Probably this band did not give birth to brutal death metal at the eastern coast of the States, and, to be precise, in the vicinity of New York. But due to this particular bandís activity the metal scene has been kept alive for the latest decade. One of the oldest (and still alive) bands celebrates itís 13 anniversary this year, still ďthe unlucky 13Ē seems to be a lucky digit for these guys. However, for their thirteen-year history the guys have just released only their third album. This album was not accepted and understood by everyone. I am not crazy about their music, but, still, like it a lot! There is definitely something in these Yonkers guys, something that could be labeled as the ďessence of the undergroundĒ. We talked to Ross, the bassist and the vocalist of IMMOLATIONÖ
Hello Ross, how are you spending your time in the Metal Blade German office?
Well, mostly of the day we are here in the office doing interviews. So, the day is pretty much taken up doing that type of thing. But you know at night everybody here at Metal Blade is totally cool. For the last couple of nights they have taken us after dinner and we were taken to pubs, went out drinking some beers. Itís been really cool. Mike took us around to some little cities in the area, we saw a lot of cool stuff.
So, you are about to release your third album, and from your interviews I can assume that ďFailure For GodsĒ is the heaviest and loudest one?
Without doubt! I think we are happy with this album. It is definitely our strongest album, the darkest one both musically and lyrically. It is our best produced album. It still retains the essence and the mood of IMMOLATION. We definitely didnít lose and identity in the sound. We have even brought it to the next level.
Listening to you it seems doubtful that you will manage to create a better album in the future, haha!
Oh, hopefully! With every album we try to improve ourselves. We have already started to work on some new material for the fourth album. I think we will be a little bit better prepared next time and we will spend more time in the studio, ha. With every album we are trying to make one step better, of course.
I guess your business affairs with Metal Blade are totally different than that with Roadrunner Records?
To be honest, most of the people who worked at Roadrunner in the New York office were very cool people. It was nothing personal against people, I had nothing to do with them honestly. It was just the politics of the label. We understand, there are obviously no hard feelings between us. But the label was not polite to us. They were not a metal label any more, Metal Blade is a metal label, thatís what important.
How did you find out that Roadrunner was not promoting you any longer?
We basically knew early on about that. They didnít help us with our US tour, they didnít feel likeÖ They wanted us to record our second album without the US tour. We thought it was absurd! They really spent very little time on us at all. We promoted the entire tour ourselves, we organized the entire thing. And it was successful. With that point we saw they wanted to put as little into the band as possible. It was something that made us uncomfortable, it wasnít right for us to stay with the label anymore.
How does it feel to stay on the stage for five years without releasing a new album?
It was terrible! It was probably the worst time in our lives. We were on Roadrunner for another year and a half, or two. Then we finally got out of that contract. There was another two-year period when we didnít have a label. It was very difficult for us. We sent our new material to Metal Blade and they were interested. Probably the main reason for that was the whole label factor. Again, during that time we kept ourselves busy trying to further the band. We played numerous shows, a lot of big festivals in the US. It was hard to do a lot of new things without having a new material, we were very limited with what we could do. But people knew we were still around.
To tell the truth, have you ever thought about splitting-up within those five years?
Believe me we never did. I always knew we would continue. It was very hard times, our moral was very low. But we all had that drive in us, weíd love the music. We are music lovers in general, so I think it is a flame that cannot be put out inside of us!
Counting from your forefather band RIGOR MORTIS, you have already been existing for thirteen years by now!
Yeah, actually even more that that. But as IMMOLATION Ė thirteen years, yes.
How do you feel having approached the number of the Beast (along with 666)?
Unlucky 13, haha! I guess it is a lucky number for us!
Taking into consideration your anti-Christian position, it is!
Yes, haha! Itís just a silly superstition, you know. Doesnít have any effect on us.
Everybody has his own superstitions and beliefs. Do you have any?
I believe whatever you do, it comes back to you. Itís a kind of philosophy I like to live by. Itís a good way of treating people.
