Morbid Angel- Gateways to Annihilation – Interview

Morbid Angel

Gateways to Annihilation (Earache)
An interview with guitarist Trey Azagthoth
by Tim Den

This band hardly needs introduction. One of the most original, thought-provoking (both lyrically and musically) bands in the death metal genre, Morbid Angel have survived a decade and-a-half as one of the most abstract, enigmatic, yet brutal bands in the world. They’ve inspired bands from Chile to Poland, survived numerous line-up changes, and have ultimately come to be seen as one of the most technically and atmospherically ripe bands armed with C-tuned guitars. Their march into eerie-yet-gruesomely heavy territories continues with Gateways to Annihilation, the first album to see bassist/vocalist Steve Tucker really grow into his role as frontman comfortably and confidently (after his debut, ’98’s Formulas Fatal to the Flesh, turned out to be an indecipherable blotch of speed and incoherence [the entire band though, not just Tucker, should be blamed]). Gone is his gurgled delivery, replaced by solid commands that stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those of his predecessor, David Vincent.

Echoing more of Blessed are the Sick‘s drugged ambience than Altars of Madness‘s sickening blitzkrieg, Gateways to Annihilation also welcomes – for the first time since ’95’s Domination, perhaps the band’s finest hour – input from other band members besides Azagthoth, to fully realize a deeper, resonating sound. With Tucker proving his songwriting strength and guitarist Erik Rutan back to once again pen some gems, this is Morbid Angel returning to form. The Earth rumbles as this double-bass filled, dragging-dead-bodies-behind-you-in-the-dirt, slow-and-creepy stomp of a record opens up a rift of darkness through your stereo speakers. Prepare yourselves.

Where are you living now?
Landolakes, Florida. Like the butter. It’s near the Tampa area.

What are you doing to pass time?
I personally play Quake III Arena online. It’s fun. I’ve got a clan; the Sailor Scouts. We’re an all-rail clan. We play with only rail, which is just one weapon: the rail gun. It’s a blast.

Now you’re gonna get millions of Morbid Angel fans bombarding you and trying to track you down online.
Yeah, sounds good! It’s a fun clan, too. We’re always open for new people to join. We have a webpage that’s attached to Morbid Angel’s domain. It’s a basic page right now, but it’s gonna be looking pretty good soon.

What other games are you into?
Just Quake III. I also play some Doom and ZDoom, a little bit of Unreal… but mainly Quake III.

Any members of Morbid Angel hold down other jobs during down time?
I don’t. I don’t know if any of the other guys do. They all live in this area. But none of them are originally from Florida, I’m the only one.

Where is Pete (Sandoval, drummer) from?

Was he in Morbid Angel before or after Terrorizer?
After. The Terrorizer album came out after Altars of Madness, though. He was in Terrorizer before he joined Morbid Angel. He did it as a side project after he joined Morbid Angel for that one album. David (Vincent, ex-bassist/vocalist) was on it too, playing bass. That was his original band too, before joining us.

There’s some confusion regarding Morbid Angel’s early history. What do you consider your first record?
Our first real release was Altars of Madness. That’s the debut, official album. Anything before that was just a demo.

That includes Abominations of Desolation?
Right. That was a demo.

What was the (band’s original) line-up on that?
It doesn’t matter. I don’t really like to talk about it. ( states that the original lineup that appears on Abominations of Desolation was Trey on guitar, Mike Browning on drums and vocals, and Sterling Von Scarborough on bass. Supposedly they also had an earlier bassist named John Ortega, but that’s just a rumor)

Do you feel connected to Florida’s infamous death metal scene?
I’m not a part of any of that way of thinking, but I do like some of the bands. There were some really good bands who came from this area – and still are – and some others that have moved here. I think all that is great. My favorite band in this area would have to be Nocturnus. The present Nocturnus (after his Morbid Angel duties, Mike Browning led Nocturnus for a while. He was fired in ’92) with my friend Mike Davis playing guitar. I actually wore their shirt in the new album’s photos. But as far as politics, hype, trend, gossip, and rumors, I don’t pay any attention to it. It’s not a part of my world.

