MALEVOLENT CREATION (Phil Fasciana) INTERVIEW
When Death Metal began losing its popularity around the mid-90s, many bands decided to call it a day, disappointed by the lack of interest from both fans and the music industry alike. One of the few outfits that stood firm in its convictions and continued to provide us with good quality Death Metal albums throughout that dark era was the US quintet Malevolent Creation – a band whose latest opus “Invidious Dominion” is still fresh on the shelves of many record stores around the globe. Having completely surrendered to its charms over the last few weeks, I decided to contact guitarist and founding member Phil Fasciana one cold Monday morning. Armed with much patience and a good sense of humour, Phil answered all my questions which were related to his band’s latest offering, past problems with record labels and his plans for the future!
By Yiannis (John) Stefanis.
• Phil, before we start this interview I feel the need to mention my admiration for Malevolent Creation as a band, a band that I have been supporting since the release of “The Ten Commandments”, and also my resentment of the fact that this band has never received the recognition that it so massively deserves! Sorry, just needed to get these things off my chest!
Phil: I really appreciate what you just said – thanks, man!
• And all these feelings become multiplied in the knowledge that you released an album as impressive and commanding as “Invidious Dominion! What can I say about this great effort of yours that you have not been told already by so many other people?
Phil: (laughs) We are very happy with it, you know why? We were pretty well rehearsed, we knew what we wanted to do which was an album that would bring us back to the time when we first started this band and which would consist of fu*king fast and aggressive songs. We don’t have much in common with all those fu*king new bands (laughs) you know, all these metalcore bands. We still love classic Death Metal, at least I do, and have those influences by bands like Dark Angel and Slayer. The production we did was of course modern, but that’s pretty much it! Bottom line – this is heavy music!
• Phil, when looking at the band’s previous releases like “Doomsday X”, “Warcult” and “The Will To Kill”, one can easily detect many similarities between all those albums. Based on that fact, I cannot understand why people (aka music journalists) have made so many nice comments with regards “Invidious Dominion” and yet failed to support all the other albums!
Phil: You know what, I wish I could give you a decent answer but…when we signed with Nuclear Blast records, a German label, they were totally excited about everything but…I mean “The Will To Kill” was a really good album and we still play a lot of these songs live today. We thought that it was a great album but we never really got any ‘push’ from our record company – they didn’t really do anything for us (laughs). They didn’t do really anything for “Warcult” – for “Doomsday X” they did a little bit but…it’s strange! This is our last record for Nuclear Blast (note: Phil speaks with regards the US as the record is released in Europe under Massacre Records) and now we finally do a promo video. We finally now have a management deal whereas before we used to do everything by ourselves. Now we try to do things differently than how we used to in that respect, but we are still focused on recording heavy music that is memorable to people and which will help them get into it. I write music that I want to hear – that has always been the case!
• I cannot understand this! How can you have a band as cult and legendary as Malevolent Creation in your roster, a band that is so established that you don’t have to particularly struggle in terms of promoting its music, being left to its own fate like that? That is plain criminal!
Phil: I don’t know why either! We have actually had a bad experience with record labels throughout the years. Before you try them out, they all say that they are going to do all those different things for you, help you out and try to advance your career but somehow it always turns out that we have to do all those things. We have to go and find a booking agent, we have to go on the road and tour and do all that stuff on our own, without any financial fu*king help! It’s tough, you know, to be in a band under such circumstances and play heavy music with no commercial value. We know that the music we play is not for everybody but I also know that there are a lot of people out there which feel the same way as we do and support us. We have a lot of touring to do in 2011 and we are playing live better than we were ever playing, something that is quite strange (laughs). It looks like the older we get the better we become! We play show after show but we still get up on stage and do it (laughs).