Donít you think Ross that your philosophy is pretty much the same as the Bible tells?!
Well. The Bible is a nice storybook with cool stuff in it. But you know, you can take a lot of good things from the Bible if you apply to it wisely. But we focus on the whole controlling, manipulating aspect of religion. Itís something that definitely controls people in a lot of different ways, itís something that takes, and takes, and takes. And it has been for centuries. It never delivers, and if it delivers, it delivers in a very shallow sense. It doesnít really deliver anything of substance. People look at it as a source of reference, something as a guide I'dí say. It is something so intangible, so unrealistic. So, people look at it for guidance, for strength in a lot of ways. You should look within yourself for a lot of these things.
But I am 100 percent sure that each time we look within ourselves, we can always see a choice, the two ways of behavior, the demon and the angel. Thereís always contradiction within ourselves!
Of course, itís a constant struggle. Itís very easy to give in to the dark side, especially in todayís world, man! Thereís a lot of craziness in todayís world. I donít have to tell you: you watch the news Ė there are so many things that are sad and disgusting. I can see why Ėto some extent Ė people turn to religion. Because they are so disheartened with the world, they would like to look at something bigger, for some inspiration.
We are living in the modern era when the high technologies rule the world. I cannot understand why religion still remains so popular?
You know what? The US is still back in a lot of ways. There are still people in the US who are very ignorant, very childish, very immature. People make big thing out of little issues, and donít make any big deal out of big issues. Even compared to the Europeans, they are very different in a lot of ways. There are a lot of positive aspects about the European culture that I see as opposed to the US culture. Religion does have a very bearing affect on a lot of people in the US, and it is a part of our peopleís lives. May be not so much here in Europe. So, we draw a lot of inspiration from it as well as from our personal lives, how we were brought up as children, how religion was introduced to us in the early age, how I went to the Catholic high school. I think those four years in my life were kind of a turning point for me, I saw a lot of things a lot clearer at that point of my life. I really began questioning things at that point. Fortunately, I was able enough to see a lot of that stuff that was forced at the younger age. Some people just accept it, you know. Well, thatís their prerogative. We are not out to change any peopleís minds obviously, to influence anybodyís opinion.
Still you want people to understand you!
Of course, I think a lot of people do understand where weíre coming from. I think a lot of people relate to us. I donít think they see any kind of maliciousness or any kind of negativity, even though it may be presented in a very dark way, and itís very bitter the way our words can attack the church and the Christianity and religion in general, but basically I would have to say that our message is more of a positive one than people think.
During the twentyís century the US became a ďdreamĒ country. Is it the case with the metal music in the United States?
Definitely not! Metal is dead in the United States! It is very different in the US. Now the big favour in the US is hip-hop and bands like KORN and Merilyn Manson. I would say the underground metal scene is still alive but it is very much underground at this point. Itís really not easy for bands in general to get chosen, to do tours. From what Iím told, itís very hard here in Europe too. But the Europeans are more accepting metal, and metal I think still flourishes here in Europe whereas in the US itís pretty much something of a past. Which is sad, but hopefully it will make a come back. There are still bands and still fans of that music obviously. And if you really think about it, itís probably the only type of music that can survive with little or no promotion or press. Which is really amazing. I canít see any other genre of music continuing like that for so many years!
What I really like about the US metal underground, is that you donít change with years running, you donít compromise, you have not become the sell-outs!
Right. I definitely agree with that. I see a lot of bands, mainly European bands, started out doing the same thing we were doing and now they are completely different. I mean thatís their choice, people change and mature in different ways, you canít really knock them for that. But if we wanted to make money, weíd not obviously play this type of music, it was never an issue of making money. Itís something we got into because we like this kind of music. You really have to love this type of music, otherwise thereís no point doing it.
We are coming closer to the new millenium. We have 2000 years behind, 2000 years of the Catholic church existence, and the title of your latest album sounds no less than a challenge to the whole history, to the beliefs of many generations of people living on the planet.
