Interview with Trey Azagthoth of Morbid Angel (1998)
SOD: We had an interview with Dave Vincent awhile back, so
if you don't mind, I'd like to pick up where he left off. What I'm
really interested in starting with is any background you can give me
about what happened between the band and Dave and what led to the
breakup, whether it was musical or personal, all that kind of stuff.
Trey: Well, basically Dave had been with us for like ten years, and it should be obvious that his interests had changed. He's now with Genitorturers, and that's more of the direction he was going in. And also as far as what he was doing, it was like a domination thing, and we weren't really happy with his subject matter and his lyrics and he was getting away from the true purpose of the band, which is more of a spiritual thing.
SOD: You are THE founding member of Morbid Angel, insofar
as it was your band before Dave Vincent was even a member, correct?
SOD: So I guess, even going back to the first album, the
intentions you're talking about now, what would those have been, as far
as lyrically and the attitude you were trying to put forth?
Trey: Well, basically, this new album and what the band's all about, the roots of the band, Formulas Fatal to the Flesh is a collection of Kutha hymns, that lift up and give praise to the most ancient of the deities. We give of ourselves willfully to be the instrument of the most high triumvirate of the living continuum. The triumvirate of Cthulhu, Habsu and Amah Ushumgl Anna. These hymns celebrate the thunderous Me Gal Gal and glorify the power names. I am the living active god, my true will cannot be denied, I create myself as well as my world. That pretty much sums it up, without going into super detail about everything. It's all about these three ideas: I am, I will, I create.
SOD: Uh huh. So how would you explain that to the layman?
How does that affect the way you live?
Trey: It's all about being on the side of the active energy. It's all about being a part of that which IS besides that which IS NOT. It's all about becoming, and realizing your energies and your powers. Manifesting them with your will, and creating yourself and your world. It's all about being in charge. In laymen's terms, they would have to go and read some Tony Robbins, I guess. That's what he's all about, being in charge of your life, personal power, all that. He's written "Unlimited Power", "Giant Steps" and a few others. I would suggest "Unlimited Power" and "Awakening the Giant Within". Its all real practical things about power, about getting things going, about being. The whole idea of "I Am" is realizing that you are an active being, that you have the capability of making a difference in your life, that you can do things, and manifesting your will. Your will power is the power that makes things happen. And the fact that we all have a creative spark inside of us, we can all create things and come up with new ideas. Everything starts as an intangible idea, but through our will power and belief and determination, we can make it manifest. Through the force of our will we manifest ourselves, empowering our world. It's all a spiritual thing. It's the idea of flesh over spirit as a motivator of the worthless, while spirit over flesh is what causes brilliance. I believe that all people are created equal in potential it's just our decisions that make us different. Our belief system, our hierarchy of values, is what makes us different. Its also a matter of manifesting our true will. One's true will is doing the right thing, universally. If you're doing something and not manifesting your true will, it's impotent and will have no true impact.
SOD: Given that Dave and the band were together for such a
long period of time, and that he had such a strong presence as the front
man for so long, can you give me any indication as to how exactly the
break-up came about?
Trey: Like I said before, his interests were changing, and we felt that his lyrics were no longer representing the divine order and principals of the way.
SOD: So he had written all of the lyrics on the previous
Trey: Most of them. He wrote some of the lyrics for Altars of Madness, the majority of Blessed are the Sick, all the lyrics except for one song on Covenant. And on Domination he wrote all the lyrics. His messages were moving away from the principal purpose of the band, in my opinion.
SOD: Where were they going?
Trey: In my opinion they were moving away from spiritual things. They were moving more into the realm of the mundane, the here and now. And I don't mean any disrespect, I just felt like he was focusing more on everyday sorts of events and things you might read in the newspaper. It seemed to me that the lyrics were more in that vein rather than on a deeper, more spiritual level.
SOD: Your guitar work on Altars of Madness took the
underground and probably some of the overground by storm. But aside from
the all out speed assault on that album, it seems like over the history
of Morbid Angel there's been a move towards creating some slower songs
as well. Can you describe how that came about?
Trey: The band has always had slow songs...
SOD: Except on Altars of Madness...
Trey: I was nineteen when I wrote songs like "Angel of Disease", "The Ancient Ones", "Abomination", and I consider those slow songs. They're not hyper-fast. But I don't think anything has changed. The band has evolved. My writing style has evolved, through the different albums. The song "God of Emptiness" to me was a natural evolution from the song "Angel of Disease". The songs on the new album tend mostly to be fast. Really furious fast, raw and attacking. Yet there is some slower stuff, redoing a few of the old songs. "The Invocation of the Continual One" is a ten minute song with a lot of slower riffs with really an old feel. That's something I wrote back in 1984. I guess in some ways it's got kind of a feel like "Ancient Ones" or "Angel of Disease", which is quite different from "Blessed are the Sick" or "Where the Slime Live". Also we're redoing "Hellspawn", which is a really fast song. And another song where I rewrote most of it, but some of it is still intact, called "Covenant of Death", and that's a 50/50 split. The first half is really blasting, fast stuff and then it slows down and gets really heavy. But most of the album is upbeat and fast and brutal and furious. I wrote all the lyrics and all the music, and worked with our new singer Steve on the phrasing of the words to get them to come across the way I had envisioned them.
