Thursday, July 26, 2012

Unparalleled Majesty: An interview with Cazz Grant of Crucifier

I understand that 'Crucifier' has been around since about 1990. Was this your first band and what were the circumstances that led to the formation of 'Crucifier'?

Crucifier was born in 1990, but I was doing many bands and projects dating back to 1983. I’ve founded, led, partnered and aided so many bands over those years, I may not be able to remember them all. But I started with Pyramid, Acephalous Vector/Macabre Forces, Satanic Slaughter, Caution and Witchery (which were the main bands). Then two friends of mine from high school got together in 1989 to form what was to become Crucifier, we were going to call that band Hemmorrage, but later opted for a more blasphemous name and spirit and fell on Crucifier. I think with the success of SS/Caution, and subsequent demise because of lack of seriousness I needed to get a band together that was going to be professional and put out some records. So I and Jeff Anderson and Ira Redden put together the seriously detuned two guitar band that would soon become Crucifier. I recall at our beginning going to a rehearsal of local friends’ band Altar (Philadelphia) and sitting in to hear them. Before we went they knew we started up the band and told us to bring over our instruments to knock out a couple songs while they took breaks. So, we did. And we loved their sound but ours was different and new for those times. And I still think they wanted to kind of make fun of us, perhaps. But when we started, you should have seen their faces. They were admittedly impressed and awestruck. You can imagine our excitement that we were doing something right and interesting to impress these dudes. So at that point we knew Crucifier was going to be something special. And after all these years, that excitement hasn’t left! Well, following Crucifier I joined up with a few friends to help out with bands such as Grand Belial’s Key, Aryan War, Infernal Hatred, Viaticum, Ancient (Philly), Decieverion, Infantry and many others.

What were some of your earlier influences before and during the bands creation?

I was originally influenced by Iron Maiden, Ozzy, Venom, Viking, Sabbath, Dio, Twisted Sister, Quiet Riot, WASP, Bathory, Autopsy, Infernal Majesty, Sodom, Mercyful Fate, King Diamond, Slayer, Agent Steel, Metallica, Destruction, Candlemass, Dark Angel, Hobbs, and so many others. And many other bands inspired me over the years, too many to name.

What was the scene like in the Philly area during that 80's-early 90's? What other bands were out there during this time?

Back in the early days, the Philadelphia/Delaware County scene was doing quite well. It has always had a big group of great bands and musicians. Some of the other earlier bands were: Altar, Goreaphobia, Face First, Solitude, Corpus Rottus, Hazarax, Deteriorate, Mortal Decay, Polterchrist, Hostility, Dominance, Anvil Bitch, Damnability, Vicious Circle, and many others. The close tristate area had so many great talents.


There was no shortage of great death metal bands back in the early-mid 90's that hopped on the black metal bandwagon after the whole 'Norwegian church burning' epidemic took the underground by storm, not to mention the slaying of Euronymous, yet Crucifier had been incorporating elements of "black metal" into the fold since the beginning as one can clearly tell by listening to the 'Humans are such Easy Prey' demo. What are your thoughts on all of this?

Well back in those early BM days, we were not too proud of our European counterparts doing gay things. So we kind of stayed away from that whole ideology and circus. And although I talked with many of those kinds of dudes back then, Crucifier kept to itself and just churned out what was needed. We were already established and doing our own evil at home, and it wasn’t of the felonious kind! Yes, we got into some debate with many jerks who would just call us death metal with no direction or true black metal roots. Well, you see who is still around, blaspheming…we are!

On the bands second demo, 1992's 'Crown of Thorns', you guys seem to have went for a much more "straight up" death metal approach, not unlike Immolation or Incantation, with much more complexities introduced to the band's sound. Can you tell me more about this stage in the band's career?

I think the sign of the times and our ages quite frankly contributed to us going in that direction. It was an evolution, not something where we sat down and said let’s do what Incantation is doing. It happened and that’s that. We don’t regret it, in fact, I and many others embrace that point in our career! Hell, some would say that is our best work. In retrospect I would have polished it up, maybe fixing the vocals up a bit. Our debut album Stronger Than Passing Time might be exactly where Crucifier stops its evolution and improves from there.  