Well, I have never looked at it as a challenge, but I guess you can look at it that way. Again, we focus on the Catholic church because it is something we can relate to personally, but we really challenge religion in general, all types of religion. Any type of religion controls people to some extent. Gods failed to see that itís up to us to decide our lives. Of course, itís not easy to make wise decisions, we all make stupid decisions and hopefully weíll learn from our mistakes. We are imperfect people, haha. But thatís part of our life, man. Iíve made many mistakes in my life, I have learned from some of them, from some of them I havenít learned. But itís just how it goes. Also you can flip it around and say that these Gods are failures in the sense that they never really delivered like we talked about earlier. They never really delivered in any substantial way, may be in a shallow superficial way. They were really barking at the wrong tree! How would you call him, I mean God, a success if thereís so much negativity, so much war, so much death. Our society in the US is so twisted and fucked up because of drugs, and violence, and gangs. Itís really a fucked up thing, you know. That was the turning point when I was in high school because we had a whole class that was focused like if there was a loving God, why this and why that. It started me thinking.
Not so long ago the Pope of Rome announced the Apocalypses for the end of August. If it happens, this interview will never be published, haha! If it is published, itíll prove the falseness of all these prophesiesÖ
If there is to be the end of the world, itís gonna be something thatís brought upon by us as a race by our own hands. Mankind basic stupidity and greed will cause that. Unless, of course, it is something out of our control. But it is something I donít worry about, when I go back home after these interviews Iíll go back to work, Iíll continue working on IMMOLATION. I know the type of person I am and I know I treat people with respect and I am not a monster by any means. If it is my time to go, it is my time to go. I can leave this world with no regret, you know what I am saying? I have done a lot of great things, I have a great family, I have a lot of great people in my life around me and I have no problems with that. I am very happy, obviously, I have a lot I still have to do in my life and I want to continue on of course, haha! I think I am very fortunate in a lot of ways.
Man, am I interviewing a saint?
A saint, haha?! No, Iím definitely not a saint! I am just someone who loves to create crazy music!
Public opinion says that metal musicians are very weird people, you donít sound like that.
I donít think we are very weird people at all. We are very down to earth, weíre just regular people! We all work full time jobs, we have our everyday lives. I donít know why people think that way? I am also speaking for other bands as well. The guys in CANNIBAL CORPSE, in NILE and in VADER Ė they are very cool guys! Nobodyís crazy.
Where do you work if it is not a secret?
Well, we all work together. Cam has his own firm, he employs fifteen people, we work with him. So, itís a nice situation, we are able to leave and go on tour whenever we have to and then come back and still have jobs. Itís good money, itís good work, itís very stressful at times but it pays the bills.
It would have been great if all the musicians had an opportunity to work for one company!
It would be great! I would love to do that. I would be more happy to do IMMOLATION only, but we are very realistic about it. IMMOLATION is really in the negative numbers, we cannot make our living out of it.
Looking back at your thirteen-year existence, what things would you like to change?
There are a lot of things Iíd like to change personally. May be, I think, things would have been a little bit different if we made different choices back early on. But you canít get back to change things. Itís more realistic to look ahead and try to make yourself better. For example, we had opportunities of signing with Earache records in the very beginning. May be that would have affected us in a certain way. But things happen for reason I believe!
Letís imagine you have to live only one more day of your life. How would you like to spend it?
How would I spend my last day? I would spend it with people that are close to me, my family, my close friends.
Some people would prefer to buy tons of alcohol and drink to death before the last second comes!
For what? What that can accomplish? If you have that one day left Iíd wanna be with people that mean something to me, have inspired me in different ways. Thatís the way I would spend it!
If you had half a year, would you continue with IMMOLATION?
Of course! I would probably just like to tour for half of that time. I would probably quit my job and do IMMOLATION as long as possible till the end!