including the two demos and some live material, who came up with that excellent idea? How deeply were you involved into the making of the material?
Costas contacted me, ran the idea by me, and at the time I was aware of all the bootlegs on Ebay, so I told him “Hell, I’ll give you the tapes for free if you put out the real deal” I sent him the original copies of the demo tapes, a to of pictures, old flyers,etc. I think his project did us justice.
What do you think about, that stylistically, there isn’t much of a departure from that incendiary Mantas material, though in some senses Massacre were even rawer and more uncompromising?
2 thirds of Mantas was in Massacre, pretty self explanatory.
Was Massacre's focus always staunchly entrenched in the riffs, and this much is evident throughout the flesh-tearing, necrophiliac excursions presented here?
Riff was priority. If you couldn’t bang your head to it, it didn’t make the cut.
While this stuff is/was far more obvious on „From Beyond", the ubiquitous spectres of Celtic Frost and Hellhammer leer their gruesome heads throughout all of Massacre’s material, though this influence is certainly not as prominent as Xecutioner/Obituary, do you agree with it?
Allen West was into the slow, subtuned riff ala Celtic Frost. I honestly don’t think he could play that fast. Too stoned back then. It was a real shame he couldn’t control his habits more. Frost was definitely an influence, but we didn’t indulge in the ambient side of what they did.
There is the same stark simplicity, the same repudiation of pretension and complication, the same pummeling, bludgeoning emphasis on riffcraft, the riffs are propelled head on with one another, culminating in rabid, relentless and forcefully single-minded death metal of unspeakable intensity, how do you explain this?
Seriously, I don’t think that as a band we were talented enough to play anything much more complex at the time. Simple, heavy ,aggressive, that’s the way we liked it though. In my opinion, making a song too complex takes the heaviness out of it, saps its strength. And its not like we set out to keep the songs simple, just when we tried to add more parts, more complexities, etc, it just kind of ruined the idea behind the song.
„Death In Hell” is vintage first wave death metal, the Hellhammer and Sodom influences really coming to the fore and coalescing to make for pulsating, pus-filled primitiveness, right?
Low end heavy on the first demo was just bad recording and Allen Wests RAT distortion pedal, Probably enhanced by the humidity here in Central Florida.
Would you briefly sum up your thoughts about the further Massacre releases? „The second coming", „From beyond", „Inhuman condition" and „Promise". Second Coming?
Rick trying to be thrash. From Beyond / Inhuman Condition? All our old songs, re-recorded and over produced (keyboards in place of my bass line on Chamber of Ages”? What the fuck?”) Promise? Rick turning Goth, probably because another fat stripper left him for a thinner hair metal musician.
As for „From beyond", it is the way death metal was meant to be and this is what death metal is about, a monstrous, brutal slab of death metal…
Simple and Heavy , to each his/her own tastes, but this is what WE wanted to hear at the time.
What do you say, to it that they were performing at the Wacken Open Air last year and Kam plans to release a new Massacre record in 2010?
Beating a dead horse. I’ve heard the tapes, seen the videos, the intensity of the original line up is not there.
Did you never think about to rejoin the band? Did you regret leaving them back then?
When I first heard about Kams latest plan, I thought about tracking him down for old times sake, tell him hey, lets do one song together, see how it goes, but unless it just totally kicked ass, I ‘d hate myself.
Are you still in touch with Kam, Bill Andrews, Rick Rozz, Allen West or JP Chartier?
I haven’t seen / spoke to any of them in 20 years, except for JP ,who I did run into about 12 years ago. We had some good laughs.
What about Bill Andrews and Rick Rozz these days, since they seem to be vanished from sight for a long time?
Bill is in Japan, work for HotRockin importing old records. Rick is probably lodged in a booth at an all you can eat buffett in Orlando right now.
What kind of materials do you listen to these days? What are your actual faves? Do you still consider yourself an underground metal fan?
These days I listen to pretty much anything that I think is done really well, regardless of type of music. Rap obviously is 100% shit so that’s not an issue, I love some of the NYHC bands like Sick of it All and Madball, Tool, Slayer of course, but also old dead jazz guys like Charlie Mingus and Thelonious Monk. I don’t have actual favorites, but right now in my car player is Faith No More, EyeHateGod and Al Dimeola
How do you view, moch did the whole (death) metal scene change or develope compared to the golden '80s?
Went in a direction I don’t care for. Lost its way for the sake of recognition and lost it meaning in the process.
Your closing words…
Thanks for the interview, its always good to know that we still have fans out there somewhere, especially after 20 years.

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