At what point did guitarist Dan Kamp exit the ranks and could you tell me about his involvement with Incantation?

He left early in 1993. He left us after we finished recording Unparalleled Majesty and By Disgrace of God, both eps on Pagan Records (Poland.) At the time, we were mad, I recall the night we were told. And we had some personal animosity towards Incantation, of course only because they were “stealing” our guitarist. But, that was quickly squashed and had to be something I had to overcome personally. His stint was short-lived. I accompanied them on the road to Montreal to play in a fest there. And then I think they put out Mortal Throne and then Kamp left or was booted. I don’t recall which. I think he was having issues with McEntee running shit (at the time I think Dan was a leader, and having to quell that and be a follower didn’t sit well with him.) But this is just my speculation. And I took a more involved duty at guitar, with writing and getting my hands dirty with composing more of the Crucifier catalogue.

I've noticed throughout the years that there has been a lot of hooplah in regards to the "inhuman depth" of vocalists such as Will Rahmer and Craig Pillard among a few others, yet your vocals, especially during the earlier years of Crucifier, trump that of the aforementioned duo in terms of "how low you can go", not to mention the overall range. Who were your influences in the beginning and were there any vocalists out there whose skills you admired?

Thank you, I was inspired by guys like Craig and Will and Oscar (Ceremonium) for example. I enjoyed singers way before I listened and was inspired by growlers. I was a fan of so many, King from Deceased…, David Vincent (on Altars/demos), Angelripper, Cyriis, Diamond, Messiah, Geddy, and the list goes on. I wanted to be myself,  just utilizing what I’ve learned and what I grew up with. I then honed my own style, which was just also being used by Gamble, Rahmer, Matter and Pillard. None of us had the rights to that style so, we made it a “Tri-State sound” and it took off! Yes, we were doing it in the eighties! Becerra led the way, Snake, Tom G, Araya, Cronos, Paul from At War, these are the guys that I looked up to as a teen. And, yes I was molded, but I molded myself. They were great times!

As the years went on, Crucifier began to incorporate a more straight forward, "blackened" approach. Tell me more of this.

I think the blackened sound was just the completion of an evolution or growth. If you listen to a blind Crucifier song, a newer song, you’ll still know it is us. We will always be Black, but that DM appeal will always be there. It is not like late-Barnes-era CC, where it was getting cheesy and just downright funny. It is emotion and feeling, Crucifier prides itself on emotion, power, speed and filth! These things do not take a vacation with this band, ever.

Grand Belial's Key

In the mid 90's you joined the ranks of legendary black metallers, 'Grand Belial's Key'. Could you tell me more of this time?

Well I was already friends with Demonic who was jamming with Doomstone. And he was friends with Gelal founder of GBK and Arghoslent. He was having a big problem with Lord Vlad near the time I joined. So as Vlad’s era was coming to a close, Gelal asked if I’d be interested in playing and recording with them. I was excited because I think Goat is one of the best demos from those days! Of course I really didn’t like Triumph…how can you follow Goat? You can’t. But I accepted and it was a great point in my life! I was with them from 1996-2003. I had issues at home, personal stuff and some issues with GBK in those later times, so I opted to leave. I don’t regret it, but I might have been blind a bit, which skewed my goals. Well, that was then….move on right? Some great things came out of my involvement in GBK….Mocking and Judeobeast! They will always be remembered and I think that my involvement made vast improvements to the Key beast!

I understand, due to the band's imagery and lyrical content during those years, 'GBK' was/is considered to be a racist band. Could you shed a bit of "light" on this subject?

I will say this…GBK was NOT a racist band! Maybe some of its members were/are…haha. But, some of us still are racist, some aren’t, and some are undecided and/or unknown. It doesn’t matter nowadays anyway. I think that, back in those days especially, once you let a thought be known, or if you used words like cook’em, or jew, or whatever, it’s going to bring some controversy and dislikes. I personally am not racist anymore…I hate all you fucks! See I grew up. But in all seriousness, GBK was doing what it wanted with no apologies. Hell, I ain’t saying sorry now either. It was what it was, and will be a valuable part of history, of a metal history where all folks were involved. And since I am not in GBK anymore I will only answer for myself here. This topic is very important, and I will only discuss MY thoughts and beliefs. I can’t answer for anyone else from GBK, past or present. 

