Interview with Trey Azagthoth of Morbid Angel (2000)
by Ron

from Sudden Death Overtime

Ron: How would you compare Gateways to the previous albums?
Well, on the old albums, most of the stuff is really fast and racy, and kind of a raw sound, and this one is more atmospheric, a lot of groove type patterns, most of the songs on seven string guitars, so its, you know down tuned, kind of a heavier laid out album with a few fast tracks but most of the stuff is really deep and kinda spiraling around, and flowing

R: About the lyrics, Steve has credit for most of the lyrics on the new album. What’s the writing process like now that Steve is more entrenched in the band?
T: Before we started writing stuff as far as lyrics, we had a lot of talks about what the stuff is about, and he had been on formulas and did a lot of touring, and we pretty much connected, he knew what things were about. And we had talked about the theme of this record being "The silent spaces between mans thoughts" and how there’s no inherent meaning to anything in the universe, and how beliefs are just a perception filter, and things that we attach meaning to, its just in the mind, its not that the object holds this meaning. So basically the human race puts together these meanings to feel more comfortable with things, and to define them, and you know, that has its place in the world and life, but also it becomes blinding. Whatever you believe, that’s going to highlight what you see and pay attention to, and the things you don't believe, you may miss. You may miss feelings and experiences and in some way you're blinded to what things could come from them. People will just see "the path" as opposed to new experiences, because they're reference points are from the path. Kind of a deep thing, its basically from studying the Kabala, Deepak Chopra, Indian mysticism. A lot of that philosophy goes into what these lyrics are about. The main thing is in life everything that we do is to achieve a feeling, its all to move towards something that’s pleasurable, and to move away from something that’s painful. For me this album is all about feeling. You can put any meaning you want to it, but its the next level, beyond the meaning, its the actual feeling. That’s the way I play guitar, not from a bunch of theory or calculated technique and scales, its more just, not knowing what I'm doing, just playing, and seeing what it feels like. Trying to get that feel.

R: Would you say you want people to get that meaning and deepness from the lyrics, or do you leave it up to interpretation?
T: Definitely up to interpretation. The lyrics are like poems. When you read a poem or you look at a painting, there’s not some presented meaning attached to it, its usually for the one who’s looking at it to come to his own conclusion, and put it up against his own reference points, and it kind then becomes something bigger than one thing. It kind of moves into a limitless type of thing. For me, its about having people listen to the album completely open minded, to try to approach it from a place like meditation. Like silent meditation where you go out to nature or the sea, and just listen to stuff, and not try to define it, don't let it trigger memories or anything, but actually have a stillness of the mind and find no separation between the sound and the listener, and just grab into that power, because there’s this power there. And that’s the real stuff, that’s where we're one with the great ocean, besides being a separate cup filled with this water. I break it down like this, the real stuff, energy, nature, it’s like the great ocean, and all of us people are like cups, goblets whatever, filled with the water. If you realize yourself as being the cup, then you're limited. You're in the realm of time and space, and you're separated, but if you find yourself as being the water, then you're connected, you're one. I believe that all living things are connected as this water, and the cup is your personality and beliefs, and the things that make you seem more diverse. But they're like clothes, they're not the stuff. Cause what we are as people as living beings are the creators of ourselves, and when you find yourself being the creator of yourself, you find out any behavior you have you created it, you find that you're not that behavior, you can be another behavior. You're bigger than your behavior, something like what Tony Robbins said. We're bigger than our ideas, and our behaviors. We're the one who creates that, and it’s all about how you see yourself. Cause if you believe that if you're this particular person and you've got these particular limitations, whatever. Then there you go, there’s your life, you just dictated it for yourself. But if you believe you can transcend these limitations, then that’s tapping into that larger energy. So it goes back to belief. Belief is like the floodgates to your potential.

R: It's interesting with this type of heavy philosophy, its usually not associated with the brutality of the type of music you guys are playing. Do you feel it’s a good medium to try and convey this type of stuff?
T: I hadn't really thought about it like that. I just do it because its what I do. I've been doin' this type of stuff for a long time, and all the stuff I do comes more from my heart and my soul than from my mind. But as far as when I write music, I don't think about what’s cool or what’s fashionable or what’s trendy, and try to jump into that. I just do what I feel. And that’s the root of it. From what I feel, without considering what other people might think about it.

R: Do you think that’s given Morbid Angel the staying power to remain pretty much true to the original intentions of the bands for so many years, compared to other bands that have changed their styles?
T: Sure it’s all about purpose. For me, I've always felt that I've had this connection, ever since I was a kid, to this thing... I come from this place when I create. All the creation comes from this state, from a more contemplative meditative state. Where you're not really sitting there discussing stuff or analyzing stuff, you're just grabbing at feelings, or flowing with a feeling, and its a realization of energy, and then later you put a label to it. Contemplation is more thinking about stuff in the intellect, and working with meanings, and that’s more for communication, when you're talking with other people you gotta use words to find an understanding, but when you communicate with yourself you don't need words. When you communicate with nature there’s no need for words or meaning. So there’s the two things. Its all important. I don't think someone goes through life just being blank in the mind and all they are is just formless spirit. I think the reason to be here, to be alive, is to have fun. To receive the joy that’s all around us, and to not build up these walls that separate us from the joy. That’s why in the one lyric that I wrote "the freedoms and the prisons are in the mind" cause they are. It's all based on interpretation, and interpretation is based on experience, and experience is based on interpretation, so you've got a lot of illusions floating around in that, the way I look at it. Cause you've got two different people who look at the same thing and get a different meaning out of it, does that mean that one person is more right than the other? I think the best way to look at that is, how is this belief working towards their goals? Is it making them feel good, and helping them flourish in their life, or is it making them feel lacking, or like they're inadequate. It's really more of a subjective thing. So to me the main thing is about feeling. And that’s why I listen to music. I don't listen to music like "what does it mean?" its more like "how does it move me" I don't think about is it major or minor, or is it correct, just what kind of vibe is coming out of it.

