Saturday, September 1, 2012
Toxic Unreality: An interview with Chris Milewski of Masada
What came first, your interest in horror movies or metal music and what was your first experience with either like?
I was interested in metal long before I was interested in movies of any kind! I can't really recall what my first experience with metal was like, but I'll say it was around '88 or so... when I was about 6 years old. I was into bands like METALLICA, HELLOWEEN, etc. Nothing too obscure (I unfortunately missed the main thrash wave,) but soon after I discovered DEATH METAL!. It could have been fate, but I think it was probably just pure luck that Frank from DETERIORATE worked at a Tower Records by my parent's house. He was in charge of a Death Metal section there where I was able to get all of the killer Death Metal (mainstream and underground) releases at the time on tape (and later CD.) Stuff like GORGUTS, IMMOLATION, MORPHEUS DESCENDS, PESTILENCE, MORGOTH, CIANIDE, THERION, UNLEASHED, etc. but even some more obscure titles from local bands. From there, I started writing to bands, checking out zines (somehow started getting the Wild Rag in the mail which introduced me to a lot more underground bands from around the world,) tape trading, going to shows, playing guitar, and here we are today!
Now, I can honestly say I only got into movies about 8 years ago... hah. I hated movies for the longest time believe it or not, but that's only because I was exposed to typical Hollywood garbage. I was introduced to Italian horror and from there my interest spread to the whole Italian cinema scene of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. While most people think Italian films are cheesy low-budget rip offs, I know many are not. Despite the small budgets, those guys produced some great flicks (yes, I know from insiders, it was actually pretty tough for the actors who were really exploited and abused.) The majority of the Italian films from years ago have their own look and feel to them. Great camerawork, atmosphere, and music that can not be found on American (and especially Hollywood) productions. Yeah, I do enjoy Italian horror, gialli, poliziotteschi, exploitation, but I'm also a big spaghetti western buff believe it or not. And I'm talking far beyond The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. I've got more spaghetti westerns than anything -- a couple hundred I'd say. I actually had to take a break from getting them because I don't even have time to watch them as much as I would like anymore!
What were your main influences/inspiration when you were riff writing the Masada material?
Well, I really just pick up my guitar and play. I'm not consciously thinking of anything in particular... Now as influence go, I would say the bands I enjoy show creep into the stuff I write, naturally! Bands like ATHEIST, PESTILENCE, GORGUTS... just nowhere near as technical! I'd say some of the more simplistic bands like PARALYSIS, MORGOTH, etc. are present as well. Inspiration? I wouldn't say I'm inspired by anything when I come up with the music or the lyrics! I think lack of inspiration would be a better description. It's no secret, the world is pretty pitiful in all aspects these days... and that's what MASADA is about! Lyrically, it's about society and the mind!
How did you wind up hooking up with Craig and Matt from Rellik and Cazz (Crucifier)?
Cazz is my honey bunny. I've known him for quite some time and have been a CRUCIFIER / GBK fan for years! We used to jam back around 2000 or so but nothing really came out of it due to my incessant throwing away of riffs and songs! It was a big problem of mine, but nowadays I force myself not to do it! Despite the fact that jamming with Cazz yielded absolutely nothing (hah!) I continued to play guitar and write new material. Years later, I met Craig and Matt... I assume at a RELLIK show, maybe a party of some kind (sorry, I have the worst memory!) Anyway, having lots of riffs and some finished tunes in mental storage (which works sometimes,) I figured I'd ask Craig if he'd be interested laying down some drum tracks... Luckily, he agreed! It was pretty cool to be able to jam with Craig because I was listening to Dawn of Possession when I was little kid! His precise and weird-at-times drumming was exactly what I was looking for in Masada. As usual, nothing happened for a few years for various reasons, but then we finally got moving. I asked Matt to record bass because he really is a phenomenal bassist! I felt his style would fit nicely with the Masada tunes... One thing I wanted was for the bass to actually show through on the recording (you can never hear the bass!!!) and for that, you need someone who can play!
Who designed the Masada logo?
I designed the logo quite some time ago, actually, before the "band" really existed. It was back when MASADA was just an idea in my head. I felt the logo was too cool not to use, so it actually helped in getting the project going!
Last year you guys released the two song demo, 'Suffer Mental Decay'. How has the response been thus far and are there any plans for a full length release in the near future?
