2009. március 11., szerda

Texas Metal Alliance - Bruce Corbitt

The Texas Metal scene played an important role in the '80s to help developing the metal movement in the States. Bands such as Helstar, S. A. Slayer or Watchtower popped up and tried to make a name for themselves. They also opened the doors for the next generation of Texas metal, such as Gammacide, Devastation, Hammerwitch, Rigor Mortis or Militia. In this interview Bruce Corbitt (ex-Rigor Mortis) speaks about the past, present and future...

Bruce, do you still remember at which point did you join Rigor Mortis? Was this your very first experience as musician?
I officially joined Rigor Mortis in July, 1986. My first experience as a singer actually came back in 1982. I joined a band called Spectrum that had a 16-year-old guitarist named Mike Scaccia. Mike was part of forming Rigor Mortis a year later with Casey Orr and Harden Harrison.
How did you end up becoming singer and what were your influences to become musician at all?
My friendship with Mike from the Spectrum days gave me a better chance when Rigor Mortis started looking for a lead singer. For a while I was just helping the band out in any way I could. Such as giving them rides and with promotions etc. I also got up and sang a couple of songs with them at a few shows and parties before they made the final decision that I would become their new singer.
My influences went back to being a big Beatles fan as a little kid. Then in the 70s I loved bands like Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, Rush, UFO, Alice Cooper, The Scorpions, Judas Priest, etc. Then in the 80s it was Iron Maiden, Sabbath with Dio, Ozzy with Randy Rhoads, Slayer, Megadeth, Motorhead etc.
In 1986 you released a demo, can you give us details regarding on this tape?
We recorded our 7-song demo in about 8 hours on one day. It was only recorded on 8-tracks and it was recorded sort of like the old Beatles albums. What I mean by this is that the guitar was coming out of one speaker and the bass came out of the other. We planned to only do 5 songs, but we ended up having enough time and space to record two others.
Was it your first studio experience by the way?
Yes it was my first time in the studio. The first song I sang was Re-Animator and I remember we kept my very first attempt. So I always liked knowing my first ever take in the studio ended up being on the demo.
How much support did you do for the demo? Was it sent to radio stations, record companies, fanzines etc.?
Yes, we did all of that and we also got it in local record stores to sell. Obviously the Internet wasn’t around back then. So that was just the way a hungry band got their music out there in those days. We made 1000 copies of the demo and we tried spread them everywhere.
What kind of reviews did you get on it?
Most of the reviews were positive, especially on the songs themselves. But of course many people noticed it was just an 8-track demo. So obviously the quality and production didn’t sound as good as Slayer and Megadeth albums. Some people pointed that out, but many others understood that it was just a cheap demo. So they could look past that and just pay attention to the songs themselves.
Did you get your deal from Capitol on the base of this demo? Which labels did still start showing an interest in the band besides Capitol by the way?
Yes, the demo led to us getting noticed by Capitol Records. But, it was our live performance that finalized the deal. Rachel Matthews was a new A&R scout at Capitol and she liked the demo. So she flew out to see us perform live. She was impressed and not long after that, she brought the Vice-President of Capitol to check us out. They told us they were going to sign us after he watched us jam. We had some label interest before that from Electra, Geffen, Island and Metal Blade. The demo was a piece of shit, but it did us a lot if good.
Is it correct, that Rigor Mortis has been regarded as the first death metal band to be signed to a major label?
I have heard some people say that many years later. At the time, the death metal band explosion was a few years away. People have always put us in so many different categories. Some would say we were thrash, others would say speedmetal and some said death metal etc. So it wasn’t like we were strictly considered as a death metal band at the time. We really never had the traditional death metal sound as far as guitar tones and vocals. But, our lyrics were about death and gore. So I have heard that some of the great death metal bands that came later have mentioned us as an influence. That is always a great compliment to us.
I do remember that Capitol promoted our first album as ”The most intense album ever released on a major label.” I think we might have also been the first underground Texas metal band to sign with a major label.
Didn’t want the label to push you into a commercial direction?
We would have refused to allow that to happen. I know we scared off at least one label because of that. Luckily, Rachel at Capitol loved us the way we were. So it was almost like we had 100% control of our music, because Rachel never tried to change us.
Were you aware of the New York based Rigor Mortis at this point who later named themselves –and are known as these days- Immolation?
We weren’t aware of them until after we had used the name Rigor Mortis for a few years. We also found out there was a Punk band called Rigormortis (with one word) that had released an album on an independent label. When we signed with Capitol, we bought the name from the Punk band. I guess that forced the Rigor Mortis from New York to change their name.
You released a two tracks single in 1988 called „Demons”, what was the importance of it?
That was just for promotional purposes. Those were sent out to radio stations, metal mags and record stores. But as far as I know... they were never actually sold.
