Saturday, September 1, 2012

Inconstant Obscure: An interview with Joshua Pratt of Evilution

When was your first brush with metal?

Hmmm... I think the first thing I heard that I thought was "brutal" was listening to The Who's 'Who are you' on the radio when I was about 2 or 3 years old. Daltrey's voice made a huge impact on me. Those were practically death metal vocals at the time. I mean c'mon Man, "WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU???!!!", hahaha!

I guess the next thing on my journey to metal was literally, listening to Journey on the radio in the back seat of my parents car. At the time I thought that that was as heavy as it got! Little did I know. 

The first "official" encounter with metal I had was watching the video for Motley Crue's 'Looks that Kill' over at my Grandmother's house. They may have eventually become the poster boys for assless chaps and dildos but at the time, back in 1983, they were pretty fucking heavy and they definitely served as a stepping stone towards heavier things.

How would you describe the scene in CT in the 80's/90's?

During the 80's there were plenty of metalheads around. There was no shortage of Ozzy, Dio and Maiden shirts floating around. By the time 'Master of Puppets' came out, that pretty much divided everyone. On one hand you had cats who were into heavier thrash such as Slayer, Metallica, Megadeth and so on and on the other you had all of the "acousticy" 'Tesla' fags who were more into the "chick friendly" fare such as White Lion, Great White, etc. There were folks who knew their shit and were into heavier stuff like Sodom, Kreator, Protector, Dark Angel, etc, as well, but those cats were far and few between. Mostly it was the Slayer/Metallica crowd vs the Skid Row/Guns -N- Roses crowd. 

It's funny, because a lot of the cats I grew up with during the 80's remind me of the cast of 'River's Edge'. I find that movie to be the best representation of how it was in those days. most of the "heads" that I grew up with were all dysfunctional and there was always some kind of fight or drug abuse or some kind of left field drama going on. It was mostly just a bunch of long haired delinquents who "happened" to listen to metal.

There were a few killer bands coming out of CT during the 80's, such as 'I.N.C.', Sonik Plague, C.F.I, and of course Fates Warning. During the early 90's you had a bunch of cool death metal bands starting to emerge as well, such as Excoriate, Necrofeast, Tyrant Trooper, Messe Noir, Taxidermist, Pure Chaos and a few others.

There was no shortage of venues in those days either, not to mention CT's being in close proximity to New York City, Boston and Providence. 

The early half of the 90's was great, as far as death metal albums, demos, 7"s, etc, were concerned. There was a lot of great stuff being released and since the genre was relatively new, it was a very exciting time. I got to witness the birth of a lot of bands who are now considered legends and pioneers. The early 90's also saw a lot of people bail from listening to metal. My town (Middletown) in particular was pretty bad. Once Dr. Dre's 'The Chronic' was released, the wiggers started jumping out of the closet in earnest. I guess the whole "homogenization" of hip hop really showed everyone's true "colors", so to speak.

It's funny, because all of these "old school" hipsters like to claim that death metal "died" in 1990/91. Bullshit. There were still great albums coming out well into '95. '93 alone was a banner year. Shit, you had Dissect's 'Swallow Swouming Mass', Demilich's 'Nespithe', Disembowelment's 'Transcendence Into the Peripheral' and Rottrevore's 'Iniquitous', to name a few. Death metal died in '91? I beg to differ.

How did Evilution form and were you involved in any bands prior?

Evilution formed around 1988/89. Over at Metal-Archives and the Evilution Myspace page as well,  it is erroneously stated that the band began in 1995. That's not true. The band started a good 6 or 7 years before that though they were very much a thrash metal band at that time, somewhat in the vein of Sacred Reich, etc.

I didn't join until '97. I knew the bassist/vocalist, John, from way back and he asked if I was interested in doing vocals as he wanted to concentrate on his guitar. I was ecstatic at the prospect of playing live and recording a CD and immediately agreed.

Going back a few years (probably during 89/90), I used to jam with the guys that would eventually become the black metal band, Messe Noir. Of course, we were and considered ourselves to be a death metal band at the time. There was nothing really serious or substantial going on at the time. Just a bunch of cats getting together in our guitarists "shack" in the backyard and drinking and getting stoned. Obviously, not too much music was being written during those days aside from the guitarist's crazy riffs.

During 94', I was involved in a band (Crematorium) and we had a lot of potential. Dare I say it was probably the heaviest thing I was ever involved in. We practiced quite often and had enough songs to record a nice sized demo but our drummer wigged the fuck out one day and that pretty much canceled that out.

