Ghastly Secret is one of the most original bands in the extreme metal underground, mixing horror elements with deathly metal, in a much more talented way than many of the more recent death metal bands have been doing. Beginning as a basic death metal band, then opting for the more horror-oriented route, they have become shining stars in an otherwise stagnating underground, rife with Cannibal Corpse clones. With their next demo release, this awesome band will be catapulted to the status of underground metal GODS! Read on as Michael E. Mitchell (guitars/vocals) and James Butcher (bass) tell their chilling tale . . . --goden
Eternal Frost: How were you introduced to heavy metal?
Michael: As a life-long fan of horror, I, of course, was attracted to KISS in the 70s. Then I got a lot of the old Alice Cooper stuff, then Black Sabbath, then Iron Maiden...by then I was hooked not only on the horror imagery, but the genre of music itself. In 1982, I got the Black Metal record by Venom, and I believe that opened the door for me to extreme metal.
James: Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden--in 1983 in high school to get me away from an eternal life of pussy music!
Did you get the urge to form a band recently or has it been a life-long idea?
James: We've been friends since 1990--before G.S. was even a nightmare!
Michael: Actually, I've wanted to get a band together since I used to shoot bottle rockets off the end of my guitar as a kid! It was just a matter of finding creatures who had true commitment!!
How hard was it to get the band together at first? Did you have to look around for members or was it just some friends getting together to play music and have fun?
Michael: I can never strss enough how difficult it is to find people who will commit to a band! We did have to search for our first bass player, Ian. But since Nick (drums) is my brother, "Mighty" Tim (guitars) is a schoolmate of his, and James has always lurked in the shadows close to us, that core of the band came together relatively easily.
Your first demo (Unearthed) was great, but Nachtmusik blows it away! Have you gained a greater fan base since you've released this demo?
James: Unearthed sucks, but I'm still proud of it now that I listen back. Nachtmusik got a greater fan base 'cuz we pushed it more and it sounds better.
Michael: Unearthed does NOT suck, but it was pretty primitive...You have to consider that we had NO idea what we were doing! Man, people still bark out "The Evil Death" chorus! As for a fan base, yeah, it did increase exponentially with our efforts.
What's the amount of mail you get regarding the band? Have people written back pleased that they bought your material? How have the reviews been so far? What's the fan following for Ghastly Secret like?
Michael: Some weeks we get only 2 or 3 letters, other weeks we get 20 to 30! Some people write back, but most don't have time to contact a band more than once. The reviews have been great (quite a few excellent ones) except for The Grimoire of Exalted Deeds--and that's to be expected, isn't it, with that zine! Our fans? Well, locally, quite a few people pretend interest in the band, but horror metal is way beyond them...You know, it's cool to hang out with musicians! There are a refreshing few that can ask us things besides "Gol, do youse sound like Pantera?"
Have you gotten any demo orders due to your web site or is it still mostly through flyers and word of mouth?
Michael: By far through flyers and zines, but the web site is finally beginning to produce results. We do have one of the coolest sites around, I believe. Special thanks to the hard-working Len "Pigbarf" Klein for running the site for us.
Do you every play out? If so, what's the turn-out like? Have you opened for any "bigger" bands? Do you ever play small shows with local bands?
James: No live gigs till we're ready...and they will be taped.
Michael: Unfortunately, two of our members are about 850 miles apart due to college, so we must use our time together to concentrate on working on new material rather than live shows. But, UNlive appearances are not out of the question!
What's the scene like in Wisconsin. The only other Wisconsin bands I've heard of worth mentioning (aside from you, of course) are Dusk and Morta Skuld. Are you familiar with either of them? Are there any young talented bands from your area/state that you like or would like to mention?
James: For our genre, not much. We are 300 plus miles north of Milwaukee. There are other Wisconsin bands, like Septembrist (RIP), who are good. Also Phantasm (which must not be overlooked! RIP). I'm surprised we are still around, but...triumph of the will!
Michael: The only part of the scene we see is Metalfest in Milwaukee every summer, which, despite the (true) things you've heard, is still a huge place for obscure metal to be exposed. I am familiar with Morta Skuld, but we're not in contact with any other Wisconsin bands (that I can think of now). We pal around with some excellent non-metal local bands, Half-Baked from Minocqua and Broken Man from Hurley, as well as Eternal Rock Dogs Storm from Tomahawk. Man, the local metal scene is infested with dorks who think Bush and Marilyn Manlover are metal! They are wrong.
Your songs are quite enjoyable and made even more so since lyrics are included. Who writes the lyrics?
Michael: I write all the lyrics, but "Generation X'd" is based on ideas from all the guys. Of course, we quote H.P. Lovecraft a lot...he is a god!
Other than the horror themes that are obvious, what else inspires the band?
Michael: Nothing. We are a horror metal band and I personally live by it.
James: Hatred for weaker-minded constituents of the human race. We are more than human and encourage others to strive likewise!
Is there any particular style of metal [doom/death/black/grind/heavy/etc] that interests you especially? What are some of your favorite bands?
James: I like all musick that isn't boring. Too many fave artists to mention... it would take a book!
Michael: I am partial to thrash and doom, but dig (like a grave!) all types of metal other than electornic (a disturbing trend that must be crushed!), overly technical stuff, or tough-guy "street" metal (Biohazard). Some favorites? Sodom, Cradle of Filth, Kind Diamond/Mercyful Fate, Iron Maiden, Michael Schenker (guitar god #1, 2, and 3!), My Dying Bride, Judas Priest, Possessed, Misfits, and Manowar. Some excellent underground bands are Jungle Rot (IL), Avernus (IL), Angelkill (IA), and Unclean (Czech).