SOD: Describe some of the lyrical content for us.
Trey: It's a collection of hymns, as I said, that lift up and give praise to the Ancient Ones, to the triumvirate of the living continuum. It celebrates their ways, the thunderous Me Gal Gal that is their divine order and principal. At the top of that is this idea or this concept of the power names, I am the living and active God, my true will cannot be denied, I create myself and my world.
SOD: So do these beliefs put each man as his own God?
Trey: The way I've always looked at it is that we're all a microcosm of what is the creator. We're an extension of the creator. As we evolve, so does the creator evolve. And we have a small part of the creator inside of ourselves, which is I Am, I Will, I Create. It goes with the tree of life in the Caballah. It's really just a guideline. To me, we all have the answers inside ourselves. We have to find the true answers through meditation. There is a universal guideline that makes things true and makes things false. It's all up to us to decide on our own definition and interpretation of it. If we think we're doing the right thing, and the wrong things come as a result of our actions, then we know we must be a little off base.
SOD: So is the band pretty much intact aside from Dave
Trey: It's me and Pete and Steve that did the album, just three people. I've been talking to Richard Brunnel to see if he was interested in doing the tour with us playing backing guitar.
SOD: Tell me about the new vocalist.
Trey: His name's Steve Tucker and he's from a Cinncinati, Ohio based band named Ceremony. There are a lot of bands with that name around, but he was from the one that was kind of more Death Metal, and heavier. He has a really deep growling voice and he's a good bass player. He's part Indian, and a very spiritual person. He's a really good person for this band.
SOD: Tell me a little bit about the album itself, the
packaging and all that.
Trey: This whole album is a concept album. Along with the lyrics is a great incantation, and a description of what the triumvirate is, and how the living continuum affects our lives. What it is in the universe, and how it impacts the universe. And you see, its not important whether people believe or agree with these names, because names don't matter. It's the meaning, and what it stands for. I don't think anyone can deny the importance of I AM, I WILL and I CREATE. I think even if people want to call it different things, I think those are the fundamental elements of being effective in life. It's all about not thinking of yourself as a victim. That's a person who's not representing things to himself in a very powerful way. That's a person who's creating his own downfall and demise. Belief and our convictions is what empowers us. People can create in many different ways; you don't have to be an artist. You just have to use your imagination. Just writing a goal down, and creative visualization, that's all a part of creativity. Everyone, if they try and if they practice at this, they will find that they have the faculty to at least do creative visualization, which is the same as goal setting. Pointing yourself in a direction and making decisions that will get you to your goals. It's all about I AM. I AM effective. I AM going to go try something, DO something. I like this or that, and I'm going to try to do something about it. If I discover later that I don't like the direction I'm going, I can be flexible and try something else. The whole idea is that I'm going to be active instead of being idle. Instead of worshipping or giving praise to the ancient ones, that's nothing more than my personal goal of self achievement. A principal goal is kind of like having a coach or a role model. A principal goal is something that's beyond you. As you evolve, it evolves along with you so that its always just out of reach. It keeps you on the right path. It's the principal goal, not all the little ones along the way, it's the principal goal of what you want to become. YOU have to be growing and expanding your whole life, or boredom and depression set in. It's like the analogy of the boat sailing upstream. If you stop putting in any energy, the boat stops and starts to go backwards. If you're pushing to go the extra mile, you'll make progress and move forward. The stream of life is a continuum. It is always pushing like gravity. Weight lifting isn't about the weight, it's about the gravity. People should rethink the meaning of the problem or challenge, and view it as an opportunity. You must expand to meet the challenge. It's really powerful stuff, and it's how you represent your life to yourself. It all goes back to "I create myself and my world." Motivation is not just about something that comes up and gets you, it's something you do for yourself. Some people get into the trap of saying "That's cool" and "That's alright" and they get in the habit of viewing everything that way, and that's not very motivational. They need to say "That's phenomenal!" and get the physiology going. That's when you have power. When you've got that kind of power, when everything is an adventure rather that just a mundane routine, you can make a difference. Rather than saying "Oh, I've got to go to work today" and being down about it, you can wake up and say "Yeah! I'm going to go to work today and pull my weight and earn my wages!" you can be active about it. You have to realize that you're making a sacrifice now that you will benefit from later. That's a lot of what the meaning is to.
