Heart of Steel: Interviews

MORBID ANGEL
TREY AZAGTHOTH INTERVIEW

Interview by Lord of the Wasteland
All Photos courtesy of Earache Records

It's been 3 years since a new album from Morbid Angel has rattled the metal world. On September 23rd, 2003, HERETIC drops and it is their best album in years. I just gave it a perfect 5 out of 5 rating in the September reviews and it is absolutely stunning! I recently spoke with Trey Azagthoth, guitarist and the driving force behind the band, via phone from Florida. Trey is very well-spoken and an extremely intelligent person who doesn't hesitate to speak his mind or state his beliefs. I'm glad this call was on his dime because it is a L-O-N-G interview. We chatted for 78 MINUTES about everything from the new album and video to the state of metal today to Plato's allegory of the cave…HUH?!?! Read on…


The new album comes out September 23rd and it's called HERETIC. Can you explain the title?

Well in the dictionary, a "heretic" is one who thinks differently than the social indoctrination or tribal mentality. It's someone who uses his gift of imagination and understands that there's no meaning other than the meaning you give to anything. He basically looks at life as a game and decides for himself using the only freedom that we really have which is to decide what things mean and to make our own decisions and choices.

You mean freewill?

Exactly. Someone who decides for himself what things mean and what to do with themselves.

 

Does it have any religious overtones? I mean the cover looks like something that you'd find on the stained glass window of a church?

No, not really. It's about spirituality. Our band has always been about that. It's about clearing up the noise in one's ego brought about by the indoctrination and different forced rules and conditioning that's happened throughout history. The Christian crusades are one good example. They would throw you in jail if you didn't believe their way and how they'd say that God separates good from bad. All this weird, scary stuff and they would enforce it but that's not really how things are, you know? Things are different than that. Things are whatever you make of them. God, or the cosmic mind, or the universe, is just the pure potential of creating all things imagined. There is no good and bad. It's just all part of this rhythm of life. So when you having people talking about good and bad and putting so much power on it and even saying that their God does that, then it starts getting people to judge and it starts to get that part of the ego going where we're judging and separating stuff, basically programming us…just like the allegory of the cave* (NOTE: See end of interview for explanation), where we have these heads of different institutions taking their turns sharing a pack of lies with us. Sharing the shadows and shells of reality but not really letting us have our own pure "experience". They're kind of putting their little guidelines and their filters in there. But basically we all are the same in spirit. We ARE God. We ARE pure potential. It's just that we also are ego and the physical body and we have this mind…we have all this stuff and the mind is capable of creating the most beautiful manifestations through the imagination but when you get beliefs thrown in there that are backed up by authoritarians throwing around the convictions and we start to think that maybe that's the way it's supposed to be, because we start as innocent children and when we get trained to think some way, these beliefs and paradigms can really limit us because it's really up to us to decide what things mean. That's part of our freedom, but when we're programmed, then we're slaves. Basically, it's really hard for us to manifest things and to allow the full flow of the spirit to manifest in our lives when we're so blocked and bogged down by all this crazy programming. That's pretty much what it's about. The album cover is not really a stained glass of any church. It's basically just a vision--a pagan's vision--of the goddess, which is just an alternate way of looking at things, like how the Christians have a vision of the Virgin Mary or Jesus but Lilith, or whatever name you want to give her-I also call her Amah-Ushumgal Anna. It's a side of ourselves that says "I'm here and there's freedom and bliss here" but you won't be able to find it when you look through all those crazy programs that you're running that are picked up from insane institutions. It's all about spirituality…about finding one's self because one's self is all things.

 

 

It's been 3 years since your last album, GATEWAYS TO ANNIHILATION, and a lot has happened in the world. Besides spirituality, did any of these events shape your inspiration for writing some of the new songs?

It's the same. It's about being the instrument of the ancient ones. Allowing the love of the creator to flow through us. Energy of spirit. That's the main influence. Other than that, I've been influenced a lot by playing Quake III and Doom.

So you're still into gaming then? Are the Sailor Scouts still active?

Yeah. I enjoy it. It's a lot of fun.

 

 


L-R: Pete, Steve, Trey

There have been several changes in the band since GATEWAYS was released. Steve Tucker left. Jared Anderson came in temporarily and he left. Then Erik Rutan left to concentrate fully on Hate Eternal. Then Steve Tucker was welcomed back into the band for HERETIC. Why did he leave in the first place?

Well, we were doing so much touring and he needed a little break to take care of some things and the band still needed to tour. We had Jared fill in for him and he did a great job. When we finished with all the touring, I got home and started to concentrate on writing and when I started to think about who was going to replace Steve, I wanted to contact him first and see if he'd be up to it or if he'd even be interested. I wanted to know if he liked the material and if he could contribute some cool stuff to it and he was really into it. I think he did a fantastic job! I'm really proud of what he did.

 

 

How much did Steve contribute to HERETIC in terms of writing?

He just wrote the lyrics.

 

 

As far as Steve and David Vincent go, does their approach to writing lyrics differ a lot?

I think it's all just different points of view but in the big picture, it's the same thing. Our lyrics are always stories, parables, poetry.

That's true. You don't exactly take the "sex, drugs and rock 'n roll" approach!

