Interview with Trey Azagthoth (July 1998)
by Al Kikuras


UtU: Can you explain the meaning behind Formulas Fatal to the Flesh, and tell us about the concept?
It's based on the Kabalah, about how as humans we exist on different levels at the same time, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. The physical is the body, the senses and the personality, the flesh is what links us to other stuff like animal behavior. That is the source of a lot of negative influences and impulses that man faces that cause him to do bad things in life, like be prejudiced, cheat other people or just do stupid things. The spirit is the higher form of ourselves. That is what we are, we are energy. We manifest ourselves through these different traits of the flesh, the personality, the sub-conscious, the emotions, but we are actually energy that is capable of all things. It is like a piece of the creator, it's like pure potential state of energy.

At that point we are limitless, and we become limited as we enshroud ourselves in our behavior and display ourselves differently through different personalities and values. Some people think they are some lower level with something bigger inside, but what I believe is that we are this bigger thing we are the spirit, and we just display ourselves through these layers; through the flesh. The spirit is the thing that is not limited, but the flesh has limitations from society and conditioning. It's based on what the Kabalah and Depoc Shopra talk about. It's basically flesh over spirit is a motivator of the worthless, and spirit over flesh is what causes brilliance. That is the idea that I am trying to come across with.

You stated that you have "willfully given yourself to be the instrument of The Ancient Ones on this earth." Did you have a moment of epiphany when you realized this calling or did the realization come over time?
As long as I remember I have always felt out of place, in school, or at anything where there were other people. I never really felt that I fit in with the masses. I always felt that I looked at things differently. So what I was doing was that I was coming from this deeper sense, this deeper place... and I was being real naive, but that is also the state of innocence, which is actually good. Innocence is before all the conditioning. A child looks at everything as exciting and wondrous. The adult could look at the same thing and think it's nothing, because he is distracted by other things. He doesn't see the beauty in simple things. I have always been more like that, more spiritual. More spaced out, because I never really paid much attention to the mundane. I never paid much attention to what was cool or what was in. I always made my own decision on what was cool for me. I didn't really follow along with the trend of what was in. Most people do because of the human need for acceptance. They want to feel accepted, so they will listen to the corporate scraper of what is hip. I have always felt not of this earth.

Piston: Do you feel that this need for acceptance is one the reasons why a band like Metallica would abandon their metal background to sell out to MTV, or do you think it is more than that?
I really don't know because I don't know anything about them. I could guess maybe they have been around so long maybe they are bored of being metal. Maybe the passion's gone. Maybe they really want to do something different and go in a different direction, but that's all speculation. I'd actually have to live with those guys and get a vibe from them, and I've never met them so I don't know.

Do you see Formulas as a progression from Domination or a new beginning?
I think it's a return to the core, to the foundation. Domination, lyrically, was moving away from the purpose of this band. The purpose of the band is to lift up and give praise to the high spirit, by whatever name you want to give him, and give praise to this energy source. Our soul is a piece of this energy in ourselves, our soul is part of the creator. The creator designs and makes everything the way it is, and we are of the same likeness but maybe not of the same magnitude. We have not evolved to the state of being able to create a whole universe, but we can create other things and evolve to better ourselves. If anything, the belief is useful, it doesn't matter that it's fact. Like Tony Robins says, "It's more important that a belief be useful, than 100% accurate". Accurate with what? With society, or the majority? In the ways of action, I think it's very important to make your own definitions about everything, to evaluate everything yourself. Don't just accept what other people do. A lot of people don't know what's going on in a situation. They look around see what other people are doing and say, "Okay, that's what I should be doing," and they do that.

Clarity is power, and you need to be clear about what is going on. Life is a process, not a destination. Life is a paradox, like the need in your life for both certainty and uncertainty. Certainty is security and having things you can count on, and uncertainty is the variety and change, and surprise. The ultimate goal in life is to find fulfillment and harmony within yourself, with or without material things, because material things are just vehicles to an end. The end that we are moving toward would be something pleasurable, or happy, or exciting. What we are moving away from is whatever we consider pain or suffering or something like that. It all goes back to clarity, to have clarity to see what will make you happy and then going after it.

It seems that most people would have the impression that the subject matter Morbid Angel would cover would be much less optimistic.
Well, It's very optimistic.