SOD: If you don't mind my asking, what is your principal
goal for yourself?
Trey: I look at myself as one of the wise men from the original show "Kung Fu", that's pretty much the way I look at things. My goals are not just for myself. I really want to give of myself for these ideas. I want to give of myself for these higher ideas. It's not that I am God, but I'm a part of it, and I'm going towards it. There's a part of me that is God or the creator or whatever name you want to call it, and it's like, I do everything for that. Other than that, there is no other purpose in life. There are two different ways to achieve things; you can either lie and cheat and steal to get what you want, or you can work hard and earn things for yourself and play by the rules. But the money or fame or whatever you might achieve from your actions isn't really the reward, the reward is what you learn in the process. When you die you don't take the money with you, all that you take is what you've become. And that's from Tony Robbins too. I'm not taking credit for inventing all this. I've taken what I've read and added to it and taken what I've learned from other people, and that's how I've become the person that I am today. A lot of people want to shrug off a lot of this stuff as just common sense, but they forget the importance of the fundamentals. You've got to get excited about the fundamental things in life. You can't look at them as being common, since they're so important.
SOD: Usually when I've discussed philosophies of life with
different people, religion, whatever, they all seem to be concerned with
what happens after you die. This is the first time I've ever talked to
anybody who seems to be concerned with what is happening while you're
Trey: This is why I came up with the term 'triumvirate of the living continuum'. Obviously the triumvirate is the three that acts as one, and the continuum is something that is forever, that is alive and evolving. If you just say continuum, that sounds kind of sterile, but if you say living continuum, that gives you a better sense of reality as being constantly changing and evolving. That is the primal total of the force and form that makes all manifestations and non manifestations possible. The positive, active part of the living continuum is the triumvirate, I AM, I WILL, I CREATE. The negative part is the nothingness of the continuum that existed before the big bang. So when the active and purposeful will expands, it is resisted by the non-manifestations and the negative part of the continuum. The sun would expand and burst if it weren't being held back by tremendous negative forces pushing it down. If you know anything about black holes, black holes are formed when a sun dies, when it stops pushing out tremendous energies at the continuum and the negative energies win over and crush in on the sun, crushing down farther and farther until it forms a black hole, and nothing can escape it's gravitational pull. That hole then becomes a pathway directly into the negative part of the continuum. All things in the universe have entropy, a tendency towards being random. Man might take metal and try to form it into a shape, but eventually that shape, and all shapes and systems, will eventually disintegrate back into random matter. If we as human beings don't exercise and take care of ourselves, if we just sit around and don't exert energy, we fall apart too. Our bones and muscles atrophy and become weak. These concepts are a very real element of our lives today, and you can surround them with big magical names, and shroud them in mystery, which makes them exciting and gets your emotions into it, but at the core of it, it's just nature. That with purpose pushes through that without purpose. The idea of a little seed turning into a sapling and then growing up through the concrete to become a giant oak, that's the definition of constant purpose, and directing willful energies in one direction to overcome obstacles. Sure, the concrete could smash down and destroy the sapling, but it doesn't because it's idle, it's not directing energies to stop the seed from growing, it's just sitting there. We can learn something there. It's persistence. It's our true will that can't be stopped, TRUE will is defined as doing the right thing. Not just WILL. I can't just go around killing people because that's my will, that's not my TRUE will, that's an impotent will. That's not real, that's not backed up by any real power. It's only a flesh thing, it's not a spiritual thing. When you're doing a true thing, you're acting empowered and with spirit, and that's the thing that can move mountains and can persevere over anything. It's really exciting. Now, my lyrics don't talk about these things the way I'm saying them now, the lyrics are poetry, and some people might not understand any of them, I don't know. The lyrics aren't for the fans anyway, they're all for the ancient ones. I'll share them with people, and hopefully people like this kind of deep stuff, things that make you think, but that's not the reason I'm doing it. It's all about the real purpose. I think the result is a lot of entertainment, food for thought, things to contemplate. Through our contemplations, that's where we make great achievements. When we have a problem or a challenge, something that's confusing us, that's when we have to really search deep for the answer, and in this pondering, that's where we come up with brilliance. That's when we mix the fire with the water, and we get contact with a higher understanding. It doesn't conform itself to our concepts of science and reasoning. People might think that their science will catch up to God, but they don't realize that God or the creator or whatever you want to call it is also evolving. When we are powerful, we are learning and growing. We are being like the creator. Does that mean the creator has done all that he can do? Is he waiting for us? No, he's also evolving. The thing to remember is that life is not a destination, it's a journey. It's like a king who has conquered every country around him and then ends up sitting on his throne, bored and fat and surrounded by jesters trying to entertain him. He should be the happiest man in the world, surrounded by all the material things he could ever want, but now he's idle and miserable.