• A year and a half ago I had an interesting conversation with Alex Webster from Cannibal Corpse which revolved around the state of Death Metal in general. When talking about great bands that were never really recognised for their worth and value, the first band that Alex mentioned was Malevolent Creation! I am not in the habit of comparing bands but I believe that both Malevolent Creation and Cannibal Corpse share similar music values, so I cannot understand why they end up being so commercially successful and not you guys.
Phil: You know, those guys from Cannibal Corpse are friends of mine since the early days when Chris (Barnes: vocals) was in the band. We’ve all known each other since we were fourteen or fifteen years old! We’ve all been good friends and got into this music around the same time, forming bands before we ever did any demos or record deals. We, as a bad, were formed before Cannibal Corpse did but they were one of the first bands that really exploit gore lyrical themes and similarly on album covers, and that is something that a lot of people latched onto. Musically we are slightly different, well, not so much, but we definitely rely on speed a little bit more than them, but they also never went commercial with their sound nor compromised…what can I say? It’s strange how a lot of people have been asking that very same question over the years. Malevolent Creation are a little bit more intense…I don’t know. But then again, Cannibal Corpse are signed to a great record label like Metal Blade – that is why they stayed with that same label all those years, because Metal Blade treats them good. They are professional musicians, they are taken seriously and so they are doing the right thing if they want to survive in this fu*king business. And Brian Slagel who owns Metal Blade is a great guy! When he likes a band and believes in a band and knows that the band is willing to work hard, he really pushes such a band, and Cannibal Corpse is definitely one of those bands! That is a very important thing for a band which is as commercially successful as they are, while sounding as heavy as thy do and having the lyrics that they have. They are doing their part and people from the record label are also doing their part (laughs)…so, if we can get our record label on the same page as them, helping us with our tours and such we can potentially become a much bigger band. But, like I said, we are not really expecting too much from anyone else – we have a new management now and we have a lot of tours lined up in Europe, Asia the US and South America…we have a lot of things lined up for 2011 – what this year will bring we will have to wait and see (laughs). Hopefully we can all survive!
• Ok, let’s not dwell on the past any further as there is no point in doing so. What we have here in “Invidious Dominion” is a good quality album that’s quite delightful to listen to! Really, is there something that you guys have done differently this time round with regards to its creation and overall presentation?
Phil: We started to put together these songs in a very natural way. We actually did a lot of touring in support of “Doomsday X”, our tenth album, and we went pretty much all over the world, during which time we came to the conclusion that we ended up playing live a lot of songs that we didn’t normally play before. We realised that people really liked the shorter and more intense songs that we play and which are full of energy all way through. So, when we decided that we were going to write and record a new album, we kept that in mind. We just wanted to keep the songs very aggressive and very simple, you know what I mean? They may not sound simple (laughs), but we’ve been playing music like this for a while, so what we did was to arrange songs a little bit better and try to make our music sound as good as possible – make it easy for people to understand, you know? A lot of the music is so intense that it goes over people’s heads and they don’t really catch it! That’s me – I really cannot get into this fast and technical Death Metal (laughs). If I cannot head bang myself to the rhythm of a song then I cannot really get into it (laughs). It’s like comparing bands like Bolt Thrower and Necrophagist or something, you know what I mean? Both bands are great bands but I have to admit that I like Bolt Thrower a lot better! I can understand their music (laughs). That is what we also tried to do with “Invidious Dominion” which was to keep the intensity and heaviness but still make it all sound intelligible so that people can understand it and not treat it like a bunch of fu*king noise!
• I like the fact that you have used plural here when we all know that the main song writer in the band has always been you. Is that still the case nowadays?