Yes, but surprisingly so.
Yes, but it's also very powerful and rebelling against anything that would condition people to be distracted by these techniques, or spirits. It's against people who wants to disprove spirits, and say that you live and you die and that's all.

Have you ever considered putting this all down on paper?
Actually I've got a lot of this stuff down on my web site, It's got a lot of neat stuff. I also like to write some fun things as well. I like to lace in with a lot of humor, because I am kind of a silly person as well. I like to retain the child that is not burdened by all the things as you become an adult, and distract you form all the simple pleasures.

I know from your thank you lists on the albums that you love video games.
Yeah, Twisted Metal 2, that's my favorite.

Ohhhh, I LOVE it!
Yeah? Are you good at it?

We gotta play on the bus later.

Definitely. Do you know the codes? You can get Dominion.

It's a vicious game, I love it. You mentioned earlier that you weren't comfortable with the direction of where the lyrics were going in Domination.
Yeah, the new lyrics are more about tapping into the spirits. Incantations and words that destroy the influence of limitations. For me, battling against the negativity is not like destroying the people, because that's like war. It's more like making a shield that cannot be penetrated by other influences so you can live and coexist with these other people that might be totally different and diverse in their ways, but it doesn't penetrate. It cuts off the influence, without going out and killing them like the Christians did. The Christians went out and killed the heretics because they were afraid those heretics might confuse their sheep into following another god.

Are there any songs in particular that you feel estranged from due to his lyrics that you would not play anymore?
You mean from Domination? Yeah, were not doing anything from Domination right now.

Would you consider rewriting the lyrics to any of those songs?
Yeah, we are going to rewrite the lyrics to "Dawn Of The Angry." I like the music a lot, I just don't like the lyrics, because they are more about war, "call of duty now all the soldiers rise and shine" those words, just don't do much for me. I like the stuff we have now which is more of the Incantations and Sumerian chants evoking the power inside you that will destroy the power of these other influences coming in that will cause bad changes within yourself.

Do you think you will ever play any of the songs that were written by Dave?

Formulas is definitely a step back, not regressing, but returning to former sound. It sounds a lot more over the top, a lot more hungry. Do you think the next release will continue in that direction?
It's definitely going to be over the top again. I don't know exactly what kinds of songs. This album has a bit more fast stuff than slow stuff. The fast stuff is definitely pushing it right over the edge. There is no metronome, so that's why the feel is more of a live feel, because on Domination and Covenant there was a metronome) so the drums were locked in like that. It gave it kind of a mechanical feel. On Formulas I didn't want that, I wanted it to be a rushing, living feel. We'll definitely have that on the next album. It'll definitely be spiritual lyrics again.

Although most people praise his work on Formulas, there is a faction that resents the entrance of Steve as his vocal style is very different from David's, and they feel David was integral to Morbid Angel as a entity. Do you feel Steve Tucker brings something to Morbid Angel that David Vincent never did?
Well, I think David was getting bored. He was getting bored with death metal in general, he had been doing it for so long. He was moving away from the more ceremonial type of lyrics. His ceremonial lyrics was more like the thing about Caesar's Palace, and that was really off base I felt. Steve is just a lot more hungry. Another thing is that Dave was moving away from having a growling deep voice. He only had a few times on Domination, and he was loosing interest in that type of singing. He wanted to do all these different things, and that's great and all, I guess, but that's not Morbid Angel. Morbid Angel needs the voice to be brutal, everything's gotta be brutal. For the production getting Bill Kennedy in he didn't really have any experience with death metal, he was just working with industrial stuff, and I think that the end result was that the drums sounded so machine-like to me, the sound of it. That's not the Morbid Angel vibe.

Are you still in contact with Dave Vincent?
Yeah, we're not at war or anything, man.

What do you think of Genitorturers, his new band?
It's just not my thing, I'm just not into that stuff. I like stuff like Vader. I like Angel Corpse.

Angel Corpse are great.
I like the old stuff like Robyn Trower. I like The Gathering. Genitorturers doesn't do it for me. I'm not into that sex thing on stage. I'm not into pornography either. I just think it's cheap, in my opinion. It's very flesh. It's very mundane.

You can still see our site.. you can avoid the pornography all together.
I was always more into the Playboys and not the Hustlers.

