What were the beginnings of the band and what year did you guys form?
The band was formed from the ashes of Hazarax, a thrash band that started in ’87 and I joined in ’89 from Levittown, PA.. We parted ways with our drummer and bassist in Hazarax in ’90 and founded Cemetery Earth with the three remaining members, myself, guitarist Ron Wojcik and vocalist Jack Gannon. Once we got our new bassist Chris Gatto and drummer Kris Kwiatowski (who was 16 when he joined) we went full-on Death Metal. Officially, Cemetery Earth was a band in early ’91.
What was the metal scene in Philly like in those days, in particular, the death metal scene?
The death metal scene in Philly was something we just started getting involved in towards the end of the Hazarax days. We hung in the parking lot of the great old Philly club ‘The Empire’ before shows and saw a lot of killer bands roll through there. We met our manager at the time Anne Bowman there and she introduced us to the scene, basically. We caught the beginning of the wave of Death Metal at the time in late ’89 and got to see great bands form in a few short years like Goreaphobia, Necrotion, Lesch Nyhan, and Crucifier. The latter two bands weren’t from Philly, but were near enough to be included in the small but talented scene at the time.
What/who were the primary influences on Cemetery Earth? What were you jamming out to back then?
I know the other guys liked some similar bands I’m about to mention, but for me as one of the primary song writers in the band I was extremely influenced by some particular albums/demos. First it was Death’s ‘Scream Bloody Gore’. For almost two years I wore tapes out of that album. Then what turned me into a full-fledged Death Metal freak was the year 1989. Pestilence’s ‘Consuming Impulse’, Napalm Death’s ‘Mentally Murdered’ EP, Defecation’s ‘Purity Dilution’, and of course Entombed’s ‘Left Hand Path’.
How often did you guys play out and how far outside of Philly did you get to play?
We didn’t travel all that much. One fest in Rhode Island towards the end, we’re close to New Jersey and Delaware so we played some clubs around the tri-state area. Mainly, we played a hell of a lot of great shows in two clubs. G. Willikers in Pennsauken NJ., and The Cell Block in Bensalem, PA.. Many bands now considered legendary rolled through those two clubs, and we got to open for a lot of them.
What were some highlights?
Playing with a lot of bands that were in their infancy from the PA/NJ/NY area like Cannibal Corpse (who were still in NY at the time), all the ‘-tion’ bands from NY/NJ like Apparition, Immolation, Incantation, Suffocation. Some of these bands didn’t even have their first album out at the time.
George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher was originally from NJ, he was in a band in the early 90’s called ‘Corpsegrinder’ oddly enough. He wore a fishing hat on stage, and his guitarist played a Telecaster with no shoes on. He told me one time when I saw him on the CC ‘Gallery of Suicide’ tour, not to tell anyone about those days (jokingly), but there it is. His secret is out. Haha.
I know CE has been compared to Crematory (swe), how do you feel about that comparison?
I fuckin’ WORSHIP Crematory man. Their demo ‘Wrath from the Unknown’ is a work of perfection as far as real Death Metal was concerned, in my humble opinion. To be compared to a band like that is a high compliment. It made me proud! That fruity German goth band should be drawn and quartered for sullying that great band name.
What led to the eventual demise of the band and could you tell me a little bit about 'Mourn Thy Passing'?
If there ever was a bad mistake made, it was when we decided to give in and change the name of our band. But by then, it really didn’t matter because the band was in the shitter anyway. The name change came about because of our former ‘label’ - if you can call it that. ‘JL America’ to be exact. We were stoked to be labelmates with the mighty Morpheus Descends, and a few other bands, but weren’t hearing good things about the label’s status at the time of our ‘signing’.
One of the bands they had just signed before us was Skeletal Earth, from AL.. They didn’t want two ‘- Earth’ bands on their roster so we gave in. Fuckin’ dumb move. Our shit luck then surfaced when the label went belly up right before the pressing of the album we self-financed. That soured our drummer’s outlook, and he split for college. Imagine that shit! We never found a suitable replacement, then our vocalist Jack left to join Deteriorate before their second album. We folded for good not long after.
I know you've been involved in quite a few things since Cemetery Earth including your current band, 'Dead in the Face', could you shed some light on these accomplishments
After the demise of Cemetery Earth, I took a nap creatively for a while. About five or six years later I joined Funeral Mask, who had Ron Wojcik on guitar as well. That lasted a few years and two EP’s, then in 2003 I formed Dead in the Face, my current project. My brother Justin is a beast of a drummer, so we finally hooked up in a band after all these years, then Ron decided to switch from guitar to bass, now we’re a four piece rounded out with our vocalist John Williams. We’re looking to record our fourth CD soon.
What have the other guys been up to in the years since?
Our drummer Kris is the only one I don’t know too much about, but college did him good it seems. He lives in Hawaii now I believe. Our bassist Chris Gatto is running his own construction business and raising a family. Our singer Jack Gannon is still involved in music. Most notably for his Black Noise project ‘T.O.M.B.’. Our singer Bundy is raising a family and is still involved in the occasional project. I hope to work with him again one day. Of course, Ron and I still have DitF.
What have you been listening to these days? What bands are blowing your hair back? Any suggestions?
Lately as far as Death Metal goes, Akercocke, The Cleansing, Hail of Bullets, Hooded Menace, Nader Sadek and Squash Bowls. And just this week I got turned on to a killer grind band from Finland called Death Toll 80k. I can’t get enough of crust/grind bands! As far as other genres, Deathspell Omega, Blut Aus Nord and of course the mighty Godflesh still blow my mind every time I hear them.
Alright Jason, I sincerely appreciate you taking the time out of your day to shed some light on one of death metal's best kept secrets , any final words?
Absolutely! Thanks for the interview, it brought up memories I haven’t thought about in quite a while. That’s what it was always about and always will be with Death Metal. No bullshit, just love for the music and what comes along with it! Good luck on this blog man, some TRUE shit on here so far, glad to be a part of it!!! HAILS! \,,/
Check out Jason's band 'Dead in the Face' here.