BraveWords.com: You rejoined the band in 2004...doesn’t time fly?
David Vincent: “Yeah, it was at the tail-end of 2004. It was almost winter time, so yeah. It was a few years ago now, for sure.”
BraveWords.com: Obviously things have now evolved to this point, with a new album and line-up, but what was the original motivation for rejoining at that point? What were you hopes and expectations when you first got back together with Trey (Azagthoth, guitarist) and Pete (Sandoval, drummer)?
Vincent: "Well, to cut a long story short, the band were already on the end of their touring cycle for the previous record and for whatever reasons they found themselves with some shows on the books and no vocalist. Who knows why? It doesn’t really matter to me. The long and the short of it is that I got a call and they said ‘Hey, what would you think about maybe doing a few shows together?’ And I thought about it and it was like ‘Okay, maybe that could be interesting! It sounds cool, so what’s the story?’ So they told me and that was it. We got together. We hadn’t played together since I left, but it’s surprising how quickly everything came together.”
BraveWords.com: Was it easy to click back into Morbid Angel mode after nearly a decade away from the band?
?Vincent: "Well, I was listening to some of the old stuff and trying to remember, ‘What the hell was I doing on this song?’ There were a few spots where I felt like I was not remembering exactly what it was that I did, so when we all got in and played together, I told everyone, ‘Listen, if I drop out for a second, just continue on and I’ll catch up!’, but we got to the parts that were in question and my hands just went to the right place. We talk about this all the time whether we’re rehearsing or doing stuff at home and trying to bring it together, that there is no replacement or no amount of sitting around playing by myself that ever matches ten minutes of being in a room with everyone grinding it out. It’s two different worlds. Everyone says that, even Tim (Yeung, new Morbid Angel drummer). He says ‘Man, I’m down here rehearsing and sweating all day but it’s nothing compared to when we all go down and play...’ because it brings that extra energy and it sounds big and it sounds crushing and probably everyone’s pushing everyone to play a little harder and faster, and it’s a great feeling, man.”
BraveWords.com: It’s been six and a half years since you rejoined, so when did you decide to make a new record? Or was that something you wanted to do straight away?
Vincent: "Well, no. We didn’t even talk about it until around 2008. We had the first song that we did, which is actually the first single from the record, 'Nevermore'. That was the first song that came together and it came together really quickly and it’s a great track, so we put it in the set and all the fans were like ‘Yeah, come on!’ so there was a lot of pressure from outside to put some new stuff together. But I don’t know, man, we took our time. Then we had all the challenges we had with Pete, too...”
BraveWords.com: What actually happened with Pete?
Vincent: "The long and the short of it is that he had been complaining for years that he had back pain and that he was sore and had pain in his leg and so on. Listen, I get sore too, we all get sore. My neck gets sore, my hands get sore, my fingers bleed. They’re the hazards of the job. We’re not playing soft music here. But the reality of it all came to light when we first started, after the 'Nevermore song', working on a couple more tracks and Pete was getting really sore. We just said ‘Let’s not push it so hard…’ So we’d play for 45 minutes or so and he’d get sore and so I’d say ‘Okay, let’s start again tomorrow’. But tomorrow would come and 15 minutes into it, Pete was yelling ‘Aargh!’ So I’d say ‘Okay, maybe you pulled something. Let’s take a couple of days…’ It continued like that for a while, until he said ‘Man, I’ve got to go and see a doctor or something because it’s worse than it’s ever been...’ So he went and had some x-rays and MRIs done and he came back and it was like ‘Dude, I’m gonna be honest with you, you’re gonna have to get somebody else to do this record because I just can’t do it. I need to go get surgery right away and I may never be able to play drums again. I may never be able to walk again if I keep pushing this!’ So we said ‘Dude, do what you got to do and we’ll figure this out!’ The guy’s been a friend and an associate and a family member since 1988. We were going to make some difficult choices, it wasn’t something we wanted to face. We hoped it would work itself out but that’s now how it happened. He said ‘Look at the damn tests, man. That’s just how it is!’”
BraveWords.com: So how did you end up choosing Tim Yeung as Pete’s replacement?
Vincent: "Moving forward, we knew we had to get busy and take action, so Trey and I started thinking about it. We know that there are only a handful of people in the world that can just walk in and do this. It’s not like you can go to any rock ‘n’ roll nightclub and say ‘Okay, you’ll do!’ It’s an acquired discipline. It’s very, very demanding and it takes a lot of work. It takes years and years and years of work to be able to develop the kind of high speed coordination and to be able to cover our history of material, much less some of the new stuff! So of the handful, the shortlist we had, thankfully Mr. Tim Yeung was available, schedule-wise, and he was also interested in it. There was no audition process with him. We knew that he could do it. He flew out and we jammed a couple of songs. He pretty much knows the catalogue. Then we just got straight to work on the new stuff.”
