MIKE SMITH OF SUFFOCATION INTERVIEW

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One Of The Hardest Drummers In All Of Death Metal


Thanks for agreeing to the interrogation, Mike. Letís just start off with Souls to Deny. Iím always skeptical of new albums from once-dismantled death metal bands (or hell, just about any death metal band at this point), but especially ones from the 90s glory days. However, I predicted that the much needed Souls to Deny was going to destroy before it even came out, and sure enough, it does. Why did Suffocation decide to reunite, and now that it has been a year, how do you feel about the album?

We reunited because we were all in a position to where it could fit into our lives without causing grief or a half-assed attempt. We never lost the love to play, we just temporarily lost the love we needed to play successfully together. Iím satisfied with the turnout of the album. It touched all bases of what Suffocation is and it leaves enough room for us to completely destroy on the next album. [Ed Note: Yes! Another album!]

How has the response been to Souls thus far? Iím assuming it has been positive because the merch section of your website has more garb than a fucking Puerto Rican sweatshop. Please elaborate…

We never had a real merch outlet for any Suffo gear in the past, so this is truly the first time fans can access everything we have to offer from the beginning to now. We have a whole new generation of new fans that need it all and need it now. We are here to serve the fans as well as promote ourselves fully, something we definitely lacked in the past.

As for the response to the album, it has been insane and the multiple tours have all been successful. The turnouts have been huge and we are far from being done with the touring requests for this release. To tour nearly two years on one album is what many wish to do. We are fortunate to have a big Earth to conquer and many show requests to satisfy.

The vocals on Souls are much raspier than Frankís previous material, even the Despise mini disc. Were the super gutturals sidelined intentionally this time, or is Frank just getting to old for that shit?

Our goal was to make the vocals as discernable as possible without abandoning the growl. We spend time writing lyrics and itís nice to understand them sometimes. So he is now attempting to mix the guttural with a bit of clarity and pronunciation, and I guess mature the role of the singer a little. Heís getting too old for a lot of shit but his signature growl will still blow your wig back more than any.

Have any band members gotten into physical fights with one another in the last 15 years? Drunken yelling matches? Arm-wrestling competitions? Duels? Basically, what Iím asking is, have you ever beaten the shit out of anyone?

There are always drunken yelling matches and we disagree on plenty, mostly work ethics. Myself and Terrance had to get physical for a moment just so we both understood each other this time around. Itís funny that you think I am the bully of the band. For the record, I am the most laid back, level-headed member of this band, but you are correct because I definitely will be the first to choke-out and break down a fool who chooses to disrespect me or any in my camp, just out of principle. I truly believe a real ass-whooping will do more good than bad for a fool who is unfocused; it makes them think about their actions next time and in turn makes them better people. So I guess when I beat someoneís ass, I do it for the good of MANKIND. I am definitely no bully, I just have no patience for stupid people, AT ALL! [Mike Notes: I believe Mike Smith just threatened me]

So the picture on the back side of the liner notes of the Effigy album is the coolest, but also the fucking trashiest, metal pic Iíve ever seen. What were you guys thinking? Mike, you look like a serial killer, Josh looks like a deranged trucker, and Frank looks like a god damn heroin addict with that Trump Plaza shirt on. How old were you guys back then? How did this picture make it into the album?

We were thinking this is death metal, and nobody had shown us any different, so we will come as we are. The last thing we were going to do was put on a front for the people and dress up. No spikes, no chains, no blood needed, we will destroy you with skill alone. That was our attitude at the time and pretty much still is. I was 17, the rest were 19. It made it into the album because no one knew any better, including Roadrunner records [Mike Note: Frank was only nineteen?!! Fuck me, he looks thirty-five in that pic].

Other than the upcoming DVD, what else is Suffocation currently working on? Any plans for another record? Seriously, Ruthless will front the money if Relapse wonít. Now that I think about it, what will be featured on the DVD?

We are working on writing new material and fulfilling tour obligations. What will be featured on the DVD is what the fans have suggested on our website forum. Way too much to list in this interview.