You entered the studio during mid 1988 to record your debut album „Rigor Mortis”, what about the recording sessions?
I think it was in January of 1988 when we started recording that first album. We recorded it at Dallas Sound Lab. I remember how proud we were to be making our ideas and visions come to life in a huge nice studio. It was definitely a thousand steps up from where and how we recorded that first demo. But, looking back on it, I don’t think that Dallas Sound Lab was the right place to record it. We were the first extreme metal band to record there and I still don’t think it captured what we really sounded like. If you would have heard us perform live back then, you would understand what I mean. We were always tight as hell, but we had an intense, powerful and raw sound. The album was kind of too clean and thin sounding in my opinion.
How much budget did you get from Capitol? Did you have a lot of time to record the material?
We got good advance from Capitol to spend on recording and getting band equipment etc. But of course all of that has to be paid back with album sales. Anyway for a band like us we did have a lot of time to record, maybe too much time. It was done over a 3 week period and we few days off in the middle of the recording sessions. We were such a tight live band, I know we could have done it in a much shorter time and saved a lot of money. But that was how everyone thought albums for major labels had to be made at that time.
„Rigor Mortis” is a mix of rough thrash metal, some impressive guitar work by Mike Scaccia and particularly extravagant, gory lyrics with lots of humorous overtones, how do you view it?
Rigor Mortis was just a band that created music that we wanted to do at that time. We didn’t give a shit about trying to please anyone or fit into a certain category. If our music or lyrics offended anyone... we didn’t give a fuck. We honestly just wrote songs we liked to perform and the Rigor Mortis style developed from there. I think our love for horror movies comes through in the songs. We could appreciate the art and talent it takes to create bloody gore scenes that looked so real in the well-made big-budget horror flicks. Then find the humor from the bad acting and bad special-effects in the low-budget Horror movies. So I think we had a mixture of that in our own songs.
Do you agree with, that the best part on the album is the guitar and Mike Scaccia must have been one of the fastest guitarists of the 80's?
I absolutely agree that the best part is Scaccia’s guitar work on the album. If he wasn’t the fastest guitar-soloist of that era, I am not sure who was. Mike was always an amazing talent and just being in a band with him made the rest of us improve over time.
The sheer speed and fury is amazing, the album is flawless, isn’t it?
I think the musicianship on the album is almost flawless for playing songs at those speeds. Those guys were tight as hell when we went into the studio. But there are a couple of things that maybe only we noticed. Plus, like I mentioned before, I don’t think the production and overall sound was as good as we hoped it would be.
Most tracks are full of wonderful energy, partially due to your strong vocals that add to the powerful feel of this album, is that correct?
My vocals are kind of in the middle. I certainly can’t sing like Bruce Dickinson and I wasn’t as intense at the death metal singers that came later. So I just tried to sound evil, and at the same time I wanted people to understand the lyrics as much as possible. I think that what I am most proud of is that I can honestly say over 20 years later, Rigor Mortis has a distinctive sound and doesn’t sound like any other band. I also think that can be said of each individual member when we perform with Rigor Mortis. We all have our own unique styles.
What were the shows to support the record?
We did a couple of album-release shows in Dallas/Ft. Worth. One of them was at a club called Tommy’s in Dallas and the other in Ft. Worth, at the legendary Joe’s Garage. We did a few shows around Texas and then went on a 6 week USA/Canadian tour with Death Angel. That was about it really. We thought there was going to be a lot more tours, but the band was about to make some changes and we will get to those in your next question.
Why and when did you leave the band? How did wrap your departure up? I mean, was it friendly or...?
I was fired from Rigor Mortis in February, 1989. I was mainly because of personal problems with some of the members and certain things like the band wanted try a different direction. They wanted to have a singer that could play guitar too. I was devastated and took it very hard at the time. So it didn’t end in a friendly way when it first happened.
After you quit the band you formed Malignancy with Scott Shelby, Bryan Leigh, Ed Velez and Mark Powell, how did they get in the picture exactly and what about their musical background?
By the time I joined Malignancy, they had changed some of those members you just mentioned. The version I was in was with Bryan Leigh (Guitar), Ed Velez (Drums) and Kirk Williams (Bass). They were a good upcoming band and they were part of the same scene I was. We sort of knew each other, so they just asked me one night if I would be interested in jamming with them. I checked out their songs and liked what I heard.
You recorded a demo in 1990, can you tell us more about it?
I thought we had some great songs, but the demo just turned out sounding like shit. So we never really did much with it or released it. We had plans to go into another studio and record them the right way... but we never got the chance.
How did it sound like? Was it in the vein of your previous bands or…?
It was nothing like Rigor Mortis and didn’t really sound like any other band. It was fast and furious and very technical stuff. I did more speed-vocals than I did with Rigor Mortis. It kind of got ridiculous how fast I had to sing some parts.