When did you begin singing and who were your influences?

Believe it or not, I actually started "singing" in the mid-late 80's. Obviously I was quite young and I wasn't doing shit with it except scaring old ladies on the way to school (haha) or freaking out my classmates. 

I remember listening to Slayer and thinking to myself how much sicker it would sound if Issac from 'Children of the Corn' was freaking out into the mic. You know, the way he sounded when he gets resurrected and is about to put the hurt on Malachi! The other big "influence" was Regan, of course, from 'The Exorcist'. I always thought how awesome it would be to hear someone freaking out like that over some sick music. Of course "death metal" as a genre was literally right around the corner and my dreams were about to be fulfilled.

As far as vocalists who have influenced me through the years go, it's hard to say as there are many who have made an impression on me and left their mark throughout the years. Certain nuances. Diction. Trademarks, etc. I'd definitely have to give major props to Stacey Anderson from Hallow's Eve. When I first heard the song 'Lethal Tendencies', I was blown the fuck away! Not so much by the more melodic, "clean" vocals during the chorus, but the main, low ended vocals spit out during the first few verses had me reeling. I felt David Vincent's vocals on 'Covenant' were fucking ace. He had the whole pronunciation thing down pat, the lyrics were poetic and thoughtful and he had a command, an attitude that so few death metal vocalists grasp. most DM vocalists just sound like a bunch of silly chumps that are "trying" to sound sick. Vincent, on that album, sounded like the devil himself. Full of confidence and infernal command. I'd say Karl Willets of Bolt Thrower is another favorite of mine. Every word can be understood, which of course, gives it more meaning. It's as if you are being verbally impaled by each word. Same thing with Glen Benton on the very first Deicide album. Aside from the high/low overdubs, his main "singing" voice was absolutely hateful sounding, more so because every word was pronounced and shoved right into your face. Unfortunately, his performance on each album since has progressively gotten worse. The shit he did with Vital Remains was downright cringe inducing, but hey, people seemed to go ga-ga over it, so fuck it. Worked for him, right?

Christofer Johnsson (Therion/Liers in Wait) was a big influence on me during the recording of the Evilution CD. The way he would start from a growl and stretch it out into a shout/yell/roar, was staggeringly fucking awesome to me. Besides, he has/had the best "ooh's" this side of Tom G. Warrior!

Three albums you cannot live without:

Oh jeez... hmm... Cathedral - Forest of Equilibrium, Pestilence - Consuming Impulse, Sabbat - Dreamweaver, Celtic Frost - Morbid Tales/Emperor's Return, Bolt Thrower - Realm of Chaos (Slaves to Darkness), Candlemass - Nightfall and Therion - Of Darkness. There's your three... Ha!

Who do you think are some of the most overrated bands in metal?

That's a tough one. There's no shortage of shit out there that has flown over my head while everyone else goes crazy for it. Off the rip, I'd have to say 'Ghost' (That's some of the weakest, most pussy sounding shit on Earth, yet all of these "old school" enthusiasts are freaking out over it. For the life of me, I do not get the appeal),  'Autopsy' (There's something about that band that has NEVER done it for me. Of course the one album that I thought was alright, 'Acts of the Unspeakable', everyone seems to dislike! Ha! The last album of theirs was fucking terrible, that "comeback" album. Blah. Pure garbage.), 'Darkthrone' (Their first album is one of my favorite albums of all time, but after that, they nosedived straight into the toilet. Of course, their worst album, 'Transylvanian Hunger', is everybody's favorite. Someone bring me back to my home planet, please!). Pretty much most black metal, in my opinion, is overrated. There are a few gems, such as Satyricon's 'Nemesis Devina', but overall I couldn't care less about that style of music. I like my death/doom to be supremely low tuned with plenty of slow parts (ie Magus, Crematory (Sweden).

What do you think of death metal in the 2000's?

It sucks. Somewhere around 2001/02, I really started to lose touch with everything. It's funny too, because I was one of those geeks who prided myself on knowing every-fucking-thing you could possibly know in regards to the metal underground and now I couldn't care any less. Even when I hear something good these days, the excitement only lasts in passing. I hear it, it sounds good, I'm done. It's over. I've become quite desensitized to it all. I miss the days when metal heads looked like drug addicted delinquents who beat up old ladies for fun and sacrificed cats in the local graveyard while downing 40z's of Crazy Horse and listening to Witchfinder General on some big grey 80's boombox. Now every nerd who's hooked up into the internet can become some "metal authority" and because of this, all of these horrible bands are now being touted as the greatest thing all because of those two dreaded words... "old school". It's all gay and it's bad for ya.

