Interview with Steve Tucker (2003)
By Justin Donnelly

from Full Strength

I caught up with the self assured and forthright Tucker at his home in Cincinnati to voice his views on both his and Rutan’s departure from the band, numerology, instrumental tracks and the overall return of the mighty Morbid Angel !
“The album has been going really good! To be honest, the only real complaint that people seem to have is the instrumentals on the record. Nobody seems to be bitching about any of the other songs. They only seem to be complaining that there are too many instrumentals. But I’m like…whatever! We always do instrumentals, so they can fuck off!”

It’s been three years since ‘Gateways To Annihilation’, and as mentioned before, Steve Tucker left the group and returned without missing the action. While Tucker is hardly about to give specifics, he does shed a little light as to what happened in that time.
“That’s right, I left Morbid Angel there for a while. Man it was just personal shit. The way I basically describe it to everyone is, life simply got in the way of the band. I had to take care of my life, as opposed to taking care of the band. I’ve been playing music since I was thirteen years old, and it was time that I actually took care of my personal shit for just a little while. It was one of those things where basically what I said was, ‘Listen, I’ve got to go!’ Things had happened, and things needed to be taken care of. So in the end, those things got taken care of. I didn’t know what my future was. The way I see it, Morbid Angel existed before me, and I figured Morbid Angel would exist after me. So when I left, the guys were like, ‘Hey, good luck!’ There were no parting shots, nothing like that at all. It was just one of those things where if they found someone new, it was something they needed to do. I wasn’t about to ask anyone to sit around and wait for me. That’s just not the way it works in Morbid Angel.”

In a sense it worked out that the band had waited long enough for Steve to work out his issues and join the band prior to hitting the recording studio.
“To be honest, I talk to our manager all the time. When you’re in a band, and you do a few albums, you’ve got business ties. I would talk to our manager, and he was always asking how things were going, how I actually was, and all that kind of stuff. It was all those sort of things. He eventually sussed out the situation, and my phone started ringing. Next thing I know, I was talking to Pete, and then talking to Trey." 'The way I see it, Morbid Angel existed before me, and I figured Morbid Angel would exist after me. When I left, the guys were like, 'Hey, good luck!'

"They were soon asking me to come to Florida. They asked me to have some talks with them, and to see how things were. It was that sort of situation. Once we did all that, we managed to get everything back on track. It’s actually better now than it ever was, and that’s being honest. My head’s clear, everybody is on the same page and everything is cool man.”
Although Tucker left and returned between albums, to call it a fresh start for Morbid Angel can be seen both ways.

“Every album is a fresh start. For me personally, it definitely is. It’s like I’m coming into the band and I still hold the same amount of credibility I ever did. I don’t have to go and prove myself to anyone or anything like that. I’m very comfortable, and I think that shows through on the latest album. I think ‘Heretic’ is an extremely confident album. It was cool, and like stepping back in after taking a break. It wasn’t like starting over again at all.”
Since the ‘Gateways To Annihilation’, guitarist Erik Rutan has left to devote his time to Hate Eternal. But again, there were no harsh words or bad blood the two, but a growing of Hate Eternal’s fan base.

“I talk to Erik all the time. Even when I was out of Morbid Angel there for a while, Erik and myself would always talk. It was usually once a week or so. We’re really good friends, and he’s like a brother. I think it was one of those situations where Hate Eternal had started getting so big that he really didn’t have enough time to do Morbid Angel, Hate Eternal, Alas and produce albums at the same time. It was time he made a decision do decide what he wanted to do with his time. Morbid Angel takes a lot to be in. You really have to be committed wholeheartedly, and I think it was just time. I even recommended it to him myself. It was time for him to concentrate on Hate Eternal. This was his baby, and his baby was starting to become something really big. That was a good thing. Out of one band, you now get two bands. It gives him more time to tour with Hate Eternal, and he has more time to record his albums. We’ll get another guitar player to do the tours with us, so there’s really no loss. It’s simply come down to there being two great bands instead of one.”
While Morbid Angel could quite easily pass on an opinion of the latest Hate Eternal album (Last year’s ‘King Of All Kings’), Tucker is again quite forward in his own judgement.

“I can’t say what everyone personally thinks of the album because we all look for different things. Trey listens to Erik’s solos or the riffing. Personally, whenever I listen to a band, I listen to the thing as a whole. As a whole, I think Hate Eternal is great. I think they’re a brilliant band. I know Pete admires drummer Derek Roddy quite a bit, and of course Pete and Erik are really good friends. You know what I mean? What is there not to admire about the playing on the album? I’m sure we all think it’s great.”
Steering the conversation back to Morbid Angel, I follow up the lead set by Tucker in regards to the criticism people seem to have about the instrumentals, and whether that particular point was one that was mentioned by most people.