It was a short lived act, why and when did the band come to an end?
One night we went to a club to promote an upcoming gig. I got drunk and I remember I pretended like I was going to pinch our guitarists’ sister on her ass when she came walking by. I was just having fun, but her brother (Bryan) didn’t like it. He tried to get me to apologize and I told him to fuck off. Then he just sprayed mace in the face and we started fighting. There was just no way I could be in a band with him after he used mace on me. I can handle getting my ass kicked, even though I didn’t that night even when blinded. But no guy should ever use mace and that is just something you just forget about at the time.
As for the Texas scene, what about bands, such as Watchtower, Helstar, S. A. Slayer, Militia? What were your views on that talented scene?
I think all of those bands were/are incredible. Texas is so big that a lot of those bands are several hours away. So I never really got to see those bands back in the 80s. Except for Watchtower, they came to Dallas in 1987 and did a show with Rigor Mortis and Gammacide. I have been friends with Jason McMaster ever since then and he’s a great singer and person. I never knew much about Militia until they reunited recently. They did a show in Ft. Worth with my new band Texas Metal Alliance back in December. It was actually their first show in 22 years. They will also be doing the “Keep It True 12” fest in Germany in April... along with Rigor Mortis. I have never got to see S.A. Slayer or Helstar, but I think both of those bands are great too.
Would you say, that they opened the doors for bands, such as Gammacide, Ripper, Devastation, Necrovore, Solitude Aeturnus, Rigor Mortis, Morbid Scream they belonged –so to speak- the second wave of the Texas metal movement?
I never thought about it, but I guess in some ways you could say that. Those bands helped put Texas metal on the map. But, honestly I never knew about any of those bands until I was in Rigor Mortis for a while. So I can’t say that they opened any doors for a thrash band like Rigor Mortis, because we had to kick down every door we came across... Ha! So it wasn’t like there was this big metal scene just waiting for us here in Dallas/Ft. Worth, as far as clubs booking underground thrash bands etc. That isn’t taking anything away from what those bands did for the Texas metal scene as a whole. It just means they didn’t have anything to do with what the thrash bands from D/FW accomplished. We had to pave our own road.
Did you start building up a friendship with them?
All of the Texas metal bands of that era were always helpful to the other Texas metal bands from different Texas cities. We would let each other know what record stores, fanzines and radio stations to send demos to in our cities. Then we would set up a show for them here in Dallas and they would return the favor in Austin or wherever. Now it wasn’t like all of the bands worked together like that as one big happy family. Usually each band would have a few other bands that they became friends with and they would work together well.
What kind of clubs did exist at this point?
Not many clubs in D/FW would book thrash bands in 85 & 86. So a lot of shows were at dumps that weren’t even legal clubs. One of these places was called The Tombstone Factory. It was an old building where they actually used to make tombstones. Of course the police would always catch on after a while and the place wouldn’t last very long. The first actual club that allowed D/FW thrash bands to play on a regular basis was called Joe’s Garage. Joe’s Garage was in Ft. Worth and that happened in 1987. From that point on the D/FW underground metal scene just exploded for the next several years.
Can we speak about a common Texas scene or was it divided to San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Houston?
It was a little bit of both. We were all proud to be part of the Texas metal scene. But Texas is so big and some cities are so many hours away. So the distance made it have to be divided in some ways. Each city was sort of creating its own scene. I think you can even notice the different types of metal bands and vocalist coming out of the different Texas cities. The great bands from Austin sounded different than the great bands from D/FW etc.
As far as the Dallas/Ft. Worth goes, it was the thrash bands that changed our local underground metal scene. Rigor Mortis and Rotting Corpse were formed around 1983. But things didn’t really start happening for those bands until they released demos in 1986. That same year (1986) Gammacide was formed, Hammer Witch moved here from New Orleans, Talon/Sedition released their demo and Morbid Scream was formed etc. All of these bands were part of the original underground thrash movement in D/FW, but each band had its own unique sound. The emergence of these bands was when the D/FW underground metal scene went to another level.
Both Gammacide and Rigor Mortis reformed a few years ago, but in 2006 came Texas Metal Alliance into being, to what does the name refer and how came up with it?
Your next question sort of explains all of that. Scott Shelby thought of the name once we decided to team up to do a benefit show. The name fit because it was an alliance of many of the old D/FW metal bands coming together to do a show and play each others songs.
The band features you on vocals, guitarists Rick Perry and Scott Shelby (Gammacide), bassist Alan Bovee (Gammacide/Devilfist) and drummer Joe Gonzalez (Demonseed) and originally it formed for a one-time performance to play a benefit show for Hammer Witch bassist/vocalist Wayne Abney, who had suffered a near-fatal motorcycle accident in August 2006. TMA’s performance for the benefit included special guest members from some of Dallas/Ft. Worth’s original thrash bands... Gammacide, Rigor Mortis, Rotting Corpse and Hammer Witch and after the benefit, some of the core members that made up TMA decided to make it a real band, can you tell us more about it?