The beauty of it as opposed to the lust.
Yeah, besides a picture of a cock going into a vagina and that's the whole thing, that to me is just like animals. I'm not into the connection with animals. I actually uproot myself from the connection with animals. That's what The Formulas Fatal To The Flesh is really all about. That's just for me. Other people might find spirituality through pornography, and that's great, people need to do what's best for themselves, but that's just not for me, and Morbid Angel is my band, and I write this stuff for what I got going.

Piston: What part if any do you feel drugs and alcohol play in this philosophy of purity of the flesh and spirity? (Trey had an unopened bottle of Jim Beam at his side.)
Well for me... (pauses) like pot, I've always smoked pot. When I was younger, I did LSD and angel dust and all that kind of stuff. What it did was it distracted my mind even further from anything that was of the normal situation, it's mind expansion, I guess. It's distracting, It makes you look at things differently, makes you change your perspective. Not that I endorse it, because I wouldn't do any kind of acid today, because I don't know what it's made out of.

As far as drinking, I'm just a very hyperactive kind of person, and sometimes when I drink a little bit, it just kind of smoothes things over so I can flow better with the playing and not be real rigid. Some of the playing has got to be rigid, like the pickings, but when it gets to the soloing and the stuff, it's more of a legato feel. It just smoothes things over for me. Pot opens up the feeling senses for me. Feeling the notes rather than looking at them with the mind and analyzing. There is no analyzing anymore. Analyzing for me is good for some things, but for other things I think it's crap. To analyze with the mind, to rationalize notes and art is crazy. It's all about feelings, feelings from a higher source.

That kind of reminds me of Frank Zappa.
Yea, well I really haven't heard him, but it's probably about the same thing. It's like Jimi Hendrix, he would do LSD and it opened up some stuff for him.

Piston: Unfortunately it also caused his end.
Yeah... I guess so.

There has to be a medium.
Yeah, there definitely has to be moderation. I don't know what his life was like, but for myself, I'm not a drunk. I don't get sloppy drunk. Maybe once in a while (smiling), but not that much. When I smoke pot, I don't do it like every day, or do it right when I wake up. It's like a tool.

Has David Vincent given any feedback on the new Morbid Angel stuff?
No, I haven't talked to him about it, to be honest. I've been really busy.

Was "Chambers of Dis" inspired by any specific individuals or groups?
It's basically about, as with all our albums... it's based on values. Values are what we are all about. Values determine everything about us, it determines our decisions, our focus, all of it. Some people would put more value in material things, and not realize that that's just the vehicle and not the end. It's about empty word. Empty words that the spirit doesn't hear. It's like Christians that go to church on Sunday, and then do negative things the rest of the week. It's not real, it's not happening. Even if they are speaking to their higher self, and they want to exclude god as something separate, their higher self isn't going to buy it. There is something about feeling like you deserve a result, leverage, if you know what I mean.

How has the the response been to the new stuff on tour, as opposed to the old material?
It's been really good, definitely. When the album was out, all the letters and cards I got, like over 90% was favorable. And there is always a few people, because you can't always please everybody. A few people said that they wished that we would have continued on the path of like Domination, where it was cleaner and whatever, and different singing things. On tour, our show is one of the more brutal shows that we ever had, from any of our other tours. There is just more speed, in some of the songs in the past, David was a little against us pushing the speed limit, and trying to keep going as fast as possible. He wanted us to slow some things down. For me, I just feel that if it's a slow song, or if it's a mid-speed song, it should be slow or mid-speed. Not blasts, it shouldn't all of a sudden rush, but if it's fast and it could be faster, it should be faster. If it can race, if it can be at the verge of falling apart, that's great. Extreme music is going beyond the comfort zone. Extreme music is actually bettering your body against your instrument. Picking really hard, and hitting your drums hard, and sweating and whatever.

I know I've seen a lot of pictures of you actually bleeding while you were playing.
Well that was actually about cutting myself a long time ago for a transformation type of thing. That's what these scars are (showing us his forearm), but it wasn't as much bleeding from playing. If anything I might cut myself when I am really sweaty and my fingers get soft, but it's not about that. It's about suffering. I do suffer. Every night I play I suffer. Somewhere through the set I am suffering. I'm cramping, or I'm dying, but it's great because that's what I love to do. It's all for the Ancient Ones, it's all for the spirit. It's a celebration of that. Just like in the past, you know, like temple music.