Your liner notes on the demos are hilarious (the Jerry Garcia reference, particularly), but what's your beef with Fruitopia?
Michael: I am so sick of those phony retro-rats trying to shove all that psychadelic hippy imagery and messages of brotherhood and tolerance down our throats, and that's what their whole P.R. campaign is based on! Let the 60s rot in the shameful past--BAH! Putrid...Actually, I have never even tried the sissy squeezin's--but I never wore a Grateful Dead shirt either!
James: Fruitopia commercials are GAY!!!
What's your opinion on the death metal underground? There's a lot of people that whine about death metal dying. What are your thoughts on this subject?
James: Things are just the way they are--and if they don't like how things are, why don't they change it instead of whining? Die! Weak fucks!
Michael: Well, I have noticed a decrease in death metal bands' flyers and an increase in black metal flyers. Black metal is the flavour of the day, but there are still a lot of death metal bands who are deserving a listen as well. It would be nice if some bands would do us a favour and get their own identity, or at least pen some memorable songs, rather than just try to prove how brutal/evil/sick/fast/etc. they are. If anything weakens the underground, it's unoriginality!
"With This Ring" is one of my favorite songs from your Nachtmusik demo. Could you please explain the concept of the song and how this song came about, as it is an interesting story.
Michael: It's a very morbid love story. A pair of macabre lovers, who can't deal with human emotions, become joined in death. The "ring" in the lyrics is a noose. I'll leave it up to the listener's imagination as to whom gets dead...or do they both? I have to credit Lisa O'Brien, an excitingly morbid anti-human, with a bit of the moribund poetry in it. We originally intended the music as a My Dying Bride-type style, but it turned out a lot different, I think.
James: It could've been recorded better (Yeah, listen closely for James coughing during the quiet part after the death march!--Michael), but I notice that creatures dig it. Escapes me why, but it is a good song.
Your music, to me, seems like it was a lot of fun to create. What's the atmosphere like when you guys record?
James: Not as tense as one would think.
Michael: It's exhausting, often frustrating, but you hit it on the head: fun. That is what it's all about. It's a big mess, with all the equipment, and there's not much room to move, but everything is worth it when you can hear the songs coalesce.
You have a new demo coming out within the year, entitled Imprisoned with the Pharaohs. Could you tell me a little about it? Where will it be recorded? Will the songs (length, lyrical content, song structure) be any different?
Michael: Well, there are nine songs, ranging from a few 3 1/2 to 4 minute ones, to a couple of 10-11 minute epics. The lyrics will be entirely horror!!! It'll be recorded underground (literally!). There will be a full-colour cover painting which will be quite unpleasant. We certainly hope it's out by the end of this year, but we will not be rushed, as we are striving for a much better production.
How will you promote the new demo? Will you be playing out more often?
Michael: Promotion will be the same, only more! We've been toying with the idea of advertising in Fangoria Magazine. We won't think about playing out till after the demo's done.
Would you ever compromise the band to make loads of money, like Metallica?
James: What do you think? $$ is cool, but why make music that sucks? Music's bad enough as it is, generally.
Michael: I would much rather take the honourable road, like King Diamond or Manowar...They don't make millions, but they do make money without betraying their true fans. Every true fan of metal should turn their backs on Metallifags as they did on us. Or they should tally up an account of every cent they spent on those traitors, send them a bill for it and threaten to sue them for fraud if they don't reimburse them. Hit 'em where it hurts!!!
What are the band members' opinions on drugs and drug use? Should drugs be legalized?
James: Legalize drugs, criminalize idiocy.
Michael: Yeah? And since only idiots need drugs, your point is moot! I'll tell you, I drink...very nearly had a "problem" with it, but I cannot see wasting your time on an activity that must be hidden shamefully...And that's illegal drugs. Not many people will defend the stronger stuff, but how many times have you heard "Hey, pot's just like drinking"? Yeah? Why don't you "just drink" then? Because you have to be cool and be part of a "counterculture". You're doing the same thing as most of the people you're trying to rebel against--a lot of old people smoke pot, and, boy, are they cool! And the bands out there who are always shoving "legalize pot" in our faces: Why don't you just play music? If you wanna change the world, become a politician or become neutered and change your name to Jackson Browne or Don Henley! I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that I am against illegal drugs!!! If your mind isn't big enough without 'em, kill yourself and get off my planet! As for Nick and "Mighty" Tim, we can't put words in their mouths.
Are any of guys in the band religious at all?
James: Me no understand question?
Michael: Nick and I and "Mighty" Tim are all Lutherans. Personally, I believe in the power of my own intellect over all else. I definitely believe in the old "eye for an eye" rule! You touch me or mine, I'm not gonna see you go to jail and get a college degree. I'll touch you! My religion is honour and self-reliance; being baptized Lutheran does not conflict with this.
Well, that's about it. Thanks, Michael and James, for the opportunity to interview you. Hopefully I'll get another chance when you've released your upcoming demo. Thanks for creating some of the best underground music around. You can use this space to say any last words, plug stuff, etc...
Michael: Thanks very much for the interesting questions. As I always suggest, instead of throwing your money toward a major release, order two undergound products-- not necessarily ours, but your support keeps true metal alive!