Do you see a sense of unity and community in the Florida death metal scene like in other genres such as punk and hardcore?
Yeah, I like to support other bands. And I noticed how a lot of people like to take stabs at our band. We’re paradigm shifters: we do things like nobody else. I see a lot of other bands doing things like everybody else, and there’s this unity that makes people all stay the same. If anybody becomes more popular or different, it makes people uncomfortable with their personal situations, so they want to slag it. That’s the way I see it, so I don’t get involved with that myself. When the music really stimulates me, I’ll talk about it. That’s the only reason why I would talk about somebody’s band: because the music’s really good.

As far as people, I get along with everybody. Even with Deicide. There are always some rumors going around about us, but I personally like those guys. I’ve hung out with them, seen them at shows, things like that… I like some of the music as well. But I don’t believe in hyping up a band if I don’t like their music. A band is nothing but music. If the music doesn’t move me, or it’s not the style I’m into, then I just don’t pay attention to it. It’s not that I want to slag it either, but I just don’t have anything to say about it if I’m not moved by it. Right now, I’m into The Gathering. I love them not because of anybody in the band, the way they look, how cool they are, or how popular they may be: it’s all about when I’m alone, listening to music, and how it moves me.

Obviously I want metal – death metal – to be active, and I’d hate to be the only death metal band… it’s important that death metal stays goin’. But I think what’s more important is it having bands with creativity. And imagination. And really expressing themselves truthfully through their music, when they write, coming from a higher place rather than writing some shit to try and fit into some genre. I think that’s the wrong reason… To me, that’s not a very exciting reason to do anything. That’s more like mass production, corporate, slapping some shit together. I’m more into people who are true artists – eccentric, really weird people who don’t fit into anything. This not-fitting-in takes them to higher places for their source of power and energy and inspiration. That’s the better artist. In the past, all the really brilliant artists were the freaks. Jimi Hendrix: he was a freak. People like Eddie Van Halen: he was definitely weird and different and eccentric. I love those guys. I think they’re gods.

But both of them played the corporate game to a certain extent…
How do you figure? Eddie Van Halen was a paradigm shifter. He came out and showed whole new ways to play guitar, write songs, mixing, making sounds… I don’t believe that they were the kind of people concerned with fitting into a certain category.

I don’t mean artistically, but rather the other side of the music industry: selling and marketing. They were definitely part of the corporate market in the ways they sold and promoted themselves.
Well, you know, people do their own thing and I support that. People should do whatever they see fit. The way I look at the world and life, there is no absolute right or wrong way to do anything. There is no inherent meaning, and there’s no inherent truth either: we all create it in our minds. So however we do things, whatever patterns we run, helps us achieve our goals, but the goal is not a thing: it’s a feeling. A feeling of pleasure: that’s what life’s all about. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you’ve got in your hand or around you, it’s about what you’ve got inside. One person’s way to get that feeling might be totally crazy for another person. I really try not to judge. As far as music, I listen to it by myself, open-minded, and if I’m moved by it, then I like it.

Anything non-metal?
The Gathering, like I said. It kind of goes with my earlier influences, like Pink Floyd. I grew up listening to Pink Floyd and have always liked stuff that gets really deep feeling out of just a few notes. Simple technique, but all feeling. I don’t even think of them as a “rock band.” Pink Floyd is the kind of vibrations that open up all things… for me. It’s not “rock.”

How do you see Morbid Angel compared to Pink Floyd?
Basically, the members of Morbid Angel are just the instruments. Morbid Angel is an instrument that channels the energy of the universe, letting it flow through. There’s not a lot of thinking going along with it. There’s actually a lack of thinking, because when you start thinking, you’re coming from the abilities of a man, which is pretty limited. But when you’re not thinking and just feeling, you’re coming from a higher source: the creator. The energy that allows us to think and produce thoughts and feelings and ideas, not the thoughts and ideas themselves. That’s what we are: pure potentiality. The nothingness; the unmanifest that has the potential to manifest all things. I think that’s the way Pink Floyd looked at life as well. I think the really deep bands came from that place when they create. That’s the way I’ve always done it, cuz I don’t know what I’m doing. I never took guitar lessons. I just play what I feel. I’ve had a lot of people in the past say I do it wrong, but I didn’t listen to that. Nature and this… internal rhythm is always there. It’s beyond our intellect, our analytical thinking, our ego. It’s higher; it’s more of an intuition. I try to tap into that kind of power when I create.
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