Right. You can dig into it and make of it what you will. It's just stuff to get the mind going and maybe search something out for yourself. Our lyrics have always been about the occult. The occult is such a big thing. It's just that secret study of the ages that most people in society turn their back on because science can't measure it. It's not something you can hold in your hand. It's kind of that unseen thing but it's very real. It's the only thing that's real, because the only thing that's real is the empty space, which is just energy and information, anyways. It's our minds that put all this physical stuff together. There is no meaning to anything other than what you give to it. The meaning that you give to the event IS the event. When you think like that, it puts everybody into a more free position, like we're creators, which we are. We're intended to be that. We're all the same in potential. It's only through our decisions that we're made different. The main thing about Morbid Angel is the music. The music goes without meaning. There is no meaning. Its just energy. People can try and stick in it a genre or whatever. They can try to figure out what key things are being played in and what musical theory its based on if they want, but its bigger than all that. Its just lava. It just flows. It's the love of the Creator.

 

 

Would you ever consider collaborating with an outside writer on a Morbid Angel song?

I really like to work by myself. It all depends. If someone came to the table with something I thought was cool, I might consider it. I really don't like hurting people's feelings when I say that I don't like what they did.

 

 

How does a Morbid Angel song come together? Is it lyrics first or music first?

On the past 2 records, it was music first. I would sit by myself with my computer in my little studio and I'd get my computer to program drum beats to go with rhythms that I would come up with for one guitar part and get some basic foundation going. Then I would go ahead and play around with the other rhythm part and come up with a cool accompaniment or polyrhythm. I'd just play with it, you know? Like building a dungeon in Dungeons & Dragons. It's kind of like that for me. Then when I get this instrumental that's exciting all by itself…some songs you take out the lyric and its boring, but I try to make the music exciting even without the singing. The singing just adds to it but it's not like it needs to have the singing to have any impact. I try to think of it more as arrangements--like grooves--and then we put the lyric to it. Of course when the lyrics come, that might adjust some of the arrangements. Parts that are 4 times might turn out to be 6 times, or 2 times, or whatever, so the singing has its place, but that's just adjustments that come later.

 

 

If music is the most important thing for Morbid Angel, is that why there are so many instrumental pieces on the new album?

It's basically just artists having fun with their little place that they've worked hard to build. I've done this stuff for a long time and I'm in a position where I can do whatever I want with it. I have fun doing that. Like with Pete, I wanted him to express himself and have his open area since a CD can contain an hour's worth of stuff, so I thought why not fill it up? I know some people get all confused about that but that's just because they're limited. For myself, the sky's the limit and I do whatever I want with my art because that's the way I see it. I do things that are exciting. Pete contributed some cool instrumentals and I did some. It's all good. It's just…more stuff. Now I'm not saying that the singing isn't important! It's really important and it's awesome but the music is put together first in a way that it's entertaining all by itself rather than just being kind of cool and depending on the singing to make up the rest.

 

 

I really like "Place of Many Deaths". It's a really creepy sounding track!! Is that Morbid Angel's interpretation of Hell or Purgatory? I put on my headphones and I could hear all the screams and voices and sound effects. It really creeped me out!

That one was inspired by Quake. That's all the poor lost souls. Actually that's just a joke. It doesn't have any meaning. It's just fun, it's what ever you want to make of it. I don't think when an artist paints a picture, he does things to mean this, that and the other. That kind of ruins the whole thing about art. Art has no meaning, its just expression.

Everybody has his or her own interpretation.

Yeah, because reality happens in the mind anyway. There is no static reality. That's why we're here on Earth…to share and have fun with each other. Like playing games. That's what it's about. If there's anything more to it than that, then that's cool and all, but I think really in the big picture, it's all supposed to be us sharing joy and love. Pushing each other's imaginations and pushing things back and forth. That's why we have a mind.

 

 

I like "Memories of the Past", too. What instruments are being played on there? Is that a harpsichord??

I don't know exactly. That's one of Pete's. It's keyboard stuff and digital sounds. I think that's a GREAT one! It really does something for me, too.

"Drum Check" is just incredible, too.

Yeah…that's a lot of fun.

Is that your voice at the beginning of "Drum Check"?

No. That's "Punchy" (**NOTE: co-producer Juan "Punchy" Gonzalez). He used to be our engineer for quite a few years, so it was kind of funny. He would do our sound check. It was kind of a real situation, which was funny because he would ask Pete to kick his kick drum, you know, "BOM…BOM", so "Punchy" can get a sound. What you need is to hit slow a couple times like that and then Pete would go into some big, long fast thing where he was just jamming. Of course "Punchy" can't mix any of that. It doesn't do anything for him, but it's fun. It's cool. "Punchy" used to sit back and sip on his Coke and wait until the big presentation of drum assault is over and then he could get back to business.

 

So how did you end up using "Punchy" as the producer on HERETIC?

Well, he was the co-producer! The band always produces itself and then we have people throw ideas around. It wasn't like we hired him, like Bob Rock, to make us sound "cool". It's not that kind of a story. It's more like it's his studio, he's the engineer and I think he's quite brilliant.

 

He did a great job on the album.