Tell me about 'Shrine of desecration'.

Well, I had just turned 21 and had just been released from prison, which was back in Jan. '97, and I had went with some friends to see Evilution down at the 'El -N- Gee' over in New London, CT. After the gig, I was hanging out with their bassist and an old friend of mine, John York, and hew had asked if I wanted in. I said yes and almost immediately went to start recording the vocal tracks for the album since that was all that was left to do.

John had actually already begun to record the vocals for the album (there exists somewhere a copy of him doing the vocals for 'The Rebirth of Azazel', which actually sound fucking insane!!) but had a change of heart and wanted me to get in there. 

The recording process was tedious at best, for me, as I was young and dumb and just wanted to blow right through it and get it out there. I also wasn't accustomed to singing in a higher, "witchier" range, due to my having a naturally deep voice. To this day I cringe at some of the higher ended "shrieks", if you will. There is a lot that I wish I could have done differently but due to time as well as monetary constrictions we had to wrap it up as quickly as we could and get the fucker rolling out the door.

Jamey from Hatebreed, who is a close friend of Kerry (Evilution guitarist), jumped at the opportunity to release and distribute the CD through his own label, 'Pure death'. Even though the album has remained relatively obscure throughout the years, I'm pleased with how it's aged and am probably more happy with it now than I had been at the time. Listening to it now, I'm surprised at just how professional and well maintained it sounds. The guitars sound ridiculously professional, which blows my mind considering the rinky dink hole in the wall we recorded at. In terms of production, sheen and overall tightness, I'd put it up against the better works of Deicide and Morbid Angel. Of course, at the time I was ever the skeptic and cringed at every flaw that I detected.

Why did the band break up?

There had been friction between certain members of the band going way back and it all just sort of culminated one night at the 'El -N- Gee' in CT. Our bassist was quite drunk that night and acting belligerent as usual and made a big scene during our set and that was the point where everyone else pretty much had had it.

We lost a previous member due to similar circumstances a years earlier during a mini-tour out in the mid West. We were in Pittsburgh. We got through 1 & 1/2 songs and next thing I know, the music stops, I turn around and see everyone walking off stage! That's what happens when you get a bunch of hot headed Irishmen from New England, get 'em loaded and put 'em onstage!

Is it true that you played in Mortal Decay and Dehumanized after the split with Evilution?

Indeed, though I had actually begun jamming out with Mortal Decay while I was still in Evilution. The Mortal thing lasted only a few months as I was heavily addicted to a "variety" of drugs during that time and was unable to fully dedicate myself to the band as a result. We did play one show at The Troc in Philly, opening for Morbid Angel, which was a kick ass experience, but as I said, it was very difficult for me to maintain that relationship due to my addiction.

I joined Dehumanized during the ass end of Evilution's existence. I managed to juggle, not only my involvement in both bands, but my drug habits rather well this time around! Probably due to the fact that I only lived a hop, skip and a jump away from NYC.

I had known the guys in Dehumanized for a few years by that point and once they got rid of their singer, Jerry, they called me up and asked if I was interested. Having shared the stage with them on numerous occasions prior to that and always having been impressed by them to the utmost, it was a no brainer to me to accept their offer.

Were there any shows that stick out for you?

My first show with Evilution was opening up for My Dying Bride in New London, CT. After our set, Andrew, the guitarist for My Dying Bride and their vocalist, Aaron, came up to me and gave me props. Being a huge fan of theirs since '91, it was an honor and a delight to have them approach me like that.

I actually did vocals for a death metal band from Texas, Sintury,  down in Arlington  back in 2000. At the very end of the show, I vomited on stage due to heat exhaustion. It stank something fierce and the whole "front row" of the audience turned and exited, stage left. It was actually pretty fucking funny. I kept trying to hold it in and at the last minute I thought, "fuck it, this is death metal... BLAAAHHH"!

A similar incident happened to me in Worcester, Mass, at a show with Cryptopsy. I had my foot propped up against this barrier and I was sweating my balls off and out of nowhere I start getting this slight shock in my bicep as I'm singing into the microphone. I noticed that my knee was up against an electrical outlet and all of the sweat from my body was causing me to get electrocuted! As I was getting ready to do the final growl/yell/whatever of the last song, I kept thinking that I wasn't going to make it, that I was going to fall out right then and there. I never felt so dizzy and nauseous in my life. 