Phil: Well, of course I have been carrying the torch, you know, but the guys I have been playing with now are great. Three of the original band members are back together: me, Brett Hoffman (vocals)…me and him started playing music together since we were twelve years old (laughs), you know what I mean? We’ve had our ups and downs but we have both grown up and matured a lot and working with him now…it just sounds right! When I write music and he writes lyrics the end result sounds like Malevolent Creation ought to do – the ‘machine’ works great. Also Jason Blachowicz (bass), our other original member, has been with us again and also our drummer Gus (last name: Rios) is part of the team. A lot of people don’t know that Gus is actually our drummer for the last six albums! We wrote the last six albums with him! It wasn’t until late 2007 that Dave Culross, who played on all our albums and was able to tour with us, actually stepped down. He had some personal problems so he had to leave and that prompted Gus to say “fu*k it, I am going to join the band – I am going to do this full time as I am sick and tired of working with you guys on songs and then have some other drummer playing them live with you and taking all the glory”. Gus is a really hard working drummer and a big fan of Malevolent Creation, you know? He is a few years younger than us and as a kid he grew up listening to albums like “The Ten Commandments” and “Retribution”. Those, to him, are like his bible, so he’s been our fan for a long time and he’s been a friend of mine for almost fifteen years! He’s been working with the band since 1998. “The Fine Art Of Murder” was the first album that I wrote completely with him and, from then on, that was how we continued. You see Dave Culross lives in New York and Gus lives here in Florida, so he and I ended up working together making demos of all the new songs. But then because of his work and stuff he was never able to be really commit to the band and tour with us. Dave would eventually end up re-doing his drum parts on the album and go on tour with us. But, you know, since Gus became a member of the band, the band became more solid. He’s been really reliable, he’s toured all over the world with us since 2007 and he’s really proven himself. He’s a great drummer, he’s reliable, he plays good and we really need to have a drummer like that in the band in order to make us function right! He’s completely sober too – he doesn’t party or anything (laughs). Not that Dave did but it is good to have that as sometimes me and the other guys get a little bit crazy (laughs). It is good knowing that we have a great drummer to support us on stage as it makes us play a lot better.
• Phil, if I am not mistaken, on “Doomsday X”, Gus was quite heavily involved in both the recording and engineering, as well as in the mixing process of that album.
Phil: That is true! As I said before, Gus has been quite instrumental in the creation of the last six Malevolent Creation albums. He’s been involved in their pre-production and even in “Doomsday X” he was one of the engineers and producers on that album.
• Ok, so why was it that you chose to work with Eric Rutan on “Invidious Dominion” instead? I mean, we all know that he is of course a truly good producer, but what was the reasoning behind that choice of yours?
Phil: I have known Eric since 1989 as we have played together with his old band Ripping Corpse and then when he moved to Florida and Joined Morbid Angel I kept an eye on him. I watched how, over the years, he was recording and producing that band and again, over the years, he has managed to become a great producer, man! And especially what really sealed the deal for me was the work that he had done on the last two Cannibal Corpse albums! I thought that the production was fu*king incredible! The guys in Cannibal Corpse are also good friends of Eric’s as they all live in the same town and so they were able to work at their own pace and so Eric did an amazing job for them. The sound quality is really fu*king great! Well, Eric had actually heard some of our demos that somebody had leaked online and that’s when he said to us “I’ve got to do your album”! So, he got in contact with us and when I told him that we were to record the album in April he was like “fu*k, I was going to take a vacation in April as I have been working non-stop for two years” but he soon said “I am going to postpone my vacations because I really want to do this new album” (laughs).
• It’s very difficult to give up on a Malevolent Creation album – I can certainly sympathise with that.
Phil: You know what? We actually had a really good time recording the album. It was fun, you know, as we are all around the same age and we have plenty of experience in doing similar things. To me Eric is like the Scott Burns (note: famous Death Metal producer of the early 90s) of 2000!
• I believe that this is a fairly accurate description!
Phil: I mean, there are a lot of good producers out there, but I have to admit, Eric is not the kind of guy that will let the computer do all the work for you – he makes you do things. We are not one of those bands who are struggling to make everything sound perfect! We play just the way we play in rehearsals or when we play live and that’s what he really liked about us – the fact that his job was quite easier as a result of us being well prepared! I mean, our drummer did all his parts in one day! Then, the whole album was pretty much finished in nine days!
