“The definition of extreme can be interpreted in many ways, Vital Remains
, however, takes its meaning to a whole new level, be it through using their instruments as weapons for mass annihilation or through unrelenting, blasphemous lyrics that display their hatred of religion and all that it stands for.” – and this goes on since 1989 when the band was formed by Tony Lazaro
. Their newest album Dechristianize
, taking the sixth place in their discorgraphy, has been welcomed as their best and most impressive album to date. I talked to the multi-functional Dave Suzuki
(drums, bass, guitars, etc) who is the long-time mate of Tony in creating brutal death metal.
Hello Dave! Four years passed since ’Dawn Of The Apocalypse’ came out. You’ve toured Europe and the States in 2000 but beside this, what’s been going on with Vital Remains?
“Well, first off…Hails to you Katalin and to the readers of Ultimate Metal! During the period of 2001-2003, we were mainly concentrating on writing the material for Dechristianize
. We had a few members come and go, but since it was only Tony and I writing the songs, that didn’t really interfere in any way. Tony did some touring with Deicide as Eric Hoffman’s guitar tech during this time. With Tony away, it gave me time to work on the lyrics, guitar harmonies and solos for the new songs.
In 2002, we signed with Olympic Recordings. We pretty much put Olympic in debt from our recording costs. That’s where Century Media stepped in. And that brings us to where we are now.
Glen Benton is your newest vocalist. How did his addition to Vital Remains come about?
When Tony was on tour with Deicide, he had an 8-track demo of the new songs. He would play it during sound check and everyone seemed to dig it. Glen, I guessing, overheard the songs and offered to sing on the album. But at the time, we had a vocalist. But it didn’t work out with him, so we got in contact with Glen and asked if he’d do the whole album. The rest is metal history.
Has his character do you think changed Vital Remains in any way?
I think his name alone has opened the eyes of many to Vital Remains
. With his reputation and status in the death metal scene, it has opened many doors for us. His vocals on this album are just sick. In a way, it helps us and hurts us at the same time. People are waiting to see Glen sing with Vital when we play live. This might be a rare occurrence for Vital. He’s still 100% with Deicide and that will obviously take his focus off of Vital. People will have to understand if we decide to go on tour without him. We have to continue to push forth and support Dechristianize
to the fullest extent. We will have to wait and see.
’Dechristianize’ has already got amazing reviews. Did you expect that when you were working on the album? How do you feel about it?
I’ve been floored at some of the reviews I’ve read. For the most part, the reviews have been killer and quite flattering. We didn’t expect this kind of response at all. We didn’t know how people would take to the new songs since it had a more melodic aspect to the album than our previous releases. It was just the way the album was heading. When we started hearing the songs come together in the studio, it really felt fucking great.
Some even say, it’s the best Vital Remains record so far. I know you can’t be too objective on your own work, but do you aggree?
I speak for myself…. I think this is my best album. Dechristianize
, for me, was the hardest obstacle to finish. In terms of song writing, lyrics, solos and harmonies…it was definitely a monster to tackle. But, in the end, I’m still satisfied with the end result.
What do you like most about ’Dechristianize’?
I like the fact that I’ve been listening to these songs over and over for almost 2 years now. I have yet to get sick of them. That’s always a good sign for me.
The album will be out at the end of July and it was supposed to come out earlier. What happened, why the delay?
I think it was due to contracts between Century Media US and Century Media Europe. They didn’t finalize the contracts until late May or early June. “Dechristianize” was released in the US on May 22. It will be released in Europe on July 21st. So, go out and pick up “DECHRISTIANIZE” now!!
Olympic Records belongs to Century Media now. Though the band’s name in itself grabs the attention, what other advantages do you think you’ve gained through them?
Century Media has done wonders for us. First off, their distribution is unmatched in metal. They must have seen some kind of potential for Dechristianize
since they haven’t stopped pushing us ever since we hooked up with them. The crew at both Century Media US and Europe are extremely cool. Having great communication between the label and us helps out a lot too.
The feedbacks are so far great, the anticipation was also great both from the fans side and from the media. Have you ever felt you were under pressure while you worked on ’Dechristianize’?
The fans and media had no clue what to expect from the new Vital Remains
album. All they pretty much knew was that Glen Benton was doing the vocals and that was all they would talk about. The only pressure we were really under was to get Dechristianize
recorded, mixed and mastered. That was our main goal…to finish the album. But we unfortunately ran into bigger problems down the road that delayed the album. It was for the best though…. We tried to make this album the sickest that we possibly could.
