Interview with Trey Azagthoth of Morbid Angel (1995)
Blessed are the Sick was kind of abstract, and Covenant was
more straightforward and brutal, would you say that Domination is more
like Covenant or Blessed...?
Trey: Well you know, it's funny. I think that the new record has parts of all three records in it. There's the feel from Altars of Madness, then there's definitely the feel from Blessed... and then on a few songs there's the feel from Covenant. So to me it's like all the records. On this one we had a $110,000 dollar budget, where on Altars... there was only a budget of like six thousand. We had more money to spend on Domination so we had more studio time and we were able to create a more powerful sound.
Covenant was your first major-label release, right?
Trey: Yes. Covenant was our first, and that was real in-your-face, brutal death metal. We were thinking about 'what would it be like if a band put an underground, death metal demo on a label like Warner Bros.?' It's never been done before, you know whenever a so-called brutal band would make it to a major label, they'd change! They'd seem to get rid of some of the brutality which is something I can't really understand. So with that album we proved that a band who started out small can make it to Warner Bros.(Giant), and still have blast beats and growling vocals and super fast shit.
...And then you closed the album with "God of Emptiness".
Trey: Exactly. That was a seven-string tune, and it came out real different-sounding, but it's still Morbid Angel. And there's stuff like that on the new record, like "Hatework" and "Where the Slime Lives".
I read somewhere that when the band was a three piece, if you ever found
a fourth guitar player he'd have to fit in with the band's ideals and attitudes.
What can you tell me about the new guitar player Erik Rutan?
Trey: Erik is a dynamic guitarist who fits into the puzzle perfectly, he toured with us and did a great job, he was real confident and his playing is awesome. Also he's self-taught like myself, he has a strong picking technique, and he works really hard at fitting in with our playing style. Erik wrote "Hatework", and that's a phenomenal song! It has immense feeling to it and it was the last step, to see if he could write music that fit in with our style.
Something I heard that amazes me about your guitar playing, is that you
don't pre-write any of your leads, you just let them flow off the top of your
Trey: Let me put it this way: I never went to school, so I never learned how to actually structure songs some official way on paper or something, in my mind that's a big limitation. The true masters of guitar, like Eddie Van Halen learn the basic skills, but when he wrote songs he wrote it from his mind. Like myself, he heard a sound in his head and used the guitar to figure out a way to bring the sound to life. Most of my rhythms are to, how can I say, bring out the power of the Ancient Ones, to bring out the power of chaos. That's why most of my rhythms are so chaotic in technique.
Does Morbid Angel have any affiliation with Earache anymore?
Trey: Yes we do, they're our European label. Giant only helps us out in North America, and man let me tell you they do a great job. Sometimes I hear that people say 'oh you're on a major label, you sold out, blah blah blah' and to me that's just silly. Selling out, in my opinion, STARTS with creating music that will fit into a trend, that basically caters to trendy people. We create music for ourselves, and for the Ancient Ones. Look at our videos once, like "Rapture". That's a powerful, heavy song. It's not wimpy or slow or whatever, it's still us, it's still extreme. Then "God of Emptiness" is a slower tune, but not slow and wimpy, it's slow and powerful. Without a major label, we probably couldn't have gotten such extreme music on MTV.
The vocals on "Where the slime Lives" are different from your past material,
how would you describe them?
Trey: It's kind of like singing from a swamp. Like this bubbling pit of fucking protoplasm. It's basically Shub Nigguroth. Do you know who he is? That's the goat of a thousand young. Shub Nigguroth is basically this big pool of protoplasm, who can take any shape at any time he wants to. He's churning and producing all these different kinds of shapes from this big massive slop. And that's what the vocals are, they're Shub Nigguroth speaking.
You made a video for that track, right?
Trey: Yeah, we're working on it, we did a video and, how can I say it, the people who shot the video did a real shitty job and when we got it the camera angles were wrong and the lighting was really bad and the film was like fuzzy. So we're gonna do it over, this time with a different guy up in Canada and it should be done in about three weeks. This guy did some videos for Skinny Puppy, and I don't get into their music but I know they're creative. So he's going to capture our ideas on film and I'm really looking forward to it.
I wanted to ask you about this, about the whole black metal thing. What
is your opinion on that scene? A lot of people would argue that the first LP
Altars Of Madness was a true black metal album.
Trey: Black metal, death metal, speed, thrash, whatever, they're all just titles. I never intended for that album to be called "black metal", but if that's what you want to call it, great! To me it's death metal. It's like if people got a lot of inspiration from Altars Of Madness, if it made them create a different kind of music, then that's wonderful. I'm totally supportave of people who get influenced by our music.
What about bands who copy you?
Trey: That's okay. They do their own version, it's still personalized, with a little influence from us, that's killer. I can't support that enough. With me, I was influenced by Eddie Van Halen, the true god of guitar. With my guitar playing, it doesn't sound like Eddie Van Halen, it's not like I'm ripping him off, but there are definitely techniques that I use that he originated. The feeling he conveyed, I was influenced by it.
