Tuesday, July 24, 2012

No Longer Silent: An interview with Thomas Pioli of Ceremonium

Not much is said about there being a "regional" sound in Jersey, yet there is an unmistakable thread throughout many of the death metal bands in the area. Listening to bands such as Symphony of Grief, Disma, Solemn, Incantation, Putrifact and Entrapment, the similarities are glaringly obvious. Being from the NY/NJ area, what are your thoughts on the unmistakably crepitus style of death metal in that area? Was it in your conscious to write this way back in the days of Putrefact?

I think its having some coffee thinking plans ahead and saying fuck theres a lot to do! Honestly this is NY, and its one of the most expensive places to live so that can be frustrating. There always some grim shit going on as well. The bands you mentioned had experienced many of the same bands in the underground by tape trading, writing, then going to shows of course. It was definately an authentic time. For me Putrifact was pretty cool. I lived in Brooklyn, and Omar lived in NJ. I would spend weekends at his house hanging out and rehearsing. 

How was it working with Craig Pillard in the early days and what led to the formation of Ceremonium?

I think I met Craig through Incantation. Eventually I toured with them as bassist so I got to know him better. I realized he was also a Putrifact member at a different time than myself and common interests were present. After Putrifact disbanded, I was still working on music and knew I had to get my own band started up. I went out to a show in NJ where Goreaphobia, Ripping Corpse, Demonacy and others played. I struck up conversation with Oscar and Victor and seeing how musical favorites were so similar decided to form Ceremonium. One of the first songs "Incarnated Entity" is actually riffs I was writing with Putrifact. Fast forward several years, releases, and so on and we learned we required a bassist. As I did bass on Into the Autumn Shade word spread around. Craig volunteered his four strings and it became a solid. For this reason we put on the album he was in the band, however he only did a number of shows with us. I would say hes a very talented player and rehearsals were a very comfortable vibe. Since he also done vocals before he pushed Brandon to take on vocals in addition to guitar when that role became needed. It was known Craig have a more in the background role with Ceremonium


I understand you played alongside current Electric Wizard axewoman, Liz Buckingham in legendary NYC sludge squad, 13. Could you share with me a little bit of the background that led to such an unholy communion and your experiences throughout?

Sure. Good times! I met Alicia and Liz at Lamours when Entombed played. I recall talking doom metal, and while this genre got little notice back in the 90's, I really appreciated it. They asked me to come down to play guitar which I did. I helped write some music which appeared on the Wither 7" ep. 13 did shows in NY, a couple out of state and kept things very sludgey. The rehearsal room was a sardine box, though space is limited in NY. There were some very cool shows with Brutal Truth, Pungent Stench, Grief, etc. It was just not right after disbanding, everybody went their way. I contacted the two girls to see where the compilation album often spoke of stands, and get no response. I know they went through personal hardships, however chances come around to step up, and they never did with me. Im left in the dark now. 

Around the same time, roughly, you were also involved in the black metal band, Hemlock. What were the circumstances that led to your contribution?

This was in the late 90s while in Ceremonium. I had evil stuff I wanted to create which didnt fall in Ceremoniums realm. I spoke with other Ceremonium mebers, Lino and Brandon about doing a black metal band. Some rough demos were made with a drum machine I think, then got in touch with His Eminence the Wicked who I'd known years before that with local death metal band Porphyria. I urged him to pick up his drum sticks again and alas Hemlock had a drummer. I think Dan Lilker lived in the area and somehow it crossed our minds to ask him to play. Once the loyalty was reached, Hemlock became a working unit. I enjoyed having this creative outlet. Everybody was inspired by the greats like Bathory, Celtic Frost, Mercyful Fate, Dark Throne and everybody contributed. It helped that Balth had his own Smoke, Grind, Sleep studio gear set up so we recorded our own albums except for the split with Black Army Jacket which I still think is a killer production. At one point, I needed a break from music, and stepped out of both Ceremonium and Hemlock. Years later I still speak to some of them, not all due to certain friction. I think the unholiness was the real thing and people should try tracking down those albums

How were you able to juggle all of these bands including your commitment to Ceremonium?