R: What were some of your influences musically when you started up Morbid Angel?
T: Mainly stuff like Eddie Van Halen's guitar playing, and Jimi Hendrix, and Pink Floyd, the kind of feelings that they had going on with their stuff. And you know, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, the stuff that was real heavy, the extreme or heavy metal. Louder than what’s considered pop. The more extreme stuff, where people were tapping into some kind of fury or energy. I've always been into the more energetic music. If its gonna be metal and loud I want it to be real energetic, but also I like stuff that’s dreamy and floaty and stuff like Pink Floyd or like The Gathering. Its all about feeling. I just listen to the kind of music that moves me. I've liked music that other people didn't like and it didn't matter to me. But me, I base my opinions on how something moves me, see what it does to me personally.

R: And that would tie into your songwriting too, trying to get that feeling to other people right?
T: Yeah, I've always been interested in the bands that came out with something unique. When Eddie Van Halen came out, and with their first few albums there was really nothing like that, at least nothing on record, and it was special, and it was paradigm shifting, and it was breaking models and molds and throwing out the rules. Like Jimi Hendrix as well, with the sounds and some of the expressions he played, it was different, it was fresh. It seemed like it went beyond the theory of music, or starting from the theory and adding all this expression to it. But it was this kind of personal thing that was really unique, and that’s what drew me to it. I think Eddie Van Halen was one of the most incredible guitar players ever, and he still is, because he came out at this time and played a whole brand new kind of way, and it was incredible, and very energetic and exciting, and exotic and different and unique. So I guess that’s what I try to do with what I do, cause that’s what I'm interested in. Make stuff that’s not mediocre or common, that’s special. I don't think I could do anything normal if I wanted to, cause I'm a freak!

R: Would you consider Morbid Angel a death metal band? I read an interview with Deicide, and they don't consider themselves death metal. Do you accept the label?
T: It's fine with me, because for me, death metal seems like the more extreme form of music. Stuff that doesn't have to abide by rules, but has its own order to it, its not just a bunch of garbage. Because there’s extreme music that doesn't have any depth to it, and I don't think of that as death metal. Death metal is music, its got timing signatures, even though they can be really wacked out, and its trying to develop new sounds, to make the guitar do new things, rather than the traditional rock chords. It's trying to make the guitar sound like a legion of demons marching, or zombies coming out of the ground, or a hurricane blowing over and devastating.

R: The big news right now is that the tour you guys were going to head out on with Pantera is cancelled. What are you going to do now?
T: Well, it just gives us a little more time at home. We're going to Europe in December. The thing with Pantera though, it was just postponed, and it'll pick up next year and we're still on it. For every album we do some serious touring... we had everything planned for these Pantera tour dates, and it was just gonna be for a month, this initial thing, so we were thinking it would be a really good opportunity, you know Pantera draws a lot of people, they're really cool, we were thinking it'd be really good. So it falling through changed the situation a little bit, but if we were NOT going to do the Pantera tour, we'd probably have toured the states headlining for that month anyway. It always takes time to set up shows though, so it was kind of weird that it wasn't even a week... within a week of leaving for the tour we heard it was over! So it was disheartening, cause we were all geared up and ready, and now we're just sitting around the house. But it worked out, because now we're going to be on the Pantera tour for like two months instead of just one. So it worked out well.

R: Do you think you'll tour again as a headliner? Or is the Pantera tour going to be it?
T: No, I think we'll still do a headlining tour, maybe two.

R: Well, we'll hope to see you guys up here in Rochester. Are you getting sick of questions about what you're going to name your 27th album?
T: I haven't even thought about it... that's pretty far in the future.

R: Do you have any advice for young people that are getting into music? What would you say to a new band that's trying to break into the scene?
T: I think the number one thing is to play the kind of music that is so fun, that you don't think about all the hours of preparation it takes to do something with a band. Make it into play and not work. When you start to find that your band is work, then change what you're doing. Because you could go work a day job or something and probably have more security. A band is supposed to be fun. So you should play music that makes you feel ecstasy. And you should play stuff from the heart. I think that's the most important thing. The rest is just details you can talk to a lawyer or a manager about. But the core of it is to come from a place of passion. The spirit needs to come through in the music, because its all about vibration. That’s where it happens. And I think that's the power, that’s the whole deal.

R: I noticed in the 'Thanks' on the album you thanked your Quake 3 clan, are you into gaming a lot?
T: Actually yeah, this year I played quite a bit. I've kinda 'lived' in the arena's. I recorded my solos while I was watching people play. Cause I record my solos at my house. And yeah, its great. It's actually rail quake, that’s the way I like to play. It's more of a fun clan, we have some good players and we have a lot of fun. I was always into Doom, and I play ZDoom online. But Quake 3 with the Rail has hooked me pretty well.

R: What kind of gaming rig do you have?
T: Right now I have a p3 600 with 256mb of RAM. The area I live in doesn't have cable or DSL, so I'm on some stupid asshole modem.

R: That sucks
T: Yeah, it does, but you know, I still have some good games. I have a lot of fun. The thing is I would play for like 3 days without sleeping, and I'd be in such a zone, that my ping didn't matter. I just had it going.

R: Well maybe I’ll see you on a server some time. Thanks very much for talkin' to me here. Hopefully we'll see you up in here in Rochester.
T: Thank you man, have a good one.