“It’s just one of those things that people never really seem to understand. Some people get the album and say, ‘What is this?’ Then they turn around three years later and say that it’s great. It’s just one of those things I really ignore. The way I look at, the instrumentals on the album are musical masturbation. It’s people just doing things that don’t fit into the context of Morbid Angel, and that’s because you don’t have all three of us playing or writing on that track. A lot of that stuff is written at home, so it ends up being a personal moment. Trey or Pete will get stoned or whatever, and they’ll write something like that, and it becomes part of a Morbid Angel album. What it does is give you another insight into these two. A lot of people don’t see it like that. They just want death metal from the beginning, right through to the end. Morbid Angel is really more about diversity. There have always been instrumentals as far back as ‘Blessed Are The Sick’. There’s even been re-mixes of songs, you know, like the Laibach re-mixes (Released in 1994). So Morbid Angel has always been about doing different things. We like the instrumentals. We think they’re a great. Like I said, they’re an insight into the people in the band personally. There they are, and if you don’t like them, skip them. If you only like the blast beats, the fast double bass, brutal vocals, brutal guitars and leads, then only listen to that. We don’t have a problem with that at all.”
The instrumentals on ‘Heretic’ may include ‘Drum Check’ (Obviously Pete’s drum solo) and ‘Born Again’ (Trey’s guitar solo), with the only one missing is a bass solo from Tucker.

“To be honest, when we were recording the album, Trey asked me if I wanted to contribute any sort of instrumental thing. At the time, I just really didn’t want to. I really didn’t have anything that I wanted to lay out for people to listen to. It really allowed Pete and Trey more room to do something. Man, I wrote endless lyrics for this album, and that’s my contribution. " 'To be honest, if it weren't for Morbid Angel doing albums in alphabetical order, there would have been an album called 'Heretic' a long time ago.'
"That took about everything out of me. That was enough. That was all I needed to say, I didn’t need to do any instrumentals.”

Although the idea has been bandied around and misconstrued as a theme/concept album based on numerology, there is some connection there.
“All Morbid Angel albums are theme based, so that’s always been a part of Morbid Angel. I think the idea of ‘Heretic’ is something that ties in closely with Morbid Angel being outcasts from the norm. We love that, and we love the fact that we’re different from other people. As far as the numerology theme goes, some of these instrumentals are based on numerology. We wanted a certain number of songs to be on the album, and we also wanted the album to be a certain number of minutes long. All those things lead to power. There are certain numbers that hold power. That’s what we wanted, and that’s the way it’s worked out. It has everything to do with the number of tracks on the record, how many silent tracks are on the record and how long the record is in total minutes. That’s where the numerology aspect comes into it.”

Although Tucker may have contributed the lyrical content to ‘Heretic’, he’s not the only one who is the numerology devotee within the band.
“It’s actually all of us, but in different ways. As you can see from the explanations on the album cover from Trey, he always goes into things extremely deep and beyond normal parameters. He goes into numerology in a much deeper and wider fashion than both Pete and myself do. Basically there are things that hold true. Numerology works on numbers, and depending on the letters in your name, and each letter representing a number, they can combine to mean different things. Basically, if you read these books, you can take your name, and most of the time the final number will describe you almost perfectly. I believe that, and I believe in predestined fate. I don’t believe everything is planned out for you, so I use the word fate loosely. If you cross the street at a certain time and meet a certain person, or you get caught at a red light and then the guy ahead of you gets smashed by a truck, I do believe that things like that are fate. They’re things to do with karma. I do believe that in numerology you can find out the person that you are. I think Pete is in the same parameters as myself. He believes in a certain amount of karma and a certain amount of fate, and things that have a lot to do with numerology.”

‘Heretic’, as Tucker explains, does have a loosely based concept around being a heretic of sorts, and not numerology.
“The concept of the album is the definition of heretic. I really think it sums up Morbid Angel. To be honest, if it weren’t for Morbid Angel doing albums in alphabetical order, there would have been an album called ‘Heretic’ a long time ago. It’s something that has been waiting to happen. It’s a situation where it really describes us because we really are outcasts. We really revel in the fact that we’re not like all the other conformists. We have our own beliefs, whether they are the beliefs that people believe we should have or not, is very irrelevant. I think that we’re very powerful people. To be honest, the idea of a heretic can be changed. You can be called a heretic today, and the next day be called a leader. It all depends on people’s definitions, and depending on what people see as law. Laws change, and peoples wide based view on things could change. Those who were once a heretic could now almost be considered a priest in a certain sense. That’s the way time’s has always been. There was a time around 400 A.D. when Christianity changed from being a widespread passive type thing to being a Roman Catholic thing, and they had much more harsh and deadly laws. It was basically an eye for and eye sort of thing. Then it all changed. The reason it changed was because the priests and the people that led wanted it to change so that way they could feed their pockets and feed their long-term goals. But it was those people that actually changed the rules. They changed the rules, and decided that the other rules were bullshit, and made sure they were no longer in effect. So therefore the people that were once considered good Christian people, were now deemed the heretics. That’s just an example of the way things can always change. Today’s heretic is tomorrow’s leader as far as I’m concerned. I think the idea of heretic sits in well with us with what we say, what we do and our beliefs. I think someday people are going to look back and read Morbid Angel’s lyrics and see them as guidelines as opposed to just words that simply deny other words. Obviously everybody knows that we’re not Christians. We definitely preach to a certain extent that you should be beyond preaching, above that and you shouldn’t recognise it because people say you should recognise it. I think that in the future, the words that we preach will be looked upon in a much grander fashion. That was a really long-winded answer wasn’t it! (Laughs)”