BraveWords.com: Did that change the complexion of the new stuff, having someone other than Pete playing drums?
Vincent: "Well, you know, it’s weird. Someone else said to me, ‘So now Tim’s replaced Pete...’ Well, Tim didn’t really replace Pete. Pete is not a replaceable person because he has a style of playing that is very much him, and in that same sense, Tim also has a very strong style that he’s developed over years of doing stuff, so they’re very different players. Although they both have similar characteristics, the high speed coordination, their feel is different. Tim has a lot of experience with a lot of jazz-type stuff and he does a lot of interesting fills that we were able to make good use of on this record, so there are some different flavours on this, but there are also some different songs that would’ve taken some thinking outside the box to come up with the appropriate drums for anyway. I listen to the record and I’m proud of everyone for all the work they did. Tim worked his ass off in the studio and it shows. It’s really talented stuff. It’s really tasteful and he played his ass off.”
BraveWords.com: It does feel a bit weird to hear someone else playing drums for Morbid Angel, but it definitely works...
Vincent: "I think it works really well and I can’t imagine that anyone, any sentient person, could be in the least bit disappointed in any of the drumming on this record. I think it’s fucking glorious, I really do. He went in and hit a grand slam, he really did. There was this one song he was working on and I videoed it and put it up on YouTube, and it’s just ridiculous. It was fun making this record, man.”
BraveWords.com: Destructhor has acquitted himself brilliantly on the new album, but was there ever any chance of Erik Rutan (HATE ETERNAL) being your second guitarist for this project?
Vincent: "Well, Erik wasn’t there when I rejoined. There was another guitar player that the band had for a brief period, who did the touring for the Heretic record. When I came back it was Trey and Pete, the important guys. When we went to go to Europe there were some problems with the gentlemen a mentioned before, so I called Erik and said ‘Hey man...’ and he came in. Erik’s a great guitar player and a really great friend. He’s part of the family. We’re all an incestuous bunch down here, between the bands, everyone knows everyone. So anyhow, Erik was like ‘I’m happy to do it!’ Over the years, he’s become a very accomplished producer. He’s produced so many records in his studio, and it’s a really nice studio too, at the level of a Morrisound or other large format studios. In fact he literally bought the two-inch tape machine that Domination was recorded on, from Morrisound! He called and said ‘Dave, I bought the two-inch from Domination!’ I was like ‘What the fuck did you wanna do that for? Did you buy a boat too?’ He said ‘What do you mean?’ and I said ‘Well, in case you need an anchor for it?’ You know, no one uses tape anymore! But anyway, we have this relationship and the point is that he’s so successful doing what he does and he has his own band as well, so it ain’t really doing him any favours for me to say ‘Would you play in Morbid Angel, as a favour?’ Obviously he gets paid as well, but I can’t compete with what he makes, doing so well on his own. He’s got his own thing going on now. I like him. He’s a fun guy with lots of personality. He barely has time to tour with his own band because he’s literally booked around the clock at his own studio.”
BraveWords.com: He was involved in the recording process, though…
Vincent: “Yeah, we recorded six songs with him for our new record, just recording the drums, but in order to do that we had to book the time so far in advance! We can’t just say ‘Hey man, we need to come in next week!’ He’d be like ‘How about next week and add eight months to it?’ It’s amazing, because a lot of the bigger studios are not as busy because of the whole catastrophe with the music business right now, but Erik is doing really well. Anyhow, I was glad that we were at least able to work with him in some capacity on this record because we have a lot of history together.”
BraveWords.com: When you guys decided to make an album, you must have been very aware of the legacy you have to uphold. The four albums you made with the band first time round are revered by death metal fans and everyone who loves the band, so was it quite a daunting thing and a big challenge to write a new album, knowing how cynical people will inevitably be about anything new?
Vincent: "Well, of course, but that’s the point. One thing that I would believe that people have looked for in Morbid Angel is this idea of breaking new ground and of being atypical, away from what’s going on around us. That’s what we always have been and probably more so than ever, this idea of having all these rules in music, I don’t agree with that. We’ve always tried to push things. Obviously, when we put out Altars Of Madness, we didn’t really have a bunch of contemporaries to look to, to see what we could do here or there. It was a very organic experience. But when we went to Blessed, it sounded completely different from Altars, sonically and songwriting-wise. We started using a lot of interesting musical interludes in between songs to add atmosphere and ambience and to crank up the roller-coaster before the next peak, before we drop you off! And the idea of creating a soundscape that wasn’t just any one song, but that was an embodiment of the work. We continued that on with Covenant and Domination, having a few songs that were much different from the other stuff, and usually saving some complete departure for the last song, like in the case of 'God Of Emptiness' and 'Hatework'. There were a few things on those records that were a lot different, so those were sort of the beginning of the idea of pushing and including more in what our definition of what death metal or extreme music was.”