The response has been a lot better than we had anticipated actually! Soon after it's release, the "Suffer Mental Decay" Demo EP received coverage on some of the "larger" websites (Blabbermouth, Decibel's Deciblog, MetalUnderground, etc.) which really helped it spread. It's received great reviews worldwid -- the biggest gripe was the fact that is was only two songs. Many people felt it was a refreshing slab of "old school" death metal. Honestly though, I don't think it's really "old school" sounding, but I'm not complaining. Somehow, the two tracks even made it to be "tracks of the day" on the Classic Rock Magazine website!? Hah, don't know how that happened, but again, I'm not complaining. As far as new material goes... we'll be recording three new tracks in the future. The tunes are all written, but at this time, we haven't even started practicing! Long story short, Craig was relieved of drum duties so he can focus on some more important personal issues. He was replaced by Kevin Coates of CORPUS ROTTUS -- another amazing drummer who's style I love -- but he unexpectedly passed away literally two or three days later! I at least did have the pleasure of jamming with Kevin a few years ago, unrelated to MASADA. I tried to find another replacement but too many people haven't got their own style or they're just too flakey on a personal level. Cazz will now be sitting behind the kit for the newest tunes. The new material is already a year old, so we really need to get moving. The tunes are much better in my opinion (isn't it always?) and it's stuff that I want to get out there. They're a little more progressive, but don't worry... they still have the MASADA sound present on the EP. About a year ago, we were in talks with a label about doing a mCD -- the three new tunes and two EP tracks. Hopefully, that'll still be the plan. No matter how things progress, even if it's ten years from now, we're going to get these tunes recorded.
Have you guys been gigging often and hows that been going?
We have not nor do I ever think MASADA will play any shows. We've got conflicting schedules that really don't even allow us all to get together at one time! Hah, not to mention I really hate shows. I guess I'm a wimp, but I like going to bed at a normal time and waking up in the morning refreshed! There's also way too much drama out there -- I've got a real life that requires me to act older than 5.
Being a hardcore horror film fanatic, what are your thoughts on the current state of the genre?
Honestly, I really don't pay attention to any movies post-1990 (with a few exceptions of course.) I can't even begin to comment on the current state of the genre because I simply don't follow it. Movies are drastically different today than they were years ago... and in my opinion, in a bad way! Yes, even the Italian have lost their touch! I don't like the way they look, I don't like the actors/actresses, and I sure don't like the ever-present CGI! Having said that, I can and do appreciate the fact that there are still some people out there making crazy movies and stuff... I'm just not into them. There are tons and tons of decent old flicks still out that that I haven't seen or even heard yet. Those are the only "new" movies I'm watching!
I understand that you're not down with the Blu-Ray flex (haha). Care to elaborate?
Haha, well, I enjoy movies for what they are. I'm definitely not a completest in that I need every version of a specific film in the most pristine quality with all of the extras. I enjoy many films that were only released theatrically in the 60s and 70s or on obscure foreign VHS years and years ago. As I mentioned, I'm a big spaghetti western fan -- a genre with literally hundreds and hundreds of minor films produced in the span of about a decade. Many of these films are only available in super-saturated 20th generation VHS quality, hah... You know, where you can barely even make out people's faces and stuff. I survive just fine watching them! We all survived watching normal TV, VHS, DVDs... so why all of a sudden does every one need blu-ray? Is the actual story that much different on the DVD than blu-ray? Nonsense.
What do you think of the current state of metal, death metal in particular? How would you rate it as opposed to the early days?
I'll admit, I'm just as close-minded about music as I am about movies! I really only dig the stuff I grew up listening to. So of course the early days crush today! I don't follow too many new bands out there -- In fact, maybe I don't follow any! I'm not alone in saying there are simply too many sub-par and unoriginal bands these days. It seems they're more interested in looking kvlt or cool than taking the time to really write good music. Everything is over-polished. It all sounds the same! And the drums? Triggered to death... they should just use a drum machine! Ahh, whatever, I know times have changed! It's cool they're playing metal and not rap or something, but...
How do you feel about the role of the internet in the metal scene?
I think the internet has dramatically helped the metal scene (as well as many other things in life) but I think it has also ruined it! It definitely helps with promotion, making contacts, and keeping in touch with people all across the world! But as I noted the previous answer, the scene has been inundated with the sub-par and unoriginal bands... and it's all thanks to the internet (and computers.) Anyone and everyone can record something in their bedroom, throw it up on the internet, and call themselves a band... and they do! The internet has also been an amazing vehicle for shit-talking, gossip, and rumor spreading because 1. it only takes a few mouse clicks to get a fire going (in a time where no one thinks about the consequences of their actions) and 2. we all know everyone has muscles behind the screen!
Any newer bands that have caught your ear? Any suggestions?
Name three albums that you will have with you as a soundtrack to the coming apocalypse:
Only three? That's a tough one... but I'll say PARALYSIS "Patrons of the Dark," MORGOTH "Eternal Fall," and ATHEIST "Unquestionable Presence!"
Alright Chris, many thanks for your time. Any last words for the damned?
Thanks for the interview, Josh! Your support is truly appreciated! We should be getting this new material recorded soon (hopefully) so keep your eyes and ears open. For those of you who haven't download the MASADA "Suffer Mental Decay" demo EP, it's available for free at http://masada.bandcamp.com. Should you be interested, you can also like us on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/masadadasam.