[Interview] Morbid Angel (2018)
Morbid Angel is an American death metal band based in Tampa, Florida. Morbid Angel was formed in 1983 by guitarist and sole remaining original member Trey Azagthoth, vocalist and bassist Dallas Ward, and drummer Mike Browning. Widely considered as one of the most influential bands in the genre and important in the transition of death metal from its thrash metal roots, they were one of the first bands to incorporate guttural vocals, up-tempo blast beats, multiple tempo changes, and dark atmosphere.
They have been described as one of “the most influential and emulated bands in death metal”, alongside Obituary, Death and Cannibal Corpse, and have been cited as an influence by many later bands. They were also the first death metal band to experience mainstream success in connection with being signed to Giant Records in 1992, heavy rotation of their music videos on MTV, and having the music video for the song “God of Emptiness” shown on an episode of Beavis and Butt-head. Their first four albums are considered classics in the genre. At the Toronto stop of the Masters of Chaos tour, we had a chance to meet up with drummer Pete Sandoval, and this is what he had to say:
Grim Magazine: You’ve been touring pretty much non-stop since 2004, how does this tour compare to the others?
Pete: This tour is better than many tours we’ve done, I think this is the heaviest and most extreme tour we have ever been a part of. The bill is just so extreme, we’ve got a band like Behemoth, who is a big band from Europe and so intense. There’s Krisiun, who is from Brazil, they are very extreme and heavy but they have their own style, I really like them and you’ve got Despised Icon who is a different style, more hardcore but they are also very, very extreme. I really like this tour, it’s very good and it’s very extreme.
Grim Magazine: I first saw Morbid Angel in 2001 on the “Extreme Steel” tour with Pantera and Slayer, how does that tour rank all time?
Pete: First, that was a very, very special tour, like what band wouldn’t fight to get even the opening spot on a tour with Pantera? It was a great experience, even with the slot that we got, very special tour with very special people. It was a huge tour for the band as well, we gained many new fans, lots of people that had never heard Morbid Angel it was a great tour. People got to see the extreme Morbid Angel every night, the big double bass, one-foot blast beats and that’s what you’re going to get tonight.
These tours we are doing right now with David back in the band are really special, this one is our second tour in the States with David back and people are here to see the extremeness of Morbid Angel and we are going out there and playing the classic tracks from the classic albums, the real Morbid Angel fans will love this tour, because these are the songs that real Morbid Angel fans are going to be asking for.
Grim Magazine: With metal going through such resurgence are there any young metal bands that have caught your eye?
Pete: I think…I enjoy touring with Krisiun, they are a very good band and a band I wouldn’t mind doing a big tour with, I mean we’ve done tours with Nile, Slayer, Sepultura…but as for new metal bands, Devildriver is a very thrashy kinda band, I like them, their drummer is very good, he’s got some very tasteful drum parts, I respect him a lot, I like the vocals…but in terms of extreme stuff, well…Dark Days are Ahead (laughter)…the new Terrorizer album comes out June 15th on Century Media records, real fans have been waiting for this album for 17 years, a lot of fans have probably…died or got married or working jobs now (laughter).
We recorded this new Terrorizer album the proper way, it’s heavy and fast and the vocals are insanity. We have a different vocalist now, we needed someone for touring and Oscar (original vocalist Oscar Garcia) didn’t want to leave what he is doing now, he’s making some Latin music now and he’s not into touring and we needed someone who wanted to tour so we got Tony Militia, he’s a real singer and really great, he’s in another band called Resistant Culture with his wife, he also did all the artwork for the album.
Everyone was involved with this album, we made it happen and hopefully it will be a success, I mean it’s great for the underground, fans of Morbid Angel and Napalm Death and old Terrorizer fans are going to get this album they’ve been waiting for and really there aren’t too many grindcore bands around. We plan to do some real touring after the album comes out, playing songs from both albums. I’m really excited.