BraveWords.com: Does it surprise you that many fans would rather you just endlessly repeated what you were doing in 1991?
Vincent: "Man, there are a lot of bands that look at that creative box as being a lot smaller than we do, but I don’t accept that. That’s just not who we are. This is probably the most extreme record we’ve ever done, and some of that extremity is the extreme differences from song to song. It’s a journey, but it’s not that the light switch comes on when the song starts and comes off when it ends. There’s different colours, different hues, a lot of different stuff on this diverse monolith called Illud Divinum Insanus, including everything that we’ve always had, the traditional Morbid Angel songs that are really fast and aggressive, with playing that’s fretboard gymnastics and drums that are 260bpm. But there’s a lot of other stuff on there too.”
BraveWords.com: Trey’s guitar sound and playing style is incredibly distinctive, as always, but I can hear a lot of your influence on this album too, particularly in the industrial side of things...
Vincent: "I don’t see that there’s anything that is off-limits for us, if we can amalgamate it with what we do. We assimilated classical into our sound. What would you call a song like 'God Of Emptiness' or 'Hatework'? They’re certainly not traditional death metal, within that small box as defined by today’s standards. I know it’s necessary when people do interviews, they have to put things in a box to make it easy to describe things and you have to tell a story in print. But any of these things, whether it’s industrial or hardcore or whatever, they’re just really cool ideas. When Trey first came in with some of this stuff I was excited all beyond belief, because it sounded so damn unique to me and so different. I was like ‘Fuck yeah! We’re gonna do this!’ and Trey would say ‘Really?’ and I’d say ‘Yeah, absolutely! What does it take to get started? Let’s find a way to make this happen!’ I was blown away by it. I knew it was gonna be a lot of fun. I am so proud for all of this stuff. He went way above and beyond anything. I think this some of the most genius brilliant stuff that he has ever done.”
BraveWords.com: You must be aware of some of the negative responses that some of the new songs have been getting...
Vincent: "When you leak stuff on the internet, everyone’s got a damn opinion and a lot of these people hadn’t even heard the damn thing when they started criticizing! Okay, there’s a couple of songs where the drums sound different, but it’s not because they’re programmed, it’s because we added a few trigger pads to his kit, and they’re these big, distorted, nasty-sounding drums. But so what? It’s not like we’ve suddenly become this programmed, techno-dance band or something. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Everything you hear was played. Every drum you hear was played by Tim and every guitar you hear, whether or not it sounds like a guitar, it is a guitar and it was played by the guitar players! There’s nothing programmed about this. It’s all very organic, gnarly extreme music.”
BraveWords.com: Does that mean that you’ll be playing a lot of this new stuff live, including the more non-traditional material?
Vincent: "We’re in rehearsals right now, because we have a lot of touring coming up, and the only song we’ve ever played together as a band was 'Nevermore'. Every other song was not rehearsed prior to making the record. We got the drums down and then started layering stuff on top. Meanwhile, I’m deciding what approach I wanna take live, because I don’t consider one when I’m doing the other. When I’m laying down bass tracks, I lay down bass that I think is appropriate, and then when I’m doing vocals I lay down vocals and sometimes the two don’t come together so easily in practice and I have to think about it differently. I’m pushing myself and we’re trying to figure out what the live set’s gonna look like, because obviously we’re all excited to play new material.”
BraveWords.com: The most contentious song on the album, by some margin, is 'Radikult'…do you feel duty bound to play that something like that live to emphasize the point that these new ideas are an integral part of what you’re doing now?
Vincent: "Listen, we are going to be playing some new stuff live. I want to, we all want to. Why not? I would be perfectly comfortable going out and playing the whole record live, in order, because I feel that awesome about it. But it is a diverse record and I don’t see that there is a lack of quality or integrity on anything on this record. If anything, this record has more personality and more depth of soul than damn near anything I’ve heard for years. Obviously I’m subjective, but I don’t mince words either. I’m really, really proud of this record and I’m proud of all the guys, I’m proud of our label, I’m proud of our management and I’m just elated that it came out this way, everything about it. The sonic quality of it, there’s nothing else out there like this. It really sounds big, dude. When I listened to it at the studio, it’s huge.”
BraveWords.com: Sean Beavan mixed the album. How did that collaboration come about?