We had such a good time working together and there was such good chemistry. So Scott and Rick called me up after the benefit and asked if I wanted to make it a full-time band. Rigor Mortis and Gammacide weren’t able to get together very often. So this gave us the chance to jam on a regular basis.
The band recorded a 4 song demo in Dec 2007 and a 5 song demo in Sept 2008, how were they recorded? Can you tell us more about those tapes?
We just went to a friends studio to record the first one. Like any new band you just want to record a demo. That way people can’t get to know your songs and you also hope it leads to getting some label interest. We were already signed by the time we recorded the second demo. So that was done much cheaper and faster just for the label to hear our other songs.
Are the demos good old thrash metal ones, that rooted in the ’80s or did you turn into a modern approach? Are the materials common with your early outfits?
We stuck to our old-school styles with this band. But unlike Rigor Mortis and Gammacide, we don’t stick to a specific style. It’s thrash… but not every song is full-speed thrash. We have more variety with TMA, so we are able to mix in some classic metal parts that are similar to Priest, Maiden, Sabbath or Slayer. In other words, we are just playing metal that we like and you can hear our influences in some songs. I think you can also hear some Gammacide and Rigor Mortis in the music and vocals too… because that is where we came from.
Both of them impressed the ears of Philip H. Anselmo (Pantera/Down/SJR/Arson Anthem) and he now plans to release the debut Texas Metal Alliance CD sometime in 2009 on his label Housecore Records, how did it happen exactly? Although it’s well known that he is very much into underground…
In December of 2007 Rigor Mortis did a small tour with Arson Anthem, which is one of Phil’s newer bands. We had been friends with Phil for over 20 years from back when he lived in D/FW and sang with Pantera. Phil is also a Rigor Mortis fan. Anyway, I told him about the new band I was in now and that it was with Rick Perry and Scott Shelby of Gammacide. Phil of course was friends with them back then too. So after the tour I sent him our demo in the mail. About a week later he called me up and said he loved it. He wanted first chance at releasing our first full-length on his label Housecore Records. We honestly never even tried to get signed by any other labels after that conversation... we knew that we had found our home.
When do you plan starting the recording sessions and is the whole material already written?
We go to New Orleans from April 10 – 19 to record it in Phil’s studio. We are going to record 10 songs and the songs are already written. We are definitely going to change the name of the band before the actual CD is released later this year.
TMA’s current live shows consist of a set list of many new TMA songs and a couple of classics from some of their former bands Rigor Mortis and Gammacide, do you plan to add more covers from bands, such as Hammerwitch, Rotting Corpse etc.?
We played Rotting Corpse and Hammer Witch songs at the 1st benefit show for Wayne Abney and at a couple of other shows after that. We had some of the guys from those bands come up as special guest at those shows. But once we decided to make TMA a real band, we slowly got away from the special guest thing as we wrote our own originals. We still do a Rigor Mortis and Gammacide song or two at some shows. Obviously because Scott, Rick and myself are from those bands. Scott did some solos on one of the Rotting Corpse demos and joined Hammer Witch for the last year of their existence. But Gammacide is the band he is known for. On special occasions or benefits we will still do the special guest thing and play songs from some of their bands.
Being a long time underground musicians you are, how did you view the reformations of ’80s acts, such as Heathen, Death Angel, Hallow’s Eve, Helstar, Devastation (Texas) etc.?
I think it’s great! Especially since our old bands have also reunited in recent years. Doyle Bright (who replaced me in Rigor Mortis) is now in Hallows Eve. It sucks that the Devastation reunion didn’t last very long. But, Texas Metal Alliance at least got to do a show with them before they disbanded.
Is the spirit of the ’80s alive? Did thrash metal reborn these days?
I think it’s safe to say that it is reborn. Metal has been strong this entire decade. But in the last couple of years, thrash has gotten bigger again.
Are you familiar with bands, such as Merciless Death, Toxic Holocaust, Avenger Of Blood, Warbringer etc. that aren’t original, but they are totally committed to the ’80s bands?
I am very familiar with those bands and I think they are awesome bands. In fact during our Rigor Mortis reunion tours, Avenger Of Blood opened for us in Las Vegas and Toxic Holocaust opened for us in New York. I consider those bands friends of ours now.
Are you listening to these days present bands or do you rather prefer the old stuffs?
I listen to both. I will always love the old bands. But I love checking out the new bands demos and CDs.
Thanks a lot for your answers, anything to add what I forgot to cover?
Thanks for the interview bro! I would just like to let your readers know to keep checking on our Texas Metal Alliance myspace page for our new band name change and the release date of our debut CD. www.myspace.com/texasmetalalliance

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