Interview with Trey Azagthoth
by Mike from Walls of Fire
Trey Azagthoth is definitely one of the more interesting
musicians in Death Metal today. Focused entirely on his own artistic
vision, he sometimes comes across as detached and out of touch with what
most people would consider "the real world." But what some might call
insanity is really just Trey's own way of seeing things, and on close
inspection, there's no denying that it all makes perfect sense - it's
just different from the way most people see the world. Of course that
makes Trey a somewhat peculiar person to talk to, and he definitely has
a reputation for being difficult to do interviews with. But after having
talked to him over the phone for about 45 minutes, I've come to the
conclusion that it's mainly that he's always got his brain in sixth
gear, and he expects you to keep up with him.
Let's talk about the new album. Probably the most obvious
difference is that after slowing things down with "Gateways to
Annihilation", you've got some pretty fast songs again now. Was that a
conscious decision, or what brought about that change?
So here's our conversation about the new album "Heretic", about Trey's
philosophy, about what Morbid Angel is really all about, and about the
recent R'n'B influence in Trey's songwriting. Since much like Morbid
Angel's music, the interview had a certain flow to it, it was nearly
impossible to edit anything out of it. Plus reading it in its entirety
should give you a good idea of what Trey is really like, and most
importantly, that he's definitely not the arrogant rock star that some
people seem to think he is.
Let's not forget that with our first two records that we ever made, we
did the same thing. It's just kind of a continuation. Conscious
decision? It depends how you define consciousness. We're just the
instruments of nature, really. We just let the energy of the creative
force through us and express the love of the universe and the infinite
possibilities. So basically, to look at it in a mundane sense, yeah, I
What can you tell me about the lyrics? Is there a specific
concept that holds the album together?
It's basically about being a heretic. It's about thinking outside of the
box. It's about recognizing that systems are systems and not real. It's
about recognizing, realizing that there is no meaning to anything, other
than the meaning that you give to it, and that that is one of the first
steps to the realization of a cosmic mind. The creative. The Living
Continuum. Whatever title you want to give it. Think for yourself.
That's basically what sums up all of our message. Thinking for yourself
and not allowing others to advertise so much in your mind. Because this
world, society, is set up in a way where different institutions take
their turns to cast their spells and share their lies as shadows on the
cave wall. And it's good for us to recognize that, to break free from
that so our thoughts and our minds are more ours as opposed to something
Since that's the way you feel about our societal system, I was
a little surprised when I saw that statement on the Morbid Angel web
site about the American soldiers in Iraq. That kind of seems like
something too physical for you to even be concerned with. Why did you
put that statement up there?
Why? Well, because I think the soldiers risk their lives and die, and it
shouldn't go unnoticed. Disregarding the policy... I don't have any
comment on what the meaning of it all is. But Vietnam was such a tragedy
and I didn't want to... you know, I personally did my little part to
make it not be another Vietnam.
We don't have to talk about the war, but the whole concept of
war kind of boils down to what you just said about society, doesn't it?
I don't know. I just think that we can think for ourselves, but it's
also nice to not be selfish and to think about offering and sharing
insight for others to be inspired to find their own truth, without
actually directing or programming them. It's all in words, you know,
words are funny. But I'm not just concerned with my own world. I do feel
kinda compelled to share, so that's what I do.
We'll get to the message of the band later, actually, but I'd
like to talk about the new album some more first. One thing I noticed
about the production is that the guitar sound is pretty different from
what it used to be, to say the least. What was the idea behind that?
Technically I used a combination of the Marshall sound that I've always
worked with and used in addition a Solid State amp sound. Just to try to
get more of a useful guitar signal, that the definition would be more
clear, I guess. So that was pretty much what I was going for.
You used to have this really low-end guitar sound and it's very
different now. That's kinda what I noticed about it.
Sure. I've had people tell me when they see us live that they didn't
know that there was so much going on in the guitar parts, that it seemed
so much more basic on CD, and I was thinking that's a shame. So I
figured I've really gotta get working on this because I would like to
present this stuff as clear as possible so they can see the effort
that's in it and the details, so that's what I did. I thought of this
idea of mixing the two amps together. Because I do really enjoy the
warmth of a tube amp, the Marshall, but on its own it sometimes tends to
be low-end sounding or dark, and the Solid State amp is just pure
presence. By itself, it's not such a nice sound, but the two together
make a really cool sound, they kind of help each other.
Did you use a click track at all this time?
Yes. On some of the songs we sure did.
That's just something I remember, you made kind of a point of
not using a click track back when "Formulas Fatal to the Flesh" came
out. Whose idea was it to go back to using a click track?