Grim Magazine: So “Heretic” came out in 2003, are there any plans right now for a new album? Has anything been written yet?
Pete: Right now our plan is to tour as much as possible, we are trying to make it as tight as possible we are playing every night and we are getting tighter and tighter. We are all really getting along and getting to be one group. David is out there every night doing his job which is what he always does, I mean David is David. We’re going to do this tour, hopefully, do some summer festivals, playing as many classic songs as possible before we do something new, we’re not going to forget about the albums we recorded with Steve Tucker.
In the meantime, Trey has been doing some writing, working on stuff like he always does, doing little recordings with his guitar at home like he always does. David is still working with his other band Genitorturers, he’s always up to something, I mean David loves music. Bottom line: We want to make this new album as awesome, intense and extreme as possible with this unit, so we want to be as heavy and tight as possible when we go into record, we’re going to do some more touring and I’ll tour with Terrorizer at the end of the year and then we are going to go into the studio and record. This is a great feeling, great experience, it feels like old times.
Grim Magazine: So there is a forthcoming re-issue of “Altars of Madness”, how do you feel about that?
Pete: You know what this re-issue is right?
Grim Magazine: Uhhh, the album remastered?
Pete: Oh no, okay, Altars of Madness was released in 1989, in November of that year we went on the Grand Inquisition tour with Carcass, Napalm Death and Bolt Thrower, in Nottingham, England the show was recorded without us knowing about it and that footage has just sorta sat for this long and now it has been re-processed, re-mastered and is going to be released with this reissue as a DVD. The whole Altars album is played with the original line-up, Richard Brunelle and you’ll get to see David with blonde hair. It sounds amazing, the audio quality is great and it’s in a little club, it’s going to be really exciting.
Grim Magazine: Well that sounds pretty awesome, I’ll be looking for that, one more question, you are obviously an extremely intense drummer, what type of preparation do you go through before the show? What type of warm-ups and exercises do you do?
(Pete gets up, grabs sticks and a stool and shows me his warmup)
Pete: I start to warm-up 30 minutes before the show, I get out a stool like this and my sticks and I start doing what I’m going to do that night, I work on fills and rolls and double bass (starts mimicking on the floor). I do a lot of air drumming, thinking about the songs I’m going to play tonight because when you are up there you are pushing against the forces of nature, it’s very intense and you have to be ready, mentally and physically, I try not to do too much in warm-up or I’ll lose my energy for the show.
I drum in boots, very thick-soled and very tight, I like things to be tight, I ran into problems early on with loose-fitting shoes and I know there are a lot of death metal drummers that drum in shoes or no shoes at all and they are going to hurt their feet, I mean they are slamming on metal all night. As for practice, I don’t really practice on tour, every show prepares me for the next show. Before a tour, I do a lot of practice and I like to ride the bike and run upstairs, get my legs going, strengthen them, but other than that I don’t do a whole lot.
Grim Magazine: Well that about wraps up what I have to say, thank you very much for your time, I’m looking forward to this new Terrorizer disc and I’m sure you’ll have an awesome show tonight.
Pete: Hey man, thanks!
Morbid Angel’s Discography:
(1989) Morbid Angel – Altars of Madness
(1991) Morbid Angel – Blessed Are the Sick
(1991) Morbid Angel – Abominations (demo album)
(1993) Morbid Angel – Covenant
(1995) Morbid Angel – Domination
(1998) Morbid Angel – Formulas Fatal to the Flesh
(2000) Morbid Angel – Gateways to Annihilation
(2003) Morbid Angel – Heretic
(2011) Morbid Angel – Illud Divinum Insanus
(2017) Morbid Angel – Kingdoms Disdained
Band: Morbid Angel
With: Pete Sandoval (drummer)
Interview Date: April 12, 2006
Years Active: 1983 – present
Genre: Death Metal
Website: Official Website
Label: Earache, Season of Mist
Origin: United States
Reviewed by: Grim Magazine
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