Yes he did. We worked as a team but the band always go in there and…really, it's myself. I know what I want to sound like. I don't go in hoping someone will make our songs "cool", or anything like that. I'm very limited on engineering, though. I never took any classes, so I don't know a lot about it. I just know that if something sounds cool, I can tell and I learn with each record. We didn't want to use "Punchy" as the robot. We wanted to let him express ideas, so we could all work together at shaping the sound.

 

 

Is there a reason you've never used the same producer, or co-producer, twice. Do you like to get a fresh sound for each album?

Yeah. I get bored fabricating stuff. We never go with what works. We always like to reinvent ourselves. That's what I do it for. That's art…creating as opposed to fabricating. It started with the first two records. ALTARS OF MADNESS was really successful when it came out and a lot of people thought we would do an "ALTARS PART TWO" but we didn't. We did something completely different. That's just the way we go, which is maybe more difficult but it's also more fulfilling. It's the only way I can be inspired to do anything. If I feel like I'm re-doing something, then there's just no heart in it.

 

 

Do you like being in the studio or are you just itching to get back out on the road and play for the fans again?

I like recording. That's probably one of my favorite things.

 

 

Is it the recording process or the writing process that you enjoy or is it the whole package?

It's the whole process. Creating and manifesting.

 

 

Do you do your solos in one take or is there a lot of overdubs and layering done?

There's some layering. In the studio, on this record anyway, there are some parts where a guitar part just kind of jumps in and accompanies a little bit here and there. The studio gives me the ability to do multiple performances so I do that. Just like with rhythms. Live, you can't double-track your sound, but you can in the studio. On this record I double-tracked the left and right guitar so there's at least 2 parts going on at all times for rhythms. One is with a Marshall amp, which is the tube sound and then one is with a Solid State amp, which together, the two sounds blend into this one really cool sound that I was really happy with. For solos, a lot of it is me just jamming. I don't really plan out the stuff. I just feel my way through it and try to get more of a pure experience without thinking about it that much. Like I said, I'm just the instrument myself and I tap into this energy and then it just comes through and manifests. Then, I, of course, play with effects and I play with my mikeing techniques, like on the first song, "Cleansed in Pestilence", there's one solo where I used the winriffs and the anti-backing culture mikeing technique, which is just some things I made up and it helps make the sound more cool. It's just fun stuff. I like to play with what I do a lot.

 

 

What guitars did use on this album?

I used my B.C. Rich Ironburn, Gibson Explorer for the rhythms and six-strings. I used 2 different Ibanez Universes for the seven-strings. For solos, I used my B.C. Rich Ironburn, my orange Ibanez Stratocaster and a few other guitars, but it was mainly those 2 guitars for soloing.

 

 

What inspired you to start using the seven-string? Was it COVENANT when you first used that?

It was basically just a chance to grow and expand and explore more fields, which on COVENANT is actually a really good example. We did those 2 videos: "Rapture" and "God of Emptiness". "Rapture" was a six-string song and "God of Emptiness" was a seven-string song. Some people way back when, would just take a six-string guitar and tune it down which is cool…it works, but it loses the high E-string, so I figured the seven-string was made for that. I can play low-tuned rhythms and still be able to play full scales live all the way up into the high notes.

 

 

How old were you when you first began playing guitar?

I think I started playing when I was about 17 years old, but I was always a real fan of music. I would play air guitar as far back as I could remember, so even back then I was training for what I think is the most important part of guitar playing, which is feeling. I was always working on the feeling. I would listen to Eddie Van Halen and imitate him, move in his way through creative visualization and get into his flow. Then when I started playing guitar, I already had that flow of music.

 

 

Did you ever have any professional training or are you self-taught?

No I haven't.

Do you still practice quite a bit? What's your regimen?

Yeah, I do. I practice quite a bit when I'm going to do something but I also take breaks from it. I think it's cool to take breaks from it for a while and then pick it back up and go at it again. Keeping it fresh. For me, if I play guitar everyday, I kind of run into the same old repetitious patterns, so I try to interrupt that pattern by putting it away and doing other stuff until it feels fresh again.

 

 

What's it like doing all the guitars yourself again now that Erik has left the band?

Well, live we're going to have another guitar player. I'm not really sure who it's going to be yet but we'll find somebody who'll do a great job and have a lot of fun with us.

 

 

What was the division of guitars between yourself and Erik when he was in the band? Was it a 50/50 split or were you always doing a bit more?

I did a lot more. On DOMINATION, he contributed quite a bit but on GATEWAYS, he only contributed one song, some solos and an instrumental. Steve and I worked on some songs and I wrote some by myself as far as the music anyway but I'm at the point now where I don't really need to co-write with anybody. I'm not interested in any other guitar players' ideas, to be honest with you. I get in this position where somebody's really excited about something and they want to contribute it and I don't like it for one reason or another. Then there's this silly thing where their feelings get hurt, or I'm an asshole, or whatever…it's just stupid, so I just avoid the whole damn thing. I'm pretty damn creative myself!

 

 

I have a couple of band history questions…
What ever happened to Richard Brunelle, Mike Browning and Sterling von Scarborough?

I have no idea.

You don't have any contact with them or anything? They just seemed to vanish from the music scene altogether after they left Morbid Angel?