It was mine. It's just all about the different types of music. Morbid
Angel creates all kinds of stuff. So in this whole idea of contrast, we
move back and forth. We're always changing, you know, change is the only
thing that's real. Change is what's always happened. The dynamic of
living things. So we change. And we're not worried about what we said
before, that's just for humans to ponder. So basically, we're always
growing. It's like a belief, you know, for anyone to think that a belief
is real and permanent, I don't know, that's kind of a limited view, in
my opinion. It should be updated just like, say, Windows is updated.
What got you to this point might not get you any further. As we grow,
our paradigms and beliefs should grow right with us. So basically, yeah,
we're just always doing different things.
That makes perfect sense of course, I'm just curious why you
decided to use the click track again. It definitely changes things,
This album really has a lot of swing to it and swing is kinda hard to do
if tempos rush up and down. On "Formulas", there's all kinds of rushing
going on. There's certainly rushing on every song. Which is cool, it's
all subjective. And on this record, it's more locked into a pulse, and
that's what the songs are about. That's what helps establish a really
nice pocket, that the tempo doesn't fluctuate or rush. But then in other
kinds of songs it's great when it rushes. A kind of surge of energy or
this diving down and melting. But these songs don't really have that in
the timing, they're more a straight continuous pulse and the guitars
melt all around them. Do you know what I mean?
Sure. That pretty much takes care of my questions about the new
album then. There's something else I've been wondering about. You've
said just recently that you draw your inspiration from what you call the
Living Continuum. You actually used that term a few minutes ago. Can you
elaborate a little on what you mean by that?
It's just the creative force of the universe. It's a higher self.
Whatever title one cares to use, I used to call it the Ancient Ones, now
I have a new title, the Living Continuum. It was referred to as the
Ancient of the Days, God, God-Head, the machinery that runs the
universe, the cosmic mind, there's all these different titles for it,
but basically, it's just for people who believe that there's something
beyond time and space, that there's an inner rhythm. So that's what it
is, that inner rhythm that we all are connected to, that we all are.
That connects us all and makes us as one, like water. It's only the ego
that would see or even notice if water is separated in containers and
separated by space. But still, water is water. So it's the idea of
transcending time and space and being one with the power that creates
Creativity is an important part of it for you, isn't it?
Would you say that the fact that you're an artist, a creative
individual, is the reason you see the world this way?
Sure. I mean, it's just a point of view. We all create our own
realities, our own worlds, and they cross paths, and some people have
more similar worlds that come together with their paradigms and other
people maybe have some different details in the makeup of their worlds.
It's all based on our beliefs. I don't believe there's any static
reality. I don't believe there's a reality outside the mind.
Given those complex philosophical concepts behind Morbid Angel,
do you find it at all frustrating that a lot of people still see it as a
just a satanic band?
I don't know, I don't really pay attention, to be honest. Other people
can draw their own conclusions, that's fine, that's all we have in mind.
Just to think, and to draw conclusions and to put together our own
realities. And I wouldn't want to change that for them. I take my moment
to express where I'm coming from, but it's still based on my
interpretation as to how it manifests in their minds.
So you're a believer in the idea that art is up for
interpretation and there's no fixed concept behind it for everybody to
I have a belief that reality is up for interpretation and there's no
Another thing about those philosophical ideas behind the band
is, some people seem to feel you're placing the message above the music,
especially with the last three albums. Would you say that's true at all?
Placing the message above the music? No. It's just that if I have a
chance to talk, then that's what I have to say, but if it wasn't for the
business, I wouldn't even do interviews. See, I'm not an entertainer,
I'm just playing this role, you know what I mean? As an entertainer. And
being an entertainer, you have to do interviews and things like that.
And with music, you know, there needs to be singing with this kind of
music or it's missing something. And with singing, you have to have some
kind of subject. And the only subject we have is thinking for yourself.
That's it. That's the only message. There's nothing else to it. And
that's really all I've ever said. That's what the intent is, to inspire
people to think for themselves, to reflect on the story of the allegory
of the cave by Plato, to search out their own truth, break free from the
limiting paradigms. But whatever they take of that and do with it,
that's up to them. It really matters not to me. I'm not here to change
anything, I'm just here sharing my insight. But yes, the music is
definitely the most important thing. It's just, what else am I gonna
talk about in interviews? Daily, mundane things? They don't interest me.
Do you feel that having to write lyrics to your music actually
limits the potential of the music? You just said you have to have words,
and if you write lyrics, you have to put the concepts behind the music
No. I was just saying that the voice is an instrument too, and I think
the voice is important. But you don't "have to" do anything. That's just
the way we do it, our band is about occult, spiritual things, that's
something that interests us, and it's something that's useful und
worthwhile, I think. We do stuff for ourselves, and like I said, the
music, the energy just flows through us, it's not like we just sit there
like a bunch of brainiacs thinking about all this theory and how to
stuff it into music, it's all just energy. I don't know anything about
theory. I just know about flow. I like to talk about these types of
things if anybody's interested in listening, but it's not like I know
anything. Some people are interested in these kinds of things, and some
people aren't. Some people are interested in the occult, spirituality,
and some people aren't. Some people are more interested in facts and
science and you know... whatever. So you know, it's just different
That actually gives me a nice segue to the next bunch of
questions because I've got some more mundane things to ask you. First of
all, most people would probably like to know how Steve (Tucker,
vocals/bass) ended up back in the band.