I assured Tucker that the answer might have been a little long, but clear on a number of Morbid Angel’s personal belief. Again, getting back to ‘Heretic’, one has to wonder just what the recording process was like this time.
“It was one of those things where I unfortunately came in late. Trey and Pete had most of the songs written. As soon as I got one song done, I had another song to write lyrics for. We had a deadline to work to so we could get the album out at a certain time. There was actually a lot of pressure to get all of that done, but it wasn’t pressure that I didn’t love. It was fucking brilliant and grand, and I loved every second of it. It was one of those things where you’re in the moment and you’re writing. You’re just letting things come out of you, and when you wake up the next day and you read what you wrote, you’re like, ‘Wow man! Where did that come from?’ That’s great. Sometimes a little bit of pressure on you can cause things to come from deep inside of you. Things that if you didn’t have the pressure on you, might not even jump out. So it was good, but at the same time, it still allowed us enough time to be creative. It wasn’t so much pressure that things had to be rushed in any way. There was a deadline, but we met that deadline easily. As far as the actual recording of the record, it was brilliant. We recorded with Juan “Punchy” Gonzalez at Diet Of Worms Recording Studio, rather than Morrisound Recording Studio. It was much more relaxed, and it was a different setting. We’ve worked with “Punchy” for over ten years now, and he was our front of house sound guy for Morbid Angel for many years, and he know us all really. He knows us better than the people at Morrisound, if you know what I mean. He wanted it to sound really live, and very natural. I think on ‘Gateways To Annihilation’ we had such a huge production. It was so huge and massive that it was almost of another world. Yet on this one, we really brought it back to earth, and it’s really raw and very much what Morbid Angel would sound like if you walked into our rehearsal room and heard us getting ready to do a show. If you went to one of our shows, this is exactly what Morbid Angel would sound like. It came out really good. I think the return of the Morbid Angel sound of old had to do with the techniques that we used. ‘Gateways To Annihilation’ had a really big production. The guitars just sounded monstrous, and there was a lot of air on there. On ‘Heretic’, if we had used that same production, it wouldn’t have worked. This record is very fast, and it wouldn’t have worked for that, or been the same. I think Trey and Pete in particular really wanted a very raw, not to say old school, but a sound the same way the original Morbid Angel records were. With those, it was walk in and play just like we would do at practice. That’s kind of what we went for on this record. We wanted that raw, natural sounding type of deal, and I think that was something that we achieved.”

Earache Records obviously anticipate big things from the return of old Morbid Angel, and have released some five different versions of ‘Heretic’.
“That’s right. I don’t really know much about that. Those are things that Earache Records has done. I honestly don’t know too much about them, so to talk about it would really be just what I think as opposed to what I actually know.

Tucker is also a little less forthcoming about the promotional video clip they filmed for ‘Enshrined By Grace’ (Although it’s for exactly the same reasons).
“That was brilliant. Today I just got a load of pictures from it, and I mean they look fucking incredible. Tomorrow I’m actually supposed to see the video itself. It’s supposed to be edited by then, so I really can’t comment. I don’t know what it looks like. What I can tell you is that when we were shooting the video, it was great. We did some really cool fucking things. We used a lot of fire in it, and we did some really neat things man.”

What Tucker can reveal is Morbid Angel’s tour plans in the immediate future, and the prospect of playing Australia sometime in the future.
“We’re going out and doing a tour with Danzig, Superjoint Ritual and a couple of other bands. It’s sort of a festival package called ‘The Blackest Of The Black’. It’s a lot of different bands. I’m looking forward to it man. Of course we know Phil (Anselmo of Superjoint Ritual and Pantera). Let me tell you, that guy is into underground metal as anyone can possibly be. He’s constantly bringing bands to me that I’ve never even heard of! So I look forward to seeing him, as it’s been a couple of years since we’ve seen each other. It’ll be cool. As for coming down to Australia, I hope so man. We haven’t been down to Australia since I’ve joined, and I’ve been in the band since 1996. That’s a good long time. (As he takes the time to figure out how long) That’s almost seven years! I would really like to go to Australia. I’ve never played to an Australian crowd. I’ve met people at festivals who were from Australia, but we actually need to get there to play. I think the best way to see Morbid Angel, or the best way to hear Morbid Angel is to actually see them live. I think once people see that, people will be blown away.”


I would like to personally thank Steve Tucker for his generous time. I would also like to thank Jo Girardin at Earache Records for making the interview possible