I wouldn't know. I don't keep track of people. I'm not much of a social person. I don't like to surround myself with people. I pretty much like to stay by myself.

 

 

Last year, Earache remastered and repackaged the first two Morbid Angel albums. Were you happy with how they turned out?

Sure. They sounded cool, I think.

I know you personally were involved with writing new liner notes for both albums.

I did the liner notes for both and I collaborated with them in picking some cool, new pictures to use and things like that, but I didn't have any input on how the new remasters were going to sound. It's just something that the label did and as far as I can tell, they did a really great job. I think it was a cool idea to reissue those albums and adding the video and all that. Sometimes I forget how long ago it was when those records came out (laughs)!

 

It's coming up on 15 years since ALTARS first came out!

Yeah...I guess so (laughs)!!

 

 

Do you think the major label support you had in North America for COVENANT and DOMINATION helped the band at all?

I think it helped us a lot in a business sense. We were taken a little more seriously from a higher profile place, where MTV was more interested in working with us. It didn't help me write better songs or anything, though.

 

 

Do you think you sold more records because of the major label?

I don't know. I don't keep track of that stuff!

You don't follow sales figures at all?

I'm into numerology to some extent but I'm not into overloading my mind with a bunch of calculations.

 

 

It's no secret that you're a spiritual guy. Is that something that came along later in life or have you always been a spiritual person?

I've always been a person that was from another planet and just trying to make do here in this new world with all these new people.

 

 

This is probably a dumb question but I'm guessing "Azagthoth" is not your real last name?!

No. I mean it's not on my driver's license if that would be what would define "real". It's not on my birth certificate.

So there isn't a Mom & Dad Azagthoth anywhere (laughs)?

(Laughs) No! It is my real name as far as any other way, though.

Have you ever divulged what your birth name is?

I've never come out and said, "Hey my name is…". I think by now everybody knows. It's not a big secret or a big deal either. I'm not trying to keep it a secret. There's only so much that I care to share but beyond that, I'm not an entertainer. I'm not an object for people's entertainment. I don't really share my personal stuff. I share my message. I love to share my insights on spirituality. I don't know why, I just do. It just comes out. That's part of my true will is to do that. I'm not trying to set myself up as some sort of savior by any means, but only to inspire others to search out their own truth, because there is no "truth". At best there are principles of how things work, or seem to work. If you read other books like…my favorite teachers today are Tony Robbins and Deepak Chopra. I can't say that I totally agree with or can even relate to everything they talk about because maybe for some of the stuff they talk about, you have to be them. You'd have to live their life to have those reference points and all that but certainly the energy that they're producing or presenting, I can relate to that very clearly. For all spiritual teachers and any real way of thinking, it's always these principles that give them any power when you get out of all the dogma and any details and get into the bottom line-what works about this? The power of belief, for example. If someone really understood the power of belief and the idea of interpretation, they would probably really open up instantly. The world, mankind, the mundane collective basically always parade that that kind of stuff is stupid and if you can't hold it in your hand, it's not real. People believe that if you think like that, you're sick or something! It goes along with the allegory of the cave, again.

 

 

Besides Tony Robbins and Deepak Chopra, if you were to recommend any books or authors to help people understand your way of thinking, what or who would they be?

Well, I've read a lot of different books and I don't even know who the authors are to be honest with you…just the subjects. I would suggest that someone study The Kabala, or A Course in Miracles. Not that I'm saying these are the best studies or anything but they're ones that worked for me. Study "creative visualization". That's another useful subject. But see, you get all of that out of Tony Robbins and Deepak Chopra anyway, at least I do. I read them AFTER I read these other things and maybe it's because I had those earlier references that they made more sense to me. I don't know but to me, Tony Robbins is all about helping or offering advice on how we should use our minds and our ego. How to set up our rules, our beliefs and how to look at this whole thing about what the ego is. I don't mean arrogance either; I mean the identity…the part of us that's stuck in time and space. He always talks about how that's not what we are. What we are is the creator of that. He taps into the manifest. The theory of pure potentiality, as well. Deepak Chopra really focuses on manifests and pure potentiality of spirit. He kind of covers it a little different way but he also talks about the ego and how our rules, our judgments, our beliefs have a great impact on our reality. They also speak Western language which is useful. Actually there is one small little book about The Kabala called Kabala and it's a really simple sort of "get your foot in the door" book. The main thing though is to experience it…practice it. Like I've said in the past, to know one's experience through the words is like trying to smell a flower by reading a seed catalogue (laughs)! At best, their words are only to inspire us and to help us look in our directions and inside ourselves to find our own truths about things. And our personal truth is going to change, too, from day to day because everything changes. As we see more and experience more, we update ourselves just like Windows updates (laughs). We update our beliefs. Tony Robbins says it's not important that the belief be accurate but that the belief be useful. Belief is not some permanent thing. Belief is like a file or a program, for example like Windows. I use Windows 98 and it was cool because it was better than Windows 95 but then there's all these new ones that have come out. I'm sure all the brainiacs and computer nerds will know more than me, but Microsoft keeps bettering it by making new…whatever. Some people like myself stick with 98 because that works fine for me, at least right now.

That's what I'm still running, too!