Of course we've endured just about every mishap you can think of, from band members outright walking offstage during a set to traveling just about 1000 miles just to play in front of one guy! All the typical "underground" death metal mishaps... we've had 'em.

Why did you leave those bands?

Well, as I mentioned earlier, I had a really bad drug addiction during my time in Mortal Decay. At one point, I robbed a dealer with a fake gun out in the projects and I had to tuck my hair into my hat and shave my beard and mustache afterward so nobody would recognize me, which, being a 6'4" whiteboy with long hair, is no easy task! It sucked, because the guys in Mortal were great and extremely supportive of me joining the band but I was too fucked up at the time to make good of the situation.

The Dehumanized thing was basically bad blood that had been boiling between certain members of the band well before I joined. Unfortunately it all came to a head at the end of one of our best shows over at some place in Jamaica, Queens. I was hanging out with some of the kids from the audience after our set and had walked back to the stage area where the rest of the band was at and they were all arguing with one another and next thing I know, three of the guys up and quit, leaving me and Rich (the guitarist) standing there with a a dumb look on our faces. Rich and I made an honest attempt to keep the band going by hiring on a couple buddies of ours, including my old bassist and comrade from Evilution, Greg, but our efforts wouldn't hold out for much longer and the band eventually fizzled out. 

What was 420?

420 was a band that consisted of George (drummer for Dehumanized) and Matt and Chris of Repudilation. Despite the goofy name, the music was actually quite brutal. Kinda like a more technical version of Repudilation. By the time I joined this band, I was still reeling from the break up of Dehumanized, not to mention the fact that I was staying with a chick who was a full blown addict, so we'd spend much of our time going into Far Rockaway, New York, into the projects, copping our shit and then holing up over at her apartment like a couple of roaches or driving around getting high all day and night. Suffice to say, practicing wasn't high on my list of priorities. The other thing that kind of threw me off with the band was that I wasn't really into the whole "weed" thing of the lyrics. Those guys were huge Dolemite fans, which is fine, really, but I just couldn't get into singing about that kind of shit... weed and Blaxploitation flicks. I actually "scatted" along to the music when we played my one and only show with the band over at Castle Heights in Queens. 

Is there any chance of an Evilution reunion?

I highly doubt it and if there was it wouldn't be with me. I haven't spoke with any of those guys in over ten years, except for my buddy Greg, who I'll occasionally see over on Facebook.

What are some of the bands that are "doing" it for you right now?

Well, most of the metal I listen to is from the 80's/early-mid 90's. I've always preferred my metal to be on the slower side of the fence. Stuff like Thergothon, Celtic Frost, Candlemass, etc. As far as new shit goes... the new Vallenfyre album was pretty fuckin' good. Reminded me a lot of the old days. The new Witchrist is also really good. Has a "Bolt Thrower-ish" vibe. Real low tuned and on the slower side. Corpsessed is probably the best and most promising band right now. Their guitar sound is fucking unreal! Disma is great also, though I'd love to see Craig get Disciples of Mockery and/or Womb back into action. The new Coffin Texts is getting a lot of play over here as well. They have that "evil" vibe, similar to Immolation and Incantation, two of my favorite bands. 

Believe it or not, though, most of the shit that I've been obsessing over lately, musically that is, is more on the psychedelic prog/space rock side of the fence. Stuff like Causa Sui, Litmus, White Hills, Haunted Leather, Lumerians, Wooden Shjips, etc... I grew up listening to rock/classic rock along with metal. They both went hand in hand for me. I could go from listening to Exodus - Pleasures of the Flesh to The Worst of Jefferson Airplane or Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, so it's really not that much of a stretch for me. I tend to day dream a lot more to slower, trippier music. Metal makes me analyze the whole process. From the playing down to the way it was produced. These days I want to simply hop on the proverbial "magic carpet ride" and wander through the landscape of my thoughts.

What are you doing currently as far as music goes, if anything?

Umm... right now, I've been stockpiling an arsenal of riffs and arrangements and hopefully will be sorting them all out in order to give them form here soon enough. If I had to compare it to anything, I'd liken it to 'Dawn of Possession' era Immolation crashing into Liers In Wait. Kind of that, frantic chaos of the latter lightly scattered over the more haunting and dreadful atmosphere of the former. The project is entitled, 'Wrought By Dolor". I had originally intended it to be more "funeral" oriented, but my ADHD will not allow me to play anything too slow for more than a minute at a time. ;)

Final thoughts?

Not really. Thanks to you, for this, and thanks to anyone interested enough in reading this and/or having enjoyed 'Shrine of Desecration'. Cheers.


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