What led to you leaving 'GBK' and what was the status of 'Crucifier' during this time?

Briefly answered above, I can elaborate. I was having an issue with a few things at once. I blame myself for any issues in my control. With that said, I had a relationship that was getting serious (or at the time I thought was), and that was starting to conflict with GBK and vice versa. I was also going to start a family and my time needed to be spent more at home. And GBK was readying to go to Europe and I couldn’t very well go (in retrospect I should have dealt with it all differently) and be a good father, etc. on the road. And I was also hearing things about how the band was viewing my involvement. Maybe now I’m thinking the source was fucked up….I am in the midst of separation and divorce now. Hint hint…so suffice to say, my youth and stress during those times may have hindered my making good decisions about my goals and where I needed to be. Such is life I suppose, live and learn.

Bill Ward or Vinny Appice?

I like them both, both were influential to me personally. But Ward hands down! He, along with Pero, Peart, and Aldridge were my main drumming influences as a kid. Started drumming, from scratch, no lessons, at 13 in 1983…and I was already listening to Ozzy before that! So, Kerslake was an influence too, and Burr and McBrain, to name a couple. 

'Hell Awaits' or 'Reign in Blood'?

Hell Awaits…that was THE album that changed my life. Although RIB is a wonderful album, Hell Awaits shaped and formed what I am today, as a composer, drummer, vocalist, lyricist, band leader, whatever. Kill Again is probably my all time favorite song. In my top 5 albums of all time HA had it all, and will probably be buried with me!

'War and Pain' or 'Dimension Hatross'?

Runs like a blower, eats like a grinder! War and Pain baby!

Stewart Copeland or Neil Peart? Hahahaha...

Peart, but Copeland is untouchable too! Hard choice! But since I liked more Rush than Police, I’m going with Neil!

You've also been involved in a veritable "shitload" of bands and/or side projects during the years. Could you tell me a little about these?

I’ve touched on this earlier here, but let me try to remember. Pyramid (first ever band), Acephalous Vector/which became Macabre Forces, Satanic Slaughter/which became Caution, Witchery, Crucifier, GBK, Aryan War, Infernal Hatred, Infantry, Viaticum, Mourning, Hearse, amisegardauQ, Ancient (Phila), Cromlech (session drums only) can’t recall any more, but I know there are some. So, as I look into my brain I can update this later.


Recently, you've been involved in Masada along with the legendary Craig Smilowski. Can you tell me more of this?

I was brought on to do vocals only. Chris Milewski runs Masada and is a dear friend. I was asked to sing on a two song demo he had going on and was anxious to work with him again, and Craig and Matt….these are great musicians and old friends. We recorded the stuff and it is doing well. Craig unfortunately had to drop out due to time restraints. So I may be doing drums too, if a suitable replacement can’t be found. Not like I can replace Craig, but someone with some experience and heart needs to be involved.

What's the current status of Crucifier and what does the future hold for The Black Lourde of Crucifixion?

Crucifier has a big show with Imprecation/Mortem/Polterchrist and a couple others on August 4th in Brooklyn, NY at St. Vitus bar. Should be a monster of a show. Also we are going to crack down on the rest of our catalogue for the new members of the band. And then we are going to start writing for two splits we have coming up with Blaspherian and Ungod…both due out on Warfuck Records from South America. It will be a killer year for us. Also by mid next year I want to have our second full length done also. We are still under contract with DTM Records to put that out. I will be concentrating on being a single father, and getting Crucifier up to speed to do more shows. Other than that I’ll be chillin’!

Many thanks for taking some time out to do this, Cazz. Any final words for the damned?

Thank you for the interview, and I hope your readers get some info and enjoyment out of my answers. Also please contact me anytime on Facebook. Also, I want to tell you that the new lineup is doing great, the guys are: Chris Kerns (bass), Rob Spisak (lead guitar) and Jefferson Lopez (lead guitar.) Great dudes and great things are to come from Crucifier. And remember, we may rest or seem to have going into hiding at times, but make no mistake Crucifier will live forever and it always active! Crucifier is the epitome of Underground and that’s where we dwell…you can find us there.

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