We can say ’you have four years to make this new album’, but in fact, how much time did you spend with the making of it? I mean when did you start working on, when did the first tunes, the first lyrics lines popped up?
I can’t really remember that far back…..Before we recorded Dawn of the Apocalypse
, Tony had some riffs that we fucked around with. It eventually became part of songs for the new album. Once we finished touring and we were back home, slowly, we started writing again. This is around the end of 2000 or early 2001. We’ve had these songs for a long time. As for the lyrics, I don’t remember when they started coming out. I was jotting down lyrics during that time also. I revised the lyrics countless times to make it fit to the music.
The recording took place at the Morrisound Studios. Are you satisfied with the sound? For me the drums sound a bit thin...
I want to clear up some things about Morrisound. We were not satisfied with the final mix from Morrisound. Ultimately, we had to bring the mix back to Providence (our hometown) and remix the whole thing over again at another studio, which was called Sound Station Seven. We were running out of money at that point so we had to get the mix as best we could and just let it go. I can live with the final mix, but we could of done better if we had the time and money. While at Morrisound, we spent 14 days there to record, mix and master. For the amount of music we had, it was almost an impossible task to finish. We would work 8-12 hours a day. We did have some great moments there. Like when Glen came in and did his vocal tracks, which was fucking great to witness, it was like watching a man possessed behind the mic. He’s got a great sense of humor and he made us all laugh. Good times…good times. Another good thing was to hear all the music finally come together. Once we heard what we were creating come to life…. all the bullshit that happened while getting to that point was trivial.
Yeah, the “drum sound”…. since the kicks and toms were triggered, we really didn’t have time to fuck around with their sounds. I think that hurt the overall drum sound. Oh well. It’s done and over with. People will have to live with it, like me.
We learned a valuable lesson in recording Dechristianize
. This will not happen to us ever again.
I’ve read somewhere you would have preferred Abyss.. is it true? Why would you prefer to work there?
It wasn’t just to record at the Abyss Studio with Peter, it was just us saying that we need an engineer who can record death metal properly. I love the Abyss studios quality of sound. Just listen to Hypocrisy’s “Roswell 47”. That sound is just massive!
I’d really like to work with Devin Townsend as the engineer.
I don’t have the lyrics with the promo cd but basing on your previous albums and on ’Dechristianize’ song titles I guess everybody can find out easily what are they about...?
Just read the lyrics. Come to your own conclusions. Basically, my lyrics tear down the sacred structures of religion and christianity…to make them come back down to reality…to knock them down from their high horse.
Have you ever had to deal with censorship or being banned for your lyrics?
We did have some problems with the cover of Dechristianize
. It was totally ludicrous on what they wanted to censor. As you know, the cover has jesus crucified on a pentagram with Romans engaged in an orgy. Well, they said that the orgy scene is not allowed and that they would not carry our music because of this. But they said that the scene with jesus nailed to the pentagram is OK. ?!??! What Century Media decided to do was to put a slipcover for the cd case to hide the cover artwork. They made an outstanding slipcover that made the overall package so much sicker!! That was our only encounter with censorship at the moment. I have yet to hear anything about the lyrics.
How did you become so anti-Christian? Or would it be proper to say anti-religious?
Anti-religion. I don’t care what your belief is, as long as you don’t push it onto me. I have many friends who believe in god, but they know what I’m about. They shake their heads in disbelief, but they respect the way I live my life and I respect theirs. I was brought up without religion in my home. So I didn’t have the hang-ups of having to believe something I read out of a book. I watched some friends of mine, when I was little, getting the shit kicked out of them by their parents for saying god’s name in vain. Some hardcore christians. Ever since then, I knew I didn’t need that in my life. Life without god is great. Life without the guilt of having jesus die for my sins…is even better.
A friend of mine who speaks Spanish translated the first words of ’Unleash Hell’ . Why is it in Portuguese?
Tony is Portuguese. For him, it was homage to the fans of Brazil and Portugal. He had the idea a while back, I believe. Since he made many friends when we played in Portugal, it was his way of saying, “thanks for your support…” You’d probably have to ask him yourself…I might be totally wrong!! Hahahaaa!
VR suffered a few line up changes during the years, but I guess you and Tony are The Vital Remains. Do you share the same ideas, conceptions on how VR should sound like? Do you agree on things together or one of you has the final words? Or… ?