• Was that a result of him being a hard worker and you guys being all pumped up about creating an album with him?
Phil: Both. We were really organised and prepared to just go there and do this album. Our drummer went there and set the bar quite high by doing all the drum tracks in one day. Eric was like “god damn – your drummer is on fire, man!”. “Now you have to pick up the pace” (laughs)! So, you know, everybody really put one hundred per cent into it and Eric brought the best out in everybody! Except for the solos and those vocal overdubs, what remains is what you get from us when we rehearse.
• One thing that I noticed on your MySpace page is that you advertise two specific songs from the new album. Is that an indication that these are the songs which you feel that better represent “Invidious Dominion”? These songs are, of course, “Target Right Environment” – an excellent choice as this is one that really stands out, and the other being “Slaughterhouse” which is quite meaty and solid.
Phil: These two songs totally represent Malevolent Creation in 2010! Have you seen the video that we did for “Slaughterhouse”?
• No, I haven’t! Is it for “Target Rich Environment” this video?
Phil: Oh man! This video pretty much got banned from everywhere! If you go to YouTube and make a search under Malevolent Creation and “Slaughterhouse” official video, you will see! The promo video is fu*king unbelievable (laughs)! It follows the lyrics exactly how Brett wrote them, describing a human slaughterhouse, and so the directors of the video followed the concept perfectly. It does get a little bloody (laughs) so people who are not used to blood and this kind of stuff may not like it. To us, this was the perfect choice in terms of both music and lyrics and so we are glad that we finally got it out. It really took the directors a lot of time to get this all together, the actors, the editing and get it to work out right, but in the long run it came out really good. So in that sense the record label…it’s strange that the record label is actually helping us to do such things now (laughs). I really don’t know if we ought to renew our contract with Nuclear Blast or not…we are actually really happy with Nuclear Blast in America but in Europe we have a different label that we work with (Massacre) as they (Nuclear Blast) did not consider us to be a priority. In Europe we work with Massacre records who are indeed doing a far better job in promoting our new album than Nuclear Blast did in any of the old albums.
• I was going to ask you about that as both the digipack and jewel case copies I have bought are released by Massacre!
Phil: Yes, it’s strange! In America we are still on Nuclear Blast but, as far as everywhere else, it’s licenced to other record companies. Europe & the UK is handled by Massacre, but that is great because Massacre is a better deal for us as we are a bigger band in a small label as opposed to being part of the Nuclear Blast where you have to compete for attention with another thousand bands, most of which are commercial and tend to sell more records than extreme bands like us! The most important thing for us is for our record to be able to reach people’s ears, that it is in stores and that it’s available. We know pretty well that this kind of music that we play is not going to make us a fortune (laughs)…but we like playing this kind of music – it’s a way that enables us to release all our packed aggression, man! All that ugliness that we have inside (laughs).
• Now, that is something that we also want to experience live and, from what I saw on Blabbermouth, as no such information exists yet on your MySpace page, you will be visiting the UK next April, right? Is that going to be a headlining tour?
Phil: Oh Yeah, we are definitely coming! From what I’ve gathered, we are going to be doing a headlining tour in 2011 which is also going to include the UK and I think that we are going to be doing a…we are going to come back in order to do some festivals in the summer around July and August. It’s great to be able to come back!
• I am happy to hear that as, though I have seen many Death Metal bands live over the years, Malevolent Creation are among the best! When you go on stage, that’s it man- total onslaught!