There seems to be a mix, but a lot of people at first are turned off by it, listening to the album more they see the return. "The hunger" is the word that really comes to mind when I listen to that album. You sound so hungry and fierce and ready to devour. I spend a lot of time on the Internet, and I talk to a lot of people and the response almost always ends up being positive. I don't know anybody who hated it initially and kept hating it.
You know what's funny, there has always been people that hated our band.

Well, there is never a band that is completely liked.
There have been people that hated us with David. There were people that thought that David was all this and that, and all this negative stuff about me.

Piston: One of the biggest rumors that I heard was that you were this egomaniac, going off on everybody, making every band you toured with's lives miserable. Have you ever heard of the magazine The Grimoire?

Piston: This is a fanzine that has been trying to pick a fight with you and King Diamond.
Really, with King Diamond. What's up with that?

Piston: They have been saying that you two have been having a war going for a long time.
With King Diamond?

Piston: Yeah, and King Diamond says he doesn't know anything about it.
There was one show a long time ago, before we even had a record out. We were supposed to open a show with King Diamond and Flotsam And Jetsam in Charlotte, and I think it was like 1988 or something and they said that we couldn't play and we were pretty dissatisfied about that and we said a bunch of shit at that time, on that day, but not beyond that.

Apparently they have been trying to rekindle the fire.
There is a lot of people who talk shit, especially if you give people the Internet. It's real easy to be a god at the keyboard. And have nothing else in your life, but spend all your time trying to get this stuff going, and try to create some illusion of power. There has always been people that has not liked our band. There have been people that haven't liked alters of madness, so go figure. Simple put, when it goes to rules, my rule is that I do it for myself first. I'm not depending on people liking it, and even if they didn't like it, I could go on and do something else. I've played this music, I've accomplished a lot, I'll keep putting out records if there is a following for it, because if there isn't a following for it, then I wont get a record deal. That's why we're not playing any of the Domination stuff, because I wasn't happy with the end result, unless we rewrite a few of the lyrics.

Have you been invited to play the Milwaukee Metal feast this year or is that conflicting with your tour?
I have no idea.

It seems that, of the larger acts that are playing, you guys would be an ideal candidate.
I'd like to play it, but I don't handle the tours. I just tell my manager what kind of bands I want to tour with. I definitely wanted to tour with Vader, and I wanted to tour with Angel Corpse, but we couldn't get Angel Corpse on.

I think they are on tour with Cannibal Corpse.
Right, but I'm glad we got Vader, because I think they are fantastic.

Yeah, their new album just blew me away. I just got finished with an interview with Peter, their lead singer, and he's a real nice guy. I asked him about you guys, I asked if Trey livers up to his reputation of being an egomaniac that makes your lives miserable, and he said no, that this is a great tour to be on, and that you were all like family.
I know that I have definitely said ego things in the past. But lots of people have done that.

It's not bragging when you can back it up.
Yea, but it's all labels too. I've done some interviews where some people have triggered me and played me like a monkey and gotten me to say a lot of things in their magazine that later I read and I thought, I didn't need to say all that, that was a bunch of bullshit. Hey, the human makes mistakes, what can I say. That's why I'm saying, the flesh is limited. The flesh, the emotions. We have all don't things in our life, made a rash decision that later we think about and think, that wasn't such a great thing. But it's the way we felt, we felt out of control, we couldn't clearly put it together. We felt really weird about or we thought really write, and the result was not really favorable. It was a mistake. I've done a lot, that is why I try as best as I can to stay in this other place, this higher place.

How do you view the death metal scene now, as opposed to when you first started? You guys have been there from the beginning...
I think in 1989 we were on some kind of wave or something with Altars. The metal was really starting to build, and I think with Blessed it was really big about 1991 or 1992. There were a lot of death metal bands, there was like a flood of bands and in 1993 it started dropping again. I think that the flood of the market, and there were so many band that were doing things just to fit in it didn't really have a great style, and it bored people. They weren't inspired. I think now it's building back up and I think it's the bands that have inspiration and have their own style, their own personal thing that they are coming across with, are the ones that are going to rise up. I think definitely Vader and Angel Corpse are some of those bands.