People tell me I should get XP Professional because it's superior but Windows 98 allows me to do what I need to do right now. I'm sure at some point I'll upgrade but it's just like how beliefs are. When a belief is useful, it means that it helps you get your job done or move through life in a fun way. When a belief is outdated and now it has limitations because you've experienced new things, or you want to go in different directions, that belief may be more of a hindrance, so it's important to change it. And don't think beliefs are real because they're not. Just like there isn't reality. That's my interpretation of it anyway.

 

 

As far as your musical inspirations, I read an interview you did promoting the DOMINATION album in 1995 and the interviewer asked if you had ever met Eddie Van Halen. You said you hadn't but I'm wondering if you have since?

Not yet!

Would that be your dream to meet a musical idol?

I don't ever HAVE to meet him, no.

Do you think it's better left a mystery of what he's actually like? I mean, could be ever live up to what you have built him up as in your own mind?

I don't know. I would not turn down the chance to meet him but I don't have to meet him. Would I like to meet him? Sure, I think it would be really cool. He is definitely the most important guitar player in my mind, or in my opinion, as far as what I like about guitar. People might think he sucks and be more into Yngwie Malmsteen but that all comes down to personal preference. For me, he's influenced me and done more exciting things to inspire my own guitar playing and I've always given mention to him. If the opportunity ever came up where I could meet him or (laughs) jam with him, or get schooled by him, that would be really cool, too. I'd even be into writing a song with him.

 

 

I actually saw his guitar at the Experience Music Project in Seattle a few weeks ago. They have a big guitar exhibit there and they've got his guitar, the one that he played in the video for "Jump". The one with the red and white lines that zig-zag all over it!

That's cool! I was never really so hot on that record, though.

Are you more into the first few Van Halen albums?

For me it was always the ones right up to FAIR WARNING. The first 4 records. Those are the ones that did the most for me. What was the other one?

DIVER DOWN?

Yeah, DIVER DOWN and then 1984. Those were the ones still with Roth, right? Those still have some really cool things on them too, for sure, but I think that at that time, they maybe didn't appeal to me as much. Too many keyboards and a different flavor going on.

A little too commercial, like they were trying to get on the radio?

Yeah. They weren't as attacking as the others were. Do they have to be? No, I mean people do their thing and I have an opinion, but for me the first 4 records hit so hard and are so exciting. Those are the ones I always think about.

 

 

Is there one CD that comes to mind that you could never live without? The first Van Halen album, maybe, or is there something that inspires you more?

It's really hard to define stuff like that because it's so final. I'd have to say that VAN HALEN for sure. I'd never want someone to go into my mind and remove all the reference points I have an experiences and memories…my enjoyment of Van Halen and how it moves me by playing. They're also not the only ones. I also really, really love this band called The Gathering from Holland, which is a different kind of music that taps into that part of me that loves Pink Floyd and loves zoning on music. The thing about that music is not these big guitar solos. It's more this big, ambient sound. I grew up on Pink Floyd. I remember taking mushrooms and listening to that stuff like everybody else.

 

 

Does Morbid Angel have any plans to release a DVD?

I'm sure we probably will at some point, but there's nothing happening presently.

 

 

How has Morbid Angel remained such a significant force over the years with all the changes from hair metal, to grunge, to mallcore? Metal has changed so much since you first began yet the band remains one of the top in its field. How does Morbid Angel fit into the metal community of 2003?

Well, I don't think like that. I'm not doing stuff to appease others, so that's not part of my way of thinking. I'm the instrument and it's this energy of nature, the living continuum that flows through. I'm not saying I'm the only one who can tap into this higher source either. I think any artist has at least a little bit of the higher source coming in. They call it different things and represent it in different ways. I don't even know what people are playing today. I'm more into R&B, to be honest, if I'm going to listen to stuff today. I like stuff that's going to move my body and not just in a jerking, thrashing motion. Now I love what we play! I listen to our music. I wish more metal was like what we play but I think that our metal has the aggression, speed, brutality, etc. but I think it still has dynamic and it swings and has groove. It's snappy and hooky and blah blah blah… It's super-complicated but it's delivered in a really easy fashion so that you don't have to be a musician or a student to appreciate it. But it isn't so simple-minded with the same old rhythm played over and over again to some different words. It's just art.

 

 

What is your favorite Morbid Angel song to play live?

I don't have any one favorite song because I don't state the final like that. I like lots of songs! We play so many different songs live and I think they're all fun to play live.

 

 

Do you prefer playing in clubs or in larger venues, or even outdoors?

I like to play anywhere, where when I'm standing in my little spot on stage, things sound cool to me. Then I can perform well. Sometimes on open air festivals, things just go into outer space and there's nothing to bounce back to me, so it just sounds like I'm playing acoustic guitar up there and all I hear is my scratchy amp blasting me in the back, which is not all that exciting. I don't really like to stand in front of my amp. I like to hear a blend of the whole thing with a little bit of ambience from a hall and the little bit of low-end rumble that is all around and encompassing and warms up everything so it blends together. Sometime you can create that in an open air festival with monitors and finding a strategic place to stand, angling my cabinets, etc. Generally, I like to play indoors as opposed to outdoors just for that reason but if it all sounds the same to me on stage, I'll play anywhere! Just give me some room so I'm not falling off the stage or something when I'm thrashing about.