Phil: Thanks, man! We picked out twenty songs from all our albums and so we have put up a really good set list, so when we do go on tour it will be nice to play them. We are going to be playing five songs from the new album and that has to do with the fact that everybody seems to like this new album and all the guys in the band like playing these songs too and so we want to play them live. We have only played one song live so far and that is “Slaughterhouse”, as it was the only song that was released. Before the album was released, that was the only song that our record label had put on our My Space page and so was available for the public. So, we have a lot of good quality heavy music to choose from and so it’s hard for us to make a set list that will please everybody, but we will be playing a lot of songs from the old albums that we haven’t really played since these albums first came out. We actually have to re-learn some of our old songs and rehearse them which is nice as it brings back old memories and stuff. We’ve got a great set list, you know, so we cannot wait till the end of January when we will start touring full time man! I cannot wait to get the hell back to Europe and play in the UK! That’s where we have our most loyal fans!
• Phil, please clarify something for me. I remember that there was a DVD release that came out under Metal Mind records, not “Lost Commandments”…
Phil: Yes, that was “Created Live”!
• Exactly! I actually bought a copy and after a point you made a statement whereby you were urging your fans not to invest in it as it was not supported by the band. There was a small issue behind it, right?
Phil: There is still an issue behind that release (laughs). Actually, “Lost Commandments” is a bootleg release too! Too many people have bootlegged our sh*t that we actually had to accept it. We have a new DVD coming out which is from the recent tour that we did in Australia…
• Now, you are obviously referring to “Australian Onslaught”, an audio CD of which is already available!
Phil: Yeah! That will feature some different shows on good quality footage and it is actually approved by us. There are a lot of issues between us and Metal Mind as we never signed a contract; we never agreed to do anything.
• And you probably didn’t see any money coming in your pockets from them either, right?
Phil: Nope! We are playing our shows in Europe and we are signing these DVDs that we have not been paid for. I had to go out and buy one for myself too (laughs). So yes, we have a real problem with this guy Tom from Metal Mind because what he’s actually went and done was to go and re-release a lot of our old albums! He’s done that without any permission as he does not own these albums! You know what – laws in Poland are providing him with cover from any legal problems because that’s the way that the law works there and so he can get away with doing such things. That really sucks for us, because if I got a dollar for each and every one of those CDs and DVDs that I autograph each time I wouldn’t have to work anymore (laughs)!
• Ok, so this “Australian Onslaught” releases, both on CD and DVD, are official right? Is Arctic Group, the label company, any decent?
Phil: This is the record company that is run by me and my lawyers!
• Great, so we can all invest freely in such releases! Are these releases going to be readily available for us here in Europe?
Phil: Yes! I believe that it will be either Massacre or Nuclear Blast who is going to be distributing it in Europe and Arctic in America which is nice as it is our label and it allows us to control the distribution of our music. Actually, the last five Malevolent Creation albums are owned by Arctic Group, so we do actually own the rights to them. Maybe that’s why Nuclear Blast is not pushing us too much (laughs)…because we only have a licencing deal with them – we are not officially signed to them! They are not the ones who own the albums they just promote them…at least we know that we own our records! That means that if we sign a new record deal and we decide that we want to re-release these old albums then we know that we can and we can do that without getting ripped off again (laughs)!
• Phil, it has been amazing talking to you, mate! I respect you immensely for all the hard job you’ve done over the years and especially over the fact that you kept the band alive in a period during the mid-90s when Death Metal was not popular and a time when most of the bands that now claim to be ‘true’ had given up on music, only to return when the genre started to become popular again! You are not only pioneers but also survivors and that speaks volumes!
Phil: You know what? That is one thing I respect about our band because after all this time and all those ups and downs we are one of those bands that has never changed or softened, trying to be trendy! We always consciously tried to write a new record that’s heavier and more intense than our previous one! We don’t give a sh*t about trends and things like that – trends come and go but Heavy Metal has been around forever! I really don’t follow new music too much unless while I’m on tour when I hear new stuff…we’re never going to change! So long as there is a band called Malevolent Creation you should expect music to be as it is now!
• Phil, wishing you all success, mate! Looking forward to seeing you in London!
Phil: Alright, man, well, I hope that when we come to London we can have a couple of drinks together!
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