It was definitely hectic. The passion and drive was there which made it worryfree. Like I said we were always hanging out, drinking, partying outside rehearsals, shows so the vibes were fine. Ceremonium and Hemlock were two different beasts despite sharing members. Both bands were on indie labels so there was never any pressure. Writing took its course and many shows were played with both bands. 

What were the events that led to the eventual demise of Ceremonium?

It was sometime after "No Longer Silent" was put out. Ceremonium were spreading promos around to labels due to something else falling through. Rather than waiting, I took it upon myself to release it through Destro Records which I just formed. It added more responsibility for me though I did well at it. After a while Id say the band and myself became somewhat wrecked and gave the band a rest. Just that feeling youve been around someone so long its the relationship status on a rocky road. A few years later, I spoke with Brandon and Chris about playing again. We got a new bass player, Bryan and recorded a three song promo and did some shows. The response was very good to this material and the band played cool places again like Wetlands in NY for a small fest and Lamours these establishments that so many great acts did themselves. Soon it was realized the drive wasnt what it once had been and Ceremonium broke up again. Ideas were made to other members by me to do something again though it was more nightmare than anything


Sometime after you were involved with New York's Obliteration. How did that come about and what became of that band?

In 2003 I was going to school and met Jose, Obliterations vocalist. I wasnt so interested to start something up again, though egged on by him it happened. As I was also moving forward with Destro Records and other releases, I knew Cesar who was helping me out. I told him pick up your guitar were doing death metal. This was more aggressive death metal than I previously done with a black edge. Obliteration recorded the 2003 demo, changed vocalists twice and couldnt keep it together. Again some great clubs were hit, Lamours, Dingbats, and met Dying Fetus, Hell-born, Misery Index, all great experiences. 

OK, now I understand that you also contributed to that ever revolving door of band members, Incantation, as a live guitarist. care to share your experiences there?

Well the door is a good way to put out. it opens then watch out for the falling paint bucket. Overall they were killer times, having done a tour as bassist in the US, and another as guitarist in Brazil. Its hard to say positive things about the way John and company handle or mishandle things. Ive done my part and did my best to see things straight with them. I cant waste time on negative energy. 

How did the idea for Destro Records come up and what were/are your intentions with it?

As I said before it was my idea after Ceremonium recorded "No Longer Silent." It was a spontaneous idea thinking someone should really believe in this album. Of course this must be true of everything I promote. Dedication to underground metal is first and foremost and wanting people to hear the great bands out there is very rewarding. Its hit obstacles along the way. As long as I have fun doing it I will continue. 

You've told me in the past that the Holt/Hunolt team was a big inspiration on your writing techinque. What were/are some other bands that you cull inspiration from?

Yes definitely! I think Pleasures of the Flesh has incredible duel guitars although many favor Bonded by Blood. Having a chance to hang with Exodus on a tour bus, then have them invite Hemlock to play CBGB, is amazing. There are so many. early Metallica, Slayer, Mercyful Fate, Iron Maiden, Queensryche, Death, Crematory, Demigod, Immolation, Morbid Angel, Autopsy, Paradise Lost, Black Sabbath, Dismember, Anathema, Carcass, the list goes on

What's currently spinning on the record player at the Pioli residence? Any suggestions?

Just looking at the stacks by me, Znowhite, Goreaphobia, Watain, Dark Throne, Impiety, Obituary, Pink Floyd, October 31, Dead Can Dance


Any chance of resurrecting Ceremonium?

No doubtful. I just dont see it happening or reason to. Ive been putting together Thevetat, a brutal death metal band lately. Ive talked with a few awesome players and written some of the best music Ive done yet. Im anxious to get the ball rolling with it, and this is priority for me. 

Alright Tom, thank you so much for taking time out and answering these questions! Any last words for the damned?

Leaving me to guide the damned is a sign the end is near. I just want to say the Ceremonium "Dreams We Have Written" double discography album will be out by Weird Truth Productions soon. The label has pushed it back several times though assures me its almost complete. I think it will be appreciated by all involved and those that embraced it from the beginning of course. I hope to show the world more unholiness by Thevetat soon. Check out Destro Records and continue supporting underground metal.

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