 

 

I live in Vancouver up on the west coast of Canada and I saw Morbid Angel for the first time live, if you can believe it, in 2001 with Motorhead. What was it like touring with Lemmy and those guys?

He was cool and they were really nice guys. They were nice to us and all that. They were very professional. It was definitely a fun thing. Motorhead's not really the kind of music I listen to but I think they're all really great at what they do. The guitar player really tears it up and Lemmy, of course, is Lemmy. He's very dynamic. The drummer plays up a storm. They definitely go for it and anytime someone is truly going for it, I can always appreciate that. Being with those guys on that tour was a lot of fun. It was great. I enjoyed it.

It was a great show!

Thanks!

 

 

When are you going to begin touring North America for the new album? I know you just signed on to do the Blackest of the Black tour with Danzig, Superjoint Ritual and Behemoth.

I don't know if that's confirmed yet. Hopefully it will get confirmed.

The tour's official website has a link at www.blackestoftheblack.com and there's a big promo poster showing the bands all listed and Morbid Angel is on it! That was posted last week!

Does it have our logo on it?

It does have your logo on it actually!

Well that's cool! I've been waiting for my manager to tell me that it's actually locked but I haven't heard from him. Until there's something signed, I usually don't talk about those things.

Just in case it doesn't happen?

Yeah exactly. Would I like to do it? Sure. Absolutely. Just like I loved doing the shows with Pantera and it would be an absolute pleasure to share a stage with Phil once again. He is definitely one of my favorite artists of the day.

 

What do you think of the Superjoint Ritual project he's doing now?

I think it's cool! I think those guys have a really fun time doing it. I got a chance to get to know Phil a little bit better two years ago or so and he's such a great guy. He's just a real fun artist who has fun doing stuff and isn't so engulfed in what success can do to somebody. You know, steal their heart and soul and replace it with wanting to fabricate stuff to fit into trends and money. He just plays what he wants and he totally shows that and lives that. He's very inspiring to me.

 

 

Did you ever listen to Cannibal Corpse and Deicide when the 3 of you were coming out of Florida together?

I think they're all really good at what they do. Just like Hate Eternal and Nile. I think those guys rock in their field but when I listen to that stuff…I don't know. Maybe I'm in a different world…well I am in a different world (laughs) but I don't find myself listening to it all that much, not that I think that it's bad. It's just not my thing or my preference.

 

 

Did the three bands know each other though at the time? I mean you all came out of Florida in the late 80s and early 90s.

Well Cannibal Corpse didn't come out of Florida.

That's true. They were based in Buffalo, New York but they moved to Florida.

We saw them and hung out with them. I think Deicide's a really cool band. I think they've written some really cool stuff. We did one tour with Deicide and it was a blast! I'm so glad that we were able to do that. We wanted to do it and it took some time to get it all figured out but it was awesome! Those guys definitely go for it.

 

They're on the same label as Morbid Angel now, too. They just signed on with Earache.

Did they? I didn't know that.

Yeah, they signed on with Earache earlier this year and a new album is set for the spring of 2004.

Awesome!

I read some quotes from Glen Benton and he seems really hyped about the new deal. Deicide didn't really seem to fit into the direction that Roadrunner is taking.

Good! I'm glad because those guys got a really rough deal with all the corporate scraping going on at Roadrunner. I'm glad to hear that they're on a little bit cooler label now and maybe they'll be able to have a little bit more fun with what they do. People can get really angry when they're so suppressed and pushed around by some gay label and somebody's gay way of trying to market their band, you know? It's so stupid. They didn't deserve it because they've always gone for what they believe in. I'd be curious to hear what they come up with next year.

 

 

Have you heard the new Vital Remains album, DECHRISTIANIZE? Glen Benton is singing on it.

No, I haven't.

That's easily one of my favorite-and many people's favorite-albums so far this year. He said he really enjoyed playing with them. They've been around now for over 10 years! LET US PREY came out in '92, if you can believe it

I know some of the guys in Vital Remains. They're really nice guys and they've been doing stuff for a really long time.

 

 

There has been an mp3 available on the Earache site for "Enshrined by Grace" for about a month now. Will there be any new clips available on the official Morbid Angel site (www.morbidangel.com)?

I don't think so. If it were up to me, there would have been no posts about anything. Everybody would just have to wait until the album is out and then they can hear the real thing instead of a crappy mp3, but that's not the way it works. It's "the game" and I happen to have to play it because I'm in a band and working with a label. There are certain ways that things seem to have to be done. If it were up to me, even the damn magazines wouldn't get it. From what I understand, the whole thing is on the internet …well, not the whole thing. There are all these extra bonus tracks and things like that. For me, having someone's first impression being a yucky mp3 is stupid! That's just my opinion.

 

 

So you think the internet is a curse rather than a blessing in terms of creating "buzz"? I mean I heard the "Enshrined by Grace" mp3 maybe a month ago from Earache's site and then I got the promo about 10 days ago. I was really excited when I first heard the mp3 track, so I couldn't wait to hear the full album through the promo. Personally, it really whetted my appetite for the album.