I think all genres that achieve popularity go through that phase, I think black metal it there right now. There are a lot of band that have switched from black metal to death metal, just to ride the waves.
For me, I used to say that those bands shouldn't do that, shouldn't play music to fit in, now it's like, "I don't care." Now I know that that's a foolish judgment call to say that they shouldn't do that, because I don't have the right to say that. That's where I've learned a lot since I've made the other kind of interview where I had all these opinions, and yeah, I can still back it up, I can still find there were some roots there for my opinion, because my band was the first type of band to get a big type of fame on Giant Records. I did think that our videos were the most devastating on MTV compared to anybody. And "Rapture" and "God Of Emptiness" really did corner the market on speed and then sludge. So, they were all facts, but so what so fucking what, you know I didn't have to sit there and talk about it. So now I'm like, "whatever." Whatever happens I'm gonna ride with it. I do my best and bands I like I'm gonna talk about, and I really like bands like Vader and Angel Corpse. I think they've got great styles. And other band can do whatever, it's just my opinion, it doesn't matter. My opinion is not any better than anybody else's. I do what I do because I love it. I listen to what I like to listen to, and when I write lyrics, I write lyrics about what's important to me and what fuels the energy that becomes the music.

Piston: I'd like to thank you very much. I've got to go up and get some air and take pictures of Incantation.
It was really nice meeting you (Trey stands with a smile and the two shake hands amicably, Trey sits back down and Piston leaves). I just think that people should do what they want to do. If they want to play certain beats, or play whatever, then just do it. Go for it, because who's to say if it's right or wrong.

How do you feel Morbid Angel will be remembered in the underground 20 years from now? Do you think you'll still be playing?
Oh I don't know, 20 years from now? We'll see, that would make me 53. I don't know if I'll be playing this kind of music at that age. But maybe because I believe in "timeless mind, ageless body". Age is a perception of conditioning. I don't even know what the date is, I don't even keep track of the days, months, or whatever. My wife pays the bills. Maybe I will be playing then, something. I think we'll be remembered as people that are out of their minds, because I am out of my mind when compared to the mundane collective. When compared to society, I'm a freak, I'm way out there. I come from this place, or this place, and I'm up and down, and I'm moody, and I'm weird. Sometimes I don't want to be a round a lot of people, sometimes I do, sometimes I got a lot to say, sometimes I got nothing to say. I'm just a freak.

I'm glad I caught you on a good day! (Trey smiles) You've always praised Eddie Van Halen as a guitar player and a virtuoso, what do you think of the new Van Halen stuff?
I really haven't heard it, I don't know.

Was it just him as a player that you appreciated, or were you a Van Halen fan?
I like the whole thing, The first, all the way up to Fair Warning. Some of the other stuff is really good too, but It's mainly like the first two and three albums, actually the first four albums. Some of the things about the second album I like the best. The vibe. It just seemed like it was just them jamming. It didn't seem like it was even a record, it sounded just like a tape of them playing. It seemed so live. And like song like "Out Of Love" and the solo he does in "You're No Good", I just thought that stuff was over the top in feeling and in what I call "Lava." His playing is phenomenal. It's visionary.

What one song do you feel most encapsulates Morbid Angel's philosophy and sound?
I don't know.... (pauses) I would say the first song on the last album. The last song is so different from the others. If someone only heard that they would get a whole other opinion of the band. They wouldn't think that we had stuff like "Heaving Earth" or "Nothing Is Not". I think that if you actually look at our songs from all the albums they go in all directions. They are from the same source, but they really branch out. That might sound egotistical or whatever, but I think it's the truth. I think you can't compare "Blessed Are The Sick" with "Immortal Rites," and then "Maze Of Torment," and then "Bleed For The Devil," and then "Blasphemy of the Holy Ghost," and "Lord of All Fevers and Plague," and then you move into "God Of Emptiness," and "Where The Slime Live..." those songs just move out into so may different timings and whatever. That's all from the LSD in the past. I would never have thought of playing guitar like that if I didn't trip and play guitar, because that's when I learned the basic cords, and then from just getting really stoned I began to pay more attention to the sound of stuff. The sound of cords together, rather than thinking that this key's gotta be this way or its wrong. A lot of my stuff is atonal, it doesn't fit into any key, it's modulating all the time.

What led to Erik Rutan leaving the band?
He's doing his own stuff, and I wanted to do all the stuff on Formulas myself.