Vincent: "Sean is not what I would call an extreme metal guy. He did a SLAYER record and he’s done a few mellow rock things, but the biggest thing he’s done is The Downward Spiral by NINE INCH NAILS. Whether or not you’re a fan of Trent Reznor, no one can say that that guy doesn’t go off in all directions and every song is different with different instruments and all kinds of crazy stuff, so when Sean heard this record for the first time, when we started talking about doing it with him, he was like ‘This is really, really interesting!” He really enjoyed working on it. He said ‘I haven’t had this much fun working on a record in a long time!’ and that’s great. We really stayed away from the mixing process. We had some ideas and the material wants to do its thing. That’s what we said, ‘Don’t worry about making one song sound like the next...just allow each one of them to have the personality that it naturally wants!’ And man, it came out and it’s just powerful, dude. Real powerful. Again, it does not sound like any of these other records that I’ve heard recently.”
BraveWords.com: From a devoted fan’s perspective, it’s incredibly refreshing to hear an album that does more than simply deliver what’s expected...although evidently not everyone shares my view on that!
Vincent: "We can do pretty much anything we want. I’m surrounded by people who are dripping with talent. We could do that to, we could play every bit as fast as we ever have, but there’s a lot out there and we want to add more to our palate. We don’t want to reduce what we do. We don’t want to minimize it, we want to maximize it. We’ve found new ways to add to this monolith thing called extreme music, this thing called Morbid Angel. Without mentioning any names, I hear a lot of records where you could take a couple of songs from each band and swap them over and you’d never know. Stuff sounds very similar to me these days and it’s kinda generic and that’s what some of these bands are going for. We just never thought that way, so that seems odd to me. There is that stuff out there and there are people that do it and they do it well, but that’s just not who we are, for better or for worse.”
BraveWords.com: In terms of the lyrics, how did you approach things this time? Would you say that you have picked up where you left off or is this a departure for you?
Vincent: "Departure? No. Bigger? Yeah. It’s all really personal and it all flowed. I didn’t fight with any of it. It came out quick and concise. The message of the band has never changed, since the very start of the band. Everything that we said was pushing people to think outside the box and to be more powerful, to gain power and wisdom, to evolve and to shun things that would stifle the spirit or creativity or thought, whether that’s organized religion or government or anything that would get in the way of achieving maximum, blissful potential. That’s the underlying message that we’ve always had. Now there’s many different ways to approach that whether it’s through religious stuff, horror stuff, more direct stuff, less direct stuff. But the message of the band is strong, loud and clear. It’s about having the confidence to stand up and say ‘Fuck yeah! I’m proud of thinking outside the box and I’m proud of everyone else who does it as well...’ It’s an elite group of people and the more people who find their way to that, the merrier! It’s not a spoon-feeding thing. People have to find their own way and I will always encourage them.”
BraveWords.com: What about the title itself? Obviously it had to begin with an ‘I’, because you have a rule to obey there...
Vincent: "Well, hang on a second, that was something that we started. I don’t know any other band that used the alphabet and if there is, they’re copying us! But I was thinking to myself, ‘Well, everyone expects it to start with an ‘I’...’ and in any other situation that would be a good reason not to do it, but you only have one opportunity to break the continuum. I didn’t feel like it should be broken. We did discuss it and I asked everyone and we all said ‘No, let’s roll with it’. The meaning behind the title, or my deeper meaning at least, is that I believe that creativity is something divine and it just so happens that our creativity is completely insane, and so there is this insanely divine thing known as Morbid Angel.”
BraveWords.com: For all its controversial detours, Illud Divinum Insanus does sound very much like a celebration of everything that the band has stood for over the years. Was that the intention?
Vincent: "That’s how I’m seeing it too. I’m not kidding when I tell you that I’m honoured to be surrounded by such amazingly talented people. Not just the band but our management, which is the same management we’ve had since the very beginning. And also our new record label, they have such amazing artistic vision, which is such a breath of fresh air, especially with the current state of the music industry. Whatever it is we want to do, they’re like, ‘Yeah, man, let’s find a way to do it...’ and that’s so refreshing. The relationship is in its infancy, but I honestly couldn’t be happier. They have a sizeable investment in this project, but it’s not just that. They’re fun people and they get it.”
BraveWords.com: Do you view this as the beginning of a new chapter? Have you thought about the next record yet?
Vincent: "Honestly, right now there’s nothing on my mind more than getting out and being able to share all this new stuff with people. We have new songs but we’re not talking about that yet. We have ideas and all kinds of new stuff. Nothing replaces anything, it just gets added to what we do. We do things that are unexpected, and we’ve always done that, so I guess it’s kind of expected that we do the unexpected, but when we do things that don’t strike people as being a traditional kind of thing, we’re just adding things and we’re not taking anything away. We have a very wide palate of stuff to choose from and we always want to forge new ground. That’s what true art is. When you’re inspired to do something, you just do it and preconceptions be damned!”