I don't think it's a curse. I just think its something that's not very useful.

 

 

Will the band's official website be redesigned for the new album at all?

Yes, it will be changed. It was something cool back in the days of FORMULAS FATAL TO THE FLESH and that's when I was working with the old webmaster to come up with some cool, colorful designs and then it switched into what's there now, which is…whatever…I don't even know (laughs). But yeah, there's definitely going to be a new site because it's time.

 

 

Morbidangel.com is one of the best-rated band sites out there!

What? Really? That surprises the hell out of me! Maybe because it represents a band that is dynamic and has a lot of cool stuff that's going on. Maybe if we were a new band or a band whose stuff isn't really standing out, then maybe our website would be looked at as a whole different thing. It's kind of interesting how people have this whole deal of interpretation based on reference points. But that's great! I mean if people like it then that's nice, because to me I think it looks kind of drab.

Too black?

Not too black. Just too…drab.

 

 

Can you give a hint of what to expect from the new website or do you want to keep that a secret until it's unveiled?

We'll just have to wait and all see how it turns out (laughs). I think it's going to be a fun website because I'm a fun kind of person. I like to have fun and I'm into colorful things and it's going be a little more playful website instead of being so stern-looking. I'm going to mix some silly stuff with my own philosophy, as well, because we come from all different angles with our stuff you know? We're an example of the possibilities when you break out of the paradigms and you start to come from a place where you can create or imagine all things possible. It's up to you. The sky's the limit! Rules are self-induced anyways, so when you're free, you just do whatever you want. Have you ever seen the FORMULAS website?

I did at the time but I honestly can't remember it that well. That's over 4 years ago, now!

Well, I'm not saying that this new website is going to be anything like that but it's going to have a lot of diversity. We're very serious when we play our music. It's strong stuff, but we have fun doing it. I mean I'm into video games and watching cartoons and silly stuff like that. People might think, "Oh that's not cool" or "That's not tough" but you know what? I'm not tough (laughs). I don't have any image to uphold for anybody. That's why I said I'm not an entertainer of people. I'm an artist and I share my art and my insights about life. People can laugh at that if they want.

 

 

When you do your videos, how much creative influence do you have over them? Do you give carte blanche to the director or do you like to get involved?

We get pretty involved but usually in that situation where you're a band that's not selling millions of records, you kind of have to go with what the director wants to do. He has to feel good about it. No director is going to want to change into the role of a cameraman. We work with the director and Steve and I talk to him a lot. If there is any concept with this video, it would definitely be the allegory of the cave by Plato.

 

How much of that's going to be in the new video?

Probably not a whole lot. It's going to be more band performances. We all talked about what we could do in terms of special effects or locations and making the filming cool with our budget. We explored different things and someone came up with fire and if we could afford it and look cool. I'd like to make a video that would cost way more money than we have right now to spend. I'm into stuff that's trippy and psychedelic like hallucinations, but that usually takes a lot of money to make it look good and not cheesy. Weird fade-ins and all kinds of neat things like that. But we came up with what we could afford and I think it's going to be really, really cool! It's all in how they edit it together but I believe that it should be a very fun, powerful and exciting video! It's going to be tough and mean and all that anger. I'm still capable of doing that as well.

 

 

Do you know when we can expect to see the video?

Not exactly but it should be out around the same time as the record or maybe just before it.

 

 

Earache has a one page "teaser" for the video with a couple of still shots taken from the video shoot.

Yeah that's right. There are some shots of the fire. I think there's one shot that's a camera angle that's not what any of the actual filming camera angles will be like. Supposedly all the camera angles are shot through the flames, so it's not like you see us in some lot with grass sticking out of the ground. It's going to be more like close-ups. There's a shot where you see playing the guitar and I'm surrounded by fire. It's going to be more like that. I can't wait to see it.

Where did you shoot the video?

We did it here in Tampa.

Who directed it?

Pete Bridgewater. He's from England and he directed the "D.O.A." video for The Haunted. He's somebody that Earache picked. The record label's putting up a big portion of the money so they have to okay stuff. That's how it works when you don't sell millions of records. You don't always get total freedom where you can say, "I don't want to use this guy. I want to use another guy". It's more like, "Either you want to make a video or you don't", so we figured, okay let's try it (laughs). I think Pete did a great job. He definitely knows his stuff. We all agreed our budget wasn't so incredible that we could really go wild, but we did our best to put together something efficient but dramatic.

 

 

I just have a few more questions for you, Trey. These are all questions submitted to me by readers of the Metal Rules website...

When did you decide to start naming all of the band's albums alphabetically? Did it begin as a coincidence or was it your intention all along?

At the beginning it was a coincidence as far as the first 2 albums anyway. For me being the kind of person who is imaginative and likes to stay as a child with the world as a playground where anything's possible, I thought let's go with this because It's different and kind of cool. It is a sequence and it symbolizes the alpha and omega. It goes with numerology. It's occult! We're definitely going with it now. It's not even a second thought anymore but it just kind of started out that way for some reason. I don't know why the first records started with an "A". It just did to be honest. Both of the records, the one that was never released as a record…well it was released but it was the unreleased record, ABOMINATIONS OF DESOLATION, that had an "A". We didn't think, "Let's start with an 'A'" and then of course ALTARS starts with an "A", so I kind of think that's the intervention of the ancient ones. I'm just the instrument. It's the ancient ones. It's their music, not mine. The band is bigger than the individuals in it. The band has this power that's beyond all human capabilities, so they kind of keep us on track. They make things open up for us and help us move along (laughs).