So you're definitely staying a trio, as far as recording?
As far as I know. I remember before Domination I said I always wanted to have another guitar player, then we did Domination, and I changed back to a three piece. I don't know, It's just back to me being out of my mind. That's what they are going to say. They are going to say, "Yea, that Morbid Angel band, they are just out of their fucking mind". That's why I take the name Azagthoth (pronounced Ats-ig-tote), because that's the so-called blind idiot god of chaos. Called "blind idiot" by the mundane collective, the social learned condition.

Is your wife Mrs. Azagthoth?
(laughs) Well that's not my real last name, that's my spirit name.

It's not your legal last name?

Just curious... including Abominations of Desolation and Entangled in Chaos, please rank Morbid Angel's albums from your least favorite to your favorite.
(pauses) I wouldn't want to rate it. I wouldn't be able to.

There is a bootleg CD called The Beginning, have you heard it?
Those were definitely the LSD days!

I picked up a copy and there is no name, brand, or responsibility for manufacturing anywhere on the CD. Do you have any idea who had it or who put it out?
I've got ideas, but I wouldn't want to say. That's a good thing about my beliefs as well. Ignorance which shields the crimes is seen by the all knowing one. It doesn't matter who's doing it or if I personally see to it, their demise or their correction, they will be corrected, it's just the law. It's the was things are, it's the way of karma. It is the exchange.

I don't know anybody who has heard it that thinks any less of the band.
I know there are bootleg tapes out there that probably sound like shit, because we have off nights. I'm sure we sound terrible in sound checks, when we are tuning up. There were date in Europe when we played without bass or vocals because David was sick.

How was the crowd's reaction?
The were fair, they appreciated that we were playing, but I'm sure they were disappointed.

Is there any one Morbid Angel song that you wrote, yourself, that you will never play again?
We haven't played "Damnation" or "Evil Spells" since the Altars days, so we'll probably not play those songs anymore. We try to play "Rebel Lands", but somehow it kept getting too fast. It's a mid-speed song, when it's fast, it's a bunch of noise. We probably wont play that unless we can get the right tempo going on it. I don't think we have a song that sucks, because I always scrutinize everything we do. Maybe we could have recorded it better, but as far as the song, that's why we spend so much time to do a record. We do a record every two years. Not once a year, or two times a year. I really want every song to have the right deal. To be complete and not just be thrown together. I can't really think of any song that we wont play because we are beyond it, but there are songs we wont play because there are too many songs and we don't play more than like an hour or so.

Are you a fan of Incantation at all?
Yeah, I think they are really good. I like Vader better, I think Vader has more going on with the rhythms and stuff. But Incantation is definitely brutal. Very brutal, very "in the face". So that's really cool. Vader to me, their rhythms are so killer. What stands out for me is a certain style of rhythm playing about bands, because the are other bands that people think are phenomenal, and I don't like them because I don't like the vibe from the rhythms. The timings. It's not about being super technical or super difficult, because there are a lot of bands that are very difficult that to me, I don't get vibe. Music is all about vibe, it's all about feeling. Vader has some very memorable rhythms, and great blast beats and double bass.

Are their any guitarists in death metal today that you admire or appreciate?
I think Eric's a great guitar player. I think the guitar players in Vader are really good too. I think Gene from Angel Corpse, his new album and his live album I've heard from him from the European tour.

Exterminate is a wonderful album.
I think that many people said that they were a Morbid Angel clone, and maybe they might have been something like that in the beginning, but I don't think they are now. I think now they have their own style.

That's about it... any last words?
Yeah... (smiles) check out the stuff by Depoc Shopra and Tony Robbins and check out the Kabala if anybody wants to know anything about any of that stuff that I'm talking about, get their own interpretation from it, because it's good stuff. I think it's really good stuff to read about. Even if you think it's all bullshit, to just know what it is, and then say it's bullshit.

Any specific books you suggest?
Yeah, Depoc Shopra The Higher Self or Seven Spiritual Laws Of Success. Anthony Robbins, Awake The Giant Within. There are a lot of different books about the Kabalahh. Different spellings, Kabalahh, Cabalahh, Qabalahh. I would start off with a basic book on the Kabalahh. Elements Of The Kabalah, by Will Parfit.