Speaking of Relapse, how have they been treating you guys? Personally, I think theyíve set the standard with many of their releases over the years, but they can be pretty darn stingy sometimes. Not once have they ever sent Ruthless a CD or sampler. Thoughts?

We handle the majority of our decisions and affairs. We donít rely on the label as a crutch. I suppose if we were to ask for anything in particular they would seriously consider it, but we donít ask much. The relationship we have is a good one. No bad blood, just good relations with all involved.

How do you feel about bowling? We are big bowling fans here at Ruthless. I used to drink and roll once a week in a really seedy bowling alley, I mean like 40-year-old single women with mullets doing karaoke in the bar and shit–basically, a truckstop whorehouse. Good times. Did I mention Iíve also bowled in 8 different states? Uh, when was the last time you bowled?

I donít feel anything about bowling. Itís almost as exciting as golf. [Ed Note: Blasphemy!] There is nothing wrong with the truckstop whores that frequent the lanes though. That would be the sole reason I would go–to show off my ďBall Skills.Ē The last time I bowled was maybe at a friendís birthday party or something back when I was still growing my first pubic hairs and actually going to birthday parties. I got something for those truckstop whores now though.

What ever happened to Doug Cerrito? Why did he leave the band? He was a pretty integral part of Suffocation for a long time. Is everyone still friends, or did you have to whoop his ass?

No, I never beat up on Doug. We both respected each othersí style and avoided crossing it. All I know about his life today is that he runs his own biz that is very successful and thatís about it that I know for a FACT. Anything else is just guessing and assumption, which I donít do [Mike Note: I, however, do make assumptions, and Iíll assume here and now that Doug still has his perm].

Whatís the story with Breeding the Spawn? Donít get me wrong, I love all of Suffocationís material but compared to the other full-lengths, Breeding sounds like horseshit. What happened?

The story is, when you let the label dictate your moves and actions you often get unthoughtout decision making. Either way the material will still make the supposed ďbestĒ cringe trying to figure it out how to play it correctly (ask our new bass player and guitarist how it is to learn Breeding material). Bad sound, but insane writing for that time. It contained a lot of the styles and musical approaches that are out today.

I said that Souls was a much needed album because the current state of death metal is a fairly sad one–what I like to call the crippled and gangrenous death metal horse. Being the veterans that you are, having seen the rise and fall of greats like Pestilence, Carcass, Gorguts, Obituary, etc., where do you think the genre is headed?

The genre is on the verge of success, as well as destruction at the same time. The biggest disappointment to me is that it has become norm for the drummers to avoid groove and diversity at all cost, which is sad. If you listen to Pestilence, Carcass, Death, or Gorguts you will see the difference. The need to grind 100% of an album will be the death of us all. If a drumming great like Buddy Rich or Neil Peart were to listen to the majority of the bands, I truly doubt they would be impressed with anything other than the stamina required to do so. Other than that I would feel the need to explain why it is I chose the same groove and tempo for every single song on my album. It would be a sad awakening for sure.

Lastly, how do you feel about black metal? Youíve played with black metal and pseudo-black metal bands, most recently Behemoth, and surely youíve noticed the shinguards, corpsepaint, shoulder-pads, spikes, bullet-belts, battle axes, etc. Granted, there are some excellent black metal bands out there, but am I the only one who thinks itís a bit over-the-top? Even slightly homoerotic?

I donít feel anything in particular for or against black metal. If the costumes and religious beliefs are what sell your albums, then continue on. My version of black metal is myself and Terrance Hobbs without the spikes and love for the devil. [Ed Note: Horgh!!!]

TRUE BLACK METAL KULT!!!

About Mike von Hobart

Mike has 4 skills in life- drinking, reviewing black metal, being unemployed, and general uselessness. He writes about 2 pieces a year, but they are invariably our most popular because our readership is comprised of 17 year-old Scandinavian virgins, by which we mean 28 year-old Scandinavian virgins.