Since my welcome into Vital Remains
in 1996, Tony and I have weathered the storm and came through stronger and more determined. We’re both on the same page as to the direction of Vital Remains
will be going, especially for Dechristianize
. He really just let me loose when I started to write the harmonies behind his riffs. Since he was starting to experiment with more melodic and more “power metal” type riffing, this was a perfect outlet for my ideas. Tony is the last man standing in Vital Remains
. I’ll give my opinions to him, but his word is final. If we disagree on things, we always seem to come to an agreement. It works this way.
Your music is very brutal but has lots of melodies and turns. What are your musical influences and what are the main aspects when it comes to song writing?
Everything from Death/Black/Doom/Power/Heavy/Schizo/Prog/Neo-clasical/Grind/and a little polka music to spice things up a bit.
When it comes to song writing, we concentrate on structures and textures. Most recently, melody has come into the picture. Coming up with a sick riff is important too. We expand our influences from end to end. It doesn’t matter what genre of music our inspiration comes from…as long as it sounds good to us, that’s all that matters.
The first thing that surprised me at ’Dechristianize’ is the length of the songs and the album. Did you make the songs so long on purpose, or.. how did they turn to be so long?
That is Tony’s doing!! Hahaaa! No, we never put a time limit to our songs. It wasn’t on purpose that the songs were lengthy. I think the songs on Dawn of the Apocalypse
were longer. It was probably the way we structured the songs that made it long. We didn’t want to do a “hit and run” type of song. We were able to bring many textures into one song. By doing this, you’re trying to express many different styles that influence you. Hence, long songs. We try not to do anything half assed in our music. We either go all the fucking way or not do it at all.
When I saw the length of the album was ’oh well, it will be boring’. But fortunately I was wrong, the album is strong, dynamic and stays brutal all way long and there are a few surprises as well. In short, it’s quality death metal, extreme enough to broaden the boundaries but not gone too extreme. What is your ‘secret’?
Secret?!? There is no secret to our writing process. It is just a matter of arranging and re-arranging the songs we write. We did think out the songs more carefully this time around. But a lot of the parts just come out of nowhere. Tony does most of his song writing at home, but when we get together and jam, that’s where most of the shit happens.
Actually the band’s name, Vital Remains is quite fitting to my comments above, do you remember why did you choose this name for the band?
I believe that the originator of this band, Paul Flynn, came up with the name. I do not know where he came up with this name, but I guess it stuck with everybody in the band. Mind you, this was 14-15 years ago when they formed Vital Remains
I guess you get emails and requests from fans to give advice to their bands. What would be your advice to somebody who wanted to play death metal now, in 2003?
You got a lot of catching up to do. If you’re just getting into it now, man….you’ve got a lot of studying to do. If you want real advice, just ask guys like King Fowely, Paul Speckman, Cronos, the guys from Sabbat (Japan) or any old school motherfuckers who are still in it for the sake of Metal.
Will you tour with ’Dechristianize’? US, Europe...
We will know this information very soon. The only problem will be for Glen Benton. He’s currently very busy with Deicide. They will be recording their new album very soon. His schedule with Deicide is pretty full. So we might have to go out on tour without him. We’ll let the fans know once we find out what the happenings will be with Vital Remains
for future tours. But be assured that we will try to tour and support Dechristianize
around the world this time.
Have you been thinking about who could be the session members on a tour to handle the drums and the bass?
Currently, we have drummer Tim Yeung (Hate Eternal “Conquering the Throne”) and bassist Derek Boyer (Deeds of Flesh, Deprecated, Decrepit Birth) as the backbone for Vital Remains. We’re fucking excited to have them with us because they are both monstrous players and they’ve dedicated their time, learning the music and bringing the music of Vital Remains
to life and stage.
For those who wouldn’t be familiar with Vital Remains, how would you introduce the band?
I would tell them to go to their local record shop and buy any of our albums. Then decide for yourself, whether you like it or not. That’s the only way to truly introduce yourself.
Thank you for your time answering these questions. Last comments are yours …..
See you in Hungary!
Thanks for the “long ass” interview! Hahaa! Thanks to all who have supported Vital Remains
and Death/Black Metal throughout the years! Thanks to all those who bought Dechristianize
and our other albums too. We hope to visit and play for fans of Hungary very soon!! Let’s get pissed!! Cheers Katalin! And now…LET THE KILLING BEGIN
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