Interviews : Deceased
With King Fowley
If you consider yourself "metal" and don't know who Deceased is, then you are a Slipknot-loving fairy and should stop reading immediately. To put it mildly, Deceased is to metal as Lovecraft to horror. You got it, it's the same thing.
After 20 years together, the band that put Relapse Records on the worldwide map is still here, still relevant, still kicking ass. Deceased's new album "As the Weird Travel On", its first since leaving Relapse in 2003, is further proof that good metal bands, like good wine, get better with age. If you're tired of gimmicks, and looking for infectious, thrashy death metal with heavy emphasis on songs and lyrics, Deceased is your band. The man that's been there through all the highs and lows was king enough to share his vision with us. Enjoy this chat with King Fowley!
It must feel a bit awkward for you not to sit behind a drum kit when Deceased plays live...
Well, it's not awkward to me. Maybe to the old schoolers who've seen me back there for last 2 decades. I love it out front! I can move around, run wild and really scream into a microphone. My personality has always been pretty loud and forward and being the 'front man' out front really adds to the shows now more then ever!
Just like Martha & The Vandellas used to sing: "nowhere to run to...nowhere to hide". Live, you are the marked man now. How nervous did you feel at first being just a full-time singer?
Not nervous at all! Been doing it for years in October 31 [King's other band] and I'm just not a 'get nervous' kinda guy. It felt right and good to do it. It's really the right move for the band and it will only get better and better.
If I am not mistaken, you still recorded all the drums for 'As the Weird Travel On'. Does that mean that drummer Dave Castillo is in Deceased for live purposes only?
I write all the drum parts for the songs and Dave learns them. He did play drums on 'As the Weird Travel On'. He did a hell of a job learning all the things I wrote and he's a hell of a drummer. We got a great guy in the band whose like us in many ways. Down to earth, about the music, cool to be around and most of all a good damn musician.
King, I am sorry to bring this up but, you were the band that put Relapse Records on the map and now after over a decade on the label you have moved on. What exactly transpired that caused your move to a Thrash Corner Records and why them?
Well, Relapse just had gone a different path last few years. We didn't see eye to eye anymore. What once was fun and easy going became too business-like for us. It was too much business and not enough music from them. We have always been our own band. We have never done anything but be ourselves. With them I felt they tried to water us down in a lot of ways. Also a lot of their promises were never fulfilled. And if there's one thing I don't like it's not getting honesty from someone. So we left Relapse. We as a band decided we were done there. It really felt good when we left and still does. Thrash Corner is a very small independent label, but they are about the music and that is best for us. In time, Thrash Corner will grow more and more. And hopefully we can help them as much as they help us. It's all about unity to us. And with Relapse we no longer felt that!
Does the album title 'As the Weird Travel On' have any symbolic relationship to you moving on in your career?
I don't really think so. It was a title I felt fit us as a band. We are kinda oddball in the metal underground scene. Not your run-of-the-mill death metal band. We do things a bit more off the wall then a lot of bands out there. It felt right as an L.P. title!
Speaking of the new album, the first two things that jump out are production and your vocals. Letís address the production on 'As the Weird Travel On' first. This is without a doubt your, for the lack of a better word, most polished record. How did you approach your studio time differently this time around? Were there any things you wanted to accomplish that you felt your older albums lacked?
I feel without doubt this is by far our best sounding record. We worked with an old friend we hadn't seen in 15 years. He knows how to record and did a hell of a job helping us out. I don't think the L.P. is polished as much as it just is professional! We've always wanted the best sounding L.P. we could get. Production budget and all of that has always been tough. We were set from day one to make this record the best it could be, as we always have. We took our time more than ever, didn't rush anything, and came up with a really good sounding LP that for us is our sound and style in 2005.
Moving on to your vocals, they sound very full and there is this growling effect that makes them sound quite ballsy and raw. Was this something you intended to do? This is by far the heaviest you have sounded in your career.
Well, we let Kevin Guiterrez produce us. We wanted as a band to get someone into our world and kinda give his suggestions. I like the screams and wild stuff of past vocal performances, but he was hearing more guttural vocal ideas and so I went with them for this one. It works real good with the mix/production and songs on hand. I'd like to work more in the character of past vocals in with this heavier vocal approach on next record, we'll see how that unfolds.
Even though Deceased never per se changed its sound, there is not a single release in your discography that sounds identical. 'As the Weird Travel On' is no exception. This has to be one of your thrashiest records to date. How did you approach the songwriting this time around? Did you have a preconceived notion on how you wanted the new songs to sound?
We never set out to do anything but write songs that to us are 100% Deceased songs. We just write and what comes out of 8-9 new songs is us at the time. We don't care what year it is or what's in or out, if we feel it we write it. We are proud that all our records are different sounding yet undeniably Deceased. I do all the arranging and I just want songs to be good songs: catchy, memorable and with the Deceased "edge" to them.
Along with the thrash, there are the mandatory guitar solos Yet, this time around Mike and Mark take it to the next level with numerous dual guitar solos. Take "Unwanted Memories" for example, that song has some pretty complex guitar work. Overall, how challenging was it to record guitars? Did you consider that some of this material may be difficult to pull off live?
Mike and Mark have played together for 15 years now. They know what works and doesn't work for each other. Their solos are very good and very talented. Live we can re-create any of it. We try not to too often over produce guitar stuff for sake of recording. I think it's just getting older, better and a bit wiser as guitar players. Recording the guitars is always hit or miss. Some days they are spot on, other times it's just not the right moment to lay something down forever to tape.
Even among the really complex solos on As the Weird Travel On, it is a rather simple solo on "Craving Illness" (3:16- 4:00) thatís my favorite from the new album. I think it speaks volumes of Deceasedís songwriting especially how something this easy by your standards can sound so moody...