 

 

Did you mean to release ABOMINATIONS officially? I mean it was available in Japan but if it hadn't been released there, would the world ever have heard that album?

I only wanted to make sure that through the power of labeling, it was labeled as a demo, not a record. That's NOT a record…that's a demo. ALTARS is the first record. With that said, why not release it? There seemed to be some interest in it as far as roots or what have you.

 

 

Who designed the Morbid Angel logo?

I don't even remember who it was! It was a person who put together something back in, like, 1983 or 1984. It was really a primitive-looking thing, much more basic and it's evolved since then. We had different people writing stuff and we thought it was cool so we went with it. It hasn't changed on the records. It was back in the demo stages. That was a LONG time ago!

 

 

Who is "Laibach", as in the remixes album?

They're artists in Yugoslavia. They do ambient, neo-classical, industrial kind of stuff and their more recent stuff is kind of heavy, dark techno music. They're part of a big community of artists who are into the music but also have philosophy, as well as sculpting and painting, all kinds of stuff. They're just a big group of artists where music is but one part of their whole thing.

 

 

What made you decide to release LOVE OF LAVA, an album of guitar solos extracted from the FORMULAS FATAL TO THE FLESH album?

I thought it was a cool idea. It's about me using my imagination and thinking about something that would be cool to do. I wanted to present people with the guitar solos but without the music to be able to hear it in a way that you wouldn't be able to. I think that the solos take a different shape when they aren't battling against this crazy atonal movement of rhythms that seem to change key so much. You can't really lift the solo off the CD. It's this whole thing about lava. My solos are not about technique. They're about lava. About feeling without knowing. I'm not saying I'm the only person who plays like that either! I think Eddie Van Halen plays like that. He came from this feeling place and he made his own rules. Yes, he used technique but he wasn't a technical guitar player. He was a lava guitar player. He was a guy who was more into throwing technique out the door and making it flow with energy and feeling. Thinking outside the box and doing stuff that might confuse schools of music.

 

 

Would you ever do another one? Maybe SON OF LAVA (laughs)?

(Laughs) Yeah I probably will. There are playful little things like that that are going to be a part of this record when you get the actual record. Some people will get the mp3s and think that they have the record but there's still more on top of that that will be available in the stores. There will be tons of stuff on there for the price of a CD. I believe in giving people a great product. We put lots of time, imagination and effort into the songs and then we do these other things, which is just more! There's some fun stuff on there and there is definitely going to be some lava that people can hear. It's not actually called LOVE OF LAVA this time. It's called BONUS LEVELS, like a video game when you beat the big boss man (laughs)!

 

 

Is that going to be in the form of a second CD packaged with HERETIC, or will it just be bonus tracks on one disc?

I'm not really going to go into it.

I know…we have to wait (laughs)!

Just wait and see.

The new album is out in just 3 more weeks and I can't wait!

I know. It's right around the corner. I'm really excited. I think this album really rocks.

I agree. It's a great album, it really is. I've already given it a 5 out of 5 review for the Metal Rules website.

Alright! I'm glad you enjoyed it. I think it's going to sound a lot different from other metal bands today. It's going to be something fresh. I think the songwriting has some incredible feeling and imagination in it. The texture of the sounds is really beautiful. The performances are so striking and so tight, so the feeling is right there. It doesn't take a lot of imagination. Stuff like drum beats that get right in the pocket. The guitars are presented in a really nice, strong, clear way, so people won't have to come to me later on tour and say, "WOW! I didn't know you were playing all that? It sounded like you were just doing this but I didn't know there was all that going on". The album is presented in a really nice way this time. Kind of easy listening if you will, because it's so clear. Kind of like how BLESSED was because it was more easy listening than ALTARS was as far as the mix and stuff. This one doesn't sound like any of our other records. It also sounds incredible through headphones and when you listen to it on loudspeakers and crank it, it really just jumps out at you! It's not too muddy or scratchy. It's recorded and mastered in a way that is just nice performances with space and dynamic. Not everything is on 10 all the time. I think it also has a great sense of warmth like an old vinyl does.

 

 

Sounds pretty cool, Trey. Do you have any last words for people reading the interview at Metal Rules?

Yeah. Our message has always been about thinking for yourself. It's your right and there's a lot of power in defining things for yourself. That's what our message is.

Well, it's been a pleasure speaking with you, Trey. Thanks for taking…WOW…almost an hour and a half out of your long weekend to speak with Metal Rules again. Take care and good luck with the new album!

Thanks dude. Have a great weekend!


****The "Cave Allegory" was presented by the ancient philosopher Plato in The Republic (360 B.C.). In this allegory, Plato describes the existence of humans in the world, as if they were in a cave-believing that shadows cast on the cave wall were reality, not even knowing about the real objects, the flame that cast the shadow or the world outside the cave.


Official Website: www.morbidangel.com
Label: www.earache.com