Beyond the "title" aspect of the music, the way that black metal is so primitive
sounding and low budget, that's kinda what I was referring to. Like you mentionedearlier,
how the first Morbid Angel album was on a very low budget...
Trey: Right. People should do what is best for themselves. If they want to go in the studio and make a low budget demo, fine. As long as what you're doing is to be yourself, that's important. There's people who do something because it's 'cool', to fit into something. To me that's not leadership, that's following, and following is like a sheep! That's like being a Christian. To me Christians are the ones that follow, and Satanists are the ones that lead. Satanists are the ones that believe in themselves and do things that they feel are right. Being a Satanist is about being loyal to yourself, because Satan is loyal to himself.
Satan doesn't want people to be sheep, to be followers.
Are there any books on the subject you can recommend?
Trey: I can recommend a great book, but it's not an evil book. It's a book about pure power. See, there's a difference, how can I say it...there's different levels in the occult. You start as being just a puppet, a fleshglove. Being a person that's just totally flesh and doesn't know anything about spirit, and the end goal is being a person of totally divine spirit, but that doesn't mean holy. To be a god yourself. I have a book that's very useful, once you've mastered those levels. It's a book by Tony Robbins, it's a book about tapping into your power. It's not an occult book, but I think it is. It's about getting your emotions and your willpower to be at their most potent. Being the best you can be.
What does magic have to do with that?
Trey: The power of magic is the power of absolute faith. When you totally believe in something, you have power in that thought. Doubt can only destroy. So you have t have total faith. What you have faith in, that's up to the individual to choose! Some people have faith in Jesus Christ. Some have faith in Satan. I put my faith in myself. All these powers and spirits, they're not really my gods, as much as they're my friends. They are a part of me but I don't put them above myself, so I can tap into their power.
I read somewhere that David Vincent was going to do a side project, do you
know what's up with it?
Trey: I don't really know what he's doing, I know he's been talking about it. I know that he's been playing shows with The Genitorturers. I'm doing a project soon, though, it's going to be an instrumental thing with Mike Davis(ex-Nocturnus). It's not going to be death metal, there's no vocals in it. It's going to be along the lines of Joe Satriani.
I've noticed that you've thanked Eddie Van Halen a number of times, on album
sleeves, etc. Have you ever met the guy?
Trey: No, I haven't met him. I love his playing, especially during the 1980's when it was with David Lee Roth. He was out there really showing people a new way of playing guitar. It was full of feeling an technique. Eddie Van Halen is a god. He's the greatest living guitar player of all time, in my opinion.
Do you find that people within musician circles acknowledge your guitar
playing who don't necessarily acknowledge death metal?
Trey: Yes, I do, and I think that a lot more will with the Domination record. You see, there's a lot of people who need to have things spelled out for them, they're not going to go out on a limb. With the new record, everyone should be able to enjoy it because it has a better sound, which to me is great because it shows the playing. You don't have to use imagination to see the technique, the speed, the solos, the picking, and all that kind of stuff. The point is, people will be able to hear that there is some great guitar playing in this band, and it's always been there.
One of my favorite songs from Morbid Angel that isn't death metal is the
acoustic song on Blessed Are The Sick, it's called "Desolate Ways".
Trey: Oh the one that Richard Brunelle did? Yeah, that's something that he did, that's really the only thing he wrote for the band. I think he did a great job on that, you know? I think that song sounds fucking great.
What do you usually order when you eat at Denny's?
Trey: Hmmm...I usually get the Grand Slam Breakfast. I love them pancakes, you know? Or else I'll order the sampler, with the chicken strips, onion rings and mozzarella sticks.
Dude, you know what I just found the other day? The Morbid Angel remixes
by Liebach. It's cool, but it sounds weird!
Trey: It is weird. We gave them these two songs, and we think they're really great artists so we told them to do whatever they wanted. Just do something different, I think they have a lot of neat ideas. The only thing I didn't like is how they mixed the solos on "Sworn To The Black", I think they sound really stupid.
Yeah, they sound like they're buried.
Trey: Yeah, they should've just taken the solos out. The way they mixed that song, it really didn't need them. I think for the most part, it turned out great.
Do you think you might do something of that nature for this record?
Trey: Well, at this point we don't have any plans. We're a kind of band that likes to do a lot of new and different things, but since we've done that once we probably won't do it again. I think we'll do something, eventually.
You know when David Vincent went on MTV that one time?
Right afterwards, like two weeks later they introduced a new show called
Enter The Pit that specialized in death metal and hardcore. Do you have any
idea why they canned it after only three episodes, as well as Headbanger's Ball
Trey: Well, I don't know anything official, but I can tell you my opinion. I think everybody knows that MTV is the absolute king of corporate scraping. What I mean by that is basically they're cashing in on whatever trend is happening. They don't have any integrity, and they don't care. They only care about how much money they're gonna fuckin' make. MTV don't even know what the hell they're doing. MTV is for sheep.