Well see, he just took a break because he had some things he had to do.
And the band still had big touring plans. So we had someone fill in for
him and when it was time for me to look for someone else to sing on the
record after I'd already prepared most of the music, I wanted to talk to
him first and see if he was still up for doing it, if he was into it,
and he was. And I think he contributed some great stuff, I'm really
happy with him, his singing and the parts that he added.
Was there ever any truth to the rumors about Dave coming back?
(puzzled) For this record or something?
Well, when it seemed like Steve had pretty much quit, obviously
people started talking and a lot of people started talking about Dave
I've talked to David about possibly doing something in the future, but
nothing really panned out. Not that I was planning on having him be on
this record, it's funny how rumors are. I've talked to him about
possibilities in the future, but that's about that.
Who's gonna be playing the second guitar on stage when you're
I don't know yet, but we'll find somebody who's gonna do a great job.
But Erik Rutan's definitely not gonna do it?
And since we're talking about touring and playing live, what
you said before about how you don't feel like you're an entertainer...
what's your take on the purpose of playing shows? I mean, if you're
completely against the concept of the musician as the entertainer... if
you're on stage, you're obviously putting on that entertainer mantle,
but how do you feel about that?
Well, I don't know, maybe you just don't understand my words. It's just,
I'm so detached and so far from this reality that maybe I'm coming
through in waves. Let me try and reshape my delivery. I'm not writing
music to please others. I'm writing music as a pure experience in
meditation. You come up with this energy and to share it with others,
there's a difference there for me. Maybe it sounds like the same thing
to anybody else, but to me it's a little different. I don't check in
with the scene and see what's cool and how I can fit into it. I don't
even know what's going on. I just come from a whole different place. So
basically, our music is just a pure experience from ourselves. Touring
is a nice way to connect to people and to share energy. That's what it
is for me.
So it's more about sharing energy than entertaining people.
Well, that's just words. Sure, maybe it's entertaining people. But the
reason why I say I'm not an entertainer is because I write music for
myself as opposed to even considering what people would expect or would
want from me. That's what I mean. Maybe I am still an entertainer. See,
it's funny when you look at how nothing has any meaning other than the
meaning you give to it, when you come from that place, then words are
really funny in that respect.
v I'm a linguistics student, I know exactly what you mean (I'm
referring to semiotics here, uh, look it up).
You're just asking me these questions for the benefit of an informative
Well, yeah. Okay. Let me do the talking for a second here. I've
been listening to Morbid Angel for twelve years. I can go on about my
interpretation of what you do for hours if someone wants me to. But the
point here is to get you to talk and to get you to try to explain why
you do the things you do. And with the attitude behind what you create
that I see in what you do, I completely understand that it's hard for
you to even talk about it or to even see the point of talking about it.
Because the music's there, right? And that's the only point.
Sure. I just felt that in your pausing and your tonality, maybe you were
surprised by some of what I say.
Actually when I'm pausing I'm trying to figure out where to go
with your answer and what to ask you next to keep things interesting. I
think I understand what you're talking about, if that's what you're
Right. That's good. I just didn't know if maybe I was coming through
with these words that didn't make much sense. It makes sense to me, but
maybe they don't make sense to you. I want to communicate and do my part
to communicate accurately, if there's such a thing, to get some kind of
useful message across. But normally people will listen to some of the
things I say and think "That guy's way out in left field, he's sick!"
Well, obviously you're just different from most musicians, or
at least the way you talk about your music is different from the way
most musicians do. Anyway, I'm done, and we've pretty much used up our
thirty minutes. Anything final you want to add or should we just leave
it at that?
The only thing I can add is that like I said, our message is for people
to think for themselves and to search out their own truth. And I think
that's probably the only message that I have that's of any usefulness to
share. Other than that, it's just a bunch of babble.
Alright, that's it then, thanks for taking the time to do
Cool, thank you... but what's your impression of the feeling of the
album, do you have any opinion on it, have you heard it enough?
Well, I've listened to it about a dozen times, I'm still kind
of struggling with the guitar sound, that's why I asked you about that.
But the album has a lot of energy to it, it sounds really alive, kind of
like Gateways to Annihilation times ten. Because it's faster, the songs
are more complex, and I like complex and hyperactive music because that
gives me that feeling that there's a lot of creativity going into the
music. And that's definitely what I'm getting out of it.
How do you like my lava solos?
My anti-vacuum culture miking technique, did you like that one?