I know the part well! I love that too! We love to play on emotion in music. That's one thing I personally feel is missing so badly in metal today. Character! I like to set the songs up with the arrangement and swing of emotions and moods. It puts us as a bit more into our own music world.
Going along with the previous question, creepy atmosphere has always played a large role in Deceasedís sound and lyrics. Where do you draw the inspiration from?
Everything from imagination, inner fears, film, literature and other weird/strange things the world over. To me it's all about the horror in us all. The living fear that surrounds our souls. I live a very happy life but somewhere in there a very morbid person comes out and puts pen to paper on the lyrics. The music takes tons of twists and turns. I like to keep the 'fork in the road' outcome intact!
I have seen you wear a shirt that said "Black Metal Is Gay". For someone whose musical taste consists of 80% black metal I must ask, how come?
It's not really anything more then a statement I made at a time when black metal music to me was just awful. It was overhyped, under played and most people making it were too much ego and not enough talent. It's a genre I really cannot get into. Very rarely does any of it come off 'convincing' to me. It's just me being outlandish. It's not meant at anyone who likes it, it's just me hoping for better 'dark' music to be unleashed.
Speaking of black metal, here you are criticizing it but "Missing a Pulse" has this almost creepy black metal vibe going on (2:38-3:02). Whatís up with that? I love that part.
To me it's not really meant as a take on that genre. It's more in tune with for me the haunting soundtrack music creators of early horror films. Itís a nod to that stuff really. If the keyboards fill your head with the black metal bands you enjoy musical ideals, so be it. Music is always in the ears and mind of the individual listener.
I want to talk a bit about your lyrics. Please donít take this as a total fanboy remark, but you are possibly one of the best storytellers in metal. One song that immediately comes to mind is "A Very Familiar Stranger" off 'Supernatural Addiction'. Yet, in general your lyrics are so poignant that when combined with the music they make listening to a Deceased record more complete. How important are the lyrics to the overall Deceased experience?
Lyrics mean the world to me for a long while now. I really take the kind words from you to heart. It's always been my goal to make the lyrics and music 'connect'! To make it work together and not just be words over music. I do try and tell stories. And "A Very Familiar Stranger" is definitely one of the best it's worked for us. I really cherish that song from our catalog. Lyrics will always be a very important part of our songs as well as the sinister messages and twisted tales they create.
Do you feel too many metal bands nowadays write a whole bunch of rubbish that does not make sense and call it "lyric"?
Yes! Sadly a lot of bands also do that with the music too! A lot of so-called "bands" out there. A lot of them rushing into it all, throwing things together and calling it their band. I really admire and respect people who take their time and do things right. It really has a much more lasting effect on the music they are creating.
You have professed your love for old school metal but do you like any of the more extreme metal acts today?
Not really much into newer 'extreme' bands. Most of them are too 'kitchen sink' for their own good. A lot of it's pro tool made in the studio or just really boring to me. I listen and always hope to hear something I can dig. I'm truly not about putting down band and all. There's nothing I'd like more then to love every band in the world. But we all like what we like and that's all you can do. My heart is in the 80's metal. It has more depth, better players, and most of all SONGS.
King, many out there talk about metal resurgence. As a seasoned professional, what is your honest outlook on the modern metal scene?
It is what it is! You just go on! That's all I do. You just keep on being yourself year in and year out. The metal is always here. Even in tough times when it was taboo to say the word metal and all that stupid stuff. The people that truly embrace the magic of heavy metal always will. And that's really the only way to put it. You don't flaunt it or sell it out. You simply cherish it!
Do you think it is becoming more and more about the financial side of things and less about friendship and honesty?
Yes! It's a sad world out there. It's so much greed and cutting corners in the world. In music and away from music. But all you can do is go on. We just keep on giving our best through our music, our dedication and (speaking for myself) calling out the viruses and jokers in the music industry anytime I can. And that will never change!
You are a big horror movie buff. Letís play a little game. I will name a few recent horror flicks, no classics, and you tell me the first thing that comes to mind. Let's go...
Saw: Amazing film. Great ending, fooled everyone!
Shaun of the Dead: Good for a laugh once. Kinda dull on repeated viewings.
High Tension: Great dark film. People still trying to figure out all the loose ends.
The Devil's Rejects: Good stuff but not as good as I had hoped. A tad bit too 'road movie'.
The Ring: The Japanese version rules. The U.S. is watered down garbage.
How do you explain the fact that for a band that has been together for almost 20 years, Deceased only has 5 full-length releases? Will we have to wait another five years, the wait between 'Supernatural Addiction' and 'As the Weird Travel On', for the new album?
Well, we didn't sign a record deal until 1990. The first years consisted of 3 demos each about 25 minutes in length. So that brings us to 15 years. All was fine and on a good path to release pretty regular new record until my severe illness in 2002 [periodical blood clots ending up in King's lungs and brain. Fortunately King is close to 100% now - Mike] and then again in 2004. We took time off for me to recover from all of that. We have plans to get the next LP out by year's end 2006. We never rush anything, so when timing is right it will come out. But we do love writing and want to keep new projects moving forward.
Could you have ever imagined that Deceased would carry on for this long? What has been the formula for staying together for so long and what do you think it will take to keep going?
Yes, I did think we would. My life is about music and making music. It's my heartbeat! Unity, dedication and sincere friendship keeps us going on as a band. All it takes to keep going is to just do what we do. It's really very simple. As long as you're together as a band, nothing can tear you apart.
Thank you very much for this interview. Best to you. Stay healthy and productive.
Thank you for the support and interesting questions. I wish you the best! Have great up coming holidays and stay in touch! Life rules, enjoy yours!