Uh... is that one of the tracks toward the end?
(laughs) No. Actually that's one of the things I do to create this
unusual solo tone. You can hear it, it's in the first solo in the first
song, in the right speaker is the anti-vacuum culture miking technique.
I was just wondering what that tonality, which is definitely not a
regular sound, did for you.
Well, I like the solos, but I gotta tell you, I'm a drummer. So
I don't really know that much about the technical aspect, so I can't
really comment on that, but the general impression I got from listening
to it a couple of times now is that I really like the solos better than
on the last album this time because of the atmosphere they're creating.
You really seem to get the atmosphere and the feeling across better than
on the last album. And that's what you were going for if I understand
you correctly, right?
Yeah. It's all about the atmosphere. There is no technique. I just use
the word "anti-vacuum culture miking technique" because I like to sound
technical sometimes. Everything is just fun. You know what I mean?
That's kinda where I'm at right now, I have fun in my world and I have
fun with my titles and my meanings and my games that I play. So... what
do you think about the snappy drum beats?
What, the drumming in general? I probably like the drumming
best on this album so far. Because Pete's really trying to put a lot of
variety into what he's doing now and if there's one thing I disliked
about his drumming sometimes, especially on "Covenant", it's that it was
a little too straightforward for my tastes.
Well, I can tell you, I wrote probably 75 percent of the beats anyway,
on this album. He played it, but I wrote it. It's very different. It's
very on purpose that there's such dynamical fills and purposeful cymbal
action and things like that. I just thought you might've picked up on
Yeah, I definitely did. And it seems to go much better with the
nature of your guitar work because there's always so much going on on
the guitar, and then it's kind of a shame if the drums are just all
straight blasts underneath it.
Sure. I agree. I think that this record is really snappy and that's
something that I'm really excited about, how snappy it is. How it moves
the hips. I'm really into having my hips moved by music, side to side,
not just thrashing up and down. I like that full body jello feel like I
get from R'n'B. Do you get any of that?
eah, I see what you mean. It's just funny because a lot of
people tend to think complex drumming ruins what you call a snappy,
groovy feeling. But I'm the same way, I like drumming where there's a
lot going on because straight beats bore me.
Sure... yeah, I think there's definitely such a thing as overplaying on
drums, guitars, bass, anything. What's really tough is to find that
happy medium of making it as complex and over the top as possible but
still easy. That takes a lot of work. I've noticed this.
Actually I think that's the reason you've been getting away
with complex music like that all these years, because you're trying so
hard to get that right. Usually bands that are as complex as Morbid
Angel don't get that big because people don't seem to be able to get
Yeah, I know what you mean. That's why it takes a long time to write
records, I wish it would go smoother. But I'm my hardest critic. Nobody
can knock my stuff into the dirt as much as I can, nobody. I knock my
stuff into the dirt, stuff that other people might think is cool and
would use, I throw it right in the rubbish bin.
So how do you write songs then?
It starts with a riff, then I add the drumbeat with my drum machine and
then I come up with a complimentary riff. On this album, there's a lot
of polyrhythms going on, and... basically five of the songs that have
singing are the ones that started with me doing the drum machine in my
little studio, just putting it together, the riffs, and thinking of
these snappy beats and getting it to where instrumentally, it's really
exciting and it has all this stuff going on. It's not like it's kind of
cool, but the vocals are gonna give it the icing on the cake. It's
already awesome and then the vocals add to it. In my opinion, of course.
I'm only speaking my opinion. What am I, other than a point of view?
It's not for everybody. But that's my opinion and that's kinda what I
try to do and that's why sometimes I even waste cool riffs because I'm
not really into just having a simple riff underneath singing, I kinda
like the whole thing to be cool.
In that case, you really construct the songs at home, it's not
one of these jammy type things, then?
No, there's a couple songs that were jammy. There was a couple, for
sure. But most of them started out the way I'm talking about. Like for
instance, there's one song, it's called "Stricken Arise", and that's a
song that Pete came up with. He came up with drums first and recorded it
into his computer, gave me the recording and some guidelines to what
kinds of rhythms he was thinking about. Just real basic, he's not a
guitar player, but he can definitely hum... (the promoter cuts in and
tells Trey he was supposed to start the next interview five minutes ago)
...alright, I'll shape it up. He wrote that song, and I contributed to
his foundation. It was really cool that way, we'd never done it like
that before. He actually wrote the whole thing and then I just
contributed some riffs and filled in the gaps. So that was cool as well.
And then there was a couple we just jammed on together.
Well, I'll let you take care of the next interview then.
It was great talking with you. I hope that my answers, you know... will
This was honestly one of the most interesting interviews I've
ever done, so yeah, it's gonna be useful.
You can even add that I'm from another planet, it's just confusing here.
Hahaha, yeah, people know that about you, so that won't be a