DEATH ANGEL – The Bastard Wolves
The first time I interviewed Death Angel was in 2008 for the release of Killing Season and I was so excited that I could transcribe very little. A fleeting chat of few words with a Californian accent that was really hard to understand and translate. The slang, difficult words, a bad phone line and little time. Today times have changed, fortunately I have grown up and gained experience, I have perfected my English and progress has done the rest. Being face to face via webcam with Mark Osegueda was much more reassuring and allowed me to see the expressions, understand better and empathise with the character. We talked about many things starting from the tour cancelled for the pandemic, to the last live streaming album The Bastard Tracks, a record of B-sides played live without an audience. We also talked about the previous Humanicide and the old times. The times when thrash metal was still primordial and Metallica made the first appearances leaving everyone astonished. Before that time we played more than anything else NWOBHM, but… well… let’s see together with Mark what happened. Enjoy reading!
Last time we left you just in tour with Testament and Exodus for the promotion of Humanicide. You had many problems till you needed to stop the tour and go back home. What do you remember of those days?
It was kinda crazy as the whole tour was going great. Every date was all close to sold-out and you couldn’t understand if this virus was more in the media and people were overpanicking and then closures started happening and two shows were cancelled. Not that bad. Many bands really needed to cancel the entire tour. Everyone started to get scared when the lockdown was serious. On tour it’s regular and normal that someone in the band and crew gets sick and passes the flu to others. It’s natural. In this tour we started to get sick and for some it was just normal sickness problems with throat, while others had been infected with covid. It was really crazy times for many.
Let’s go back to Humanicide. An slower album than others before. How do you think you came out with that sound?
I’m very fond of it.. we were lucky that we could almost close the tour supporting the album while others still have been waiting already for two years before they can go out and show their new album. We worked on the song-writing and Jason, our producer, for a more organic sound. It helped to go to another more elevated level except for the fact that we couldn’t tour more.
The cover with wolves again seems to go back to your Relentless Retribution and The Dream Calls For Blood albums. Why these wolves again and what do they represent on these three covers?
The wolves somehow.. they kind of represent us. It’s like a battle where we fought our way and still fight to stay relevant in this metal genre. In each album we prove more and more and we survived multiple seasons keeping going. We also survived a pandemic!!! And people liked these wolves and people ..they were excited to see them again. We had the first two, and then we had the death moth and I liked a lot that record but when the wolves came back again people had a sort of familiarity with it and I think it worked out very well.
Let’s go back to last year when you released the Under Pressure EP. Why that song and why come out with a single? Maybe too early for an album? How hard was it to face two different and historic voices like Mercury and Bowie?
It was a Rob’s idea. Well it was a time when we couldn’t move still for the pandemic and we couldn’t even go to our rehearsal studio as it was closed so we couldn’t play with Will and the guys, so I used to sneak to Rob’s house as he has his own studio. He asked me to do an acoustic EP with me and so we worked on our new song called “Faded Remains”. It was my first acoustic song ever written by me. And when Rob heard it he found somehow the sound familiar to Under Pressure and we came up with the idea to try to do it. Sure for me it was crazy. About no-one can just do what Freddy did, but then we found our way to do it. Lyrically, it was perfect and we love Queen and David Bowie so I hope people will appreciate, too.
Ok, today we have The Bastard Tracks. A really nice idea. A live one with songs that you hadn’t been playing much on tour. I think that many bands would like to do it but when you are in tour the fans always ask for the same setlist and, moreover, there is always a new album to promote. How did you came up with this idea?
Well, I should admit that it could not happen. It would not happen without this pandemic. In the beginning, we were in a really sad mood and we could only be sitting still for so on and kind of going crazy. You couldn’t even go into public buildings, except maybe for some markets, and not even in the rehearsal studio so Rob and I were going kind of crazy on creating anything. We did the acoustic EP, Under Pressure, then we did our first online Christmas show, something that we had never done before and those songs were an online set with The Beatles’ and Christmas songs. Not our usual set-list for sure. We thought about that just to pass some time before going back on tour again but, no, this damned pandemic kept lasting longer and longer and we thought about another stream show. Then we thought about what we could do to make people more interested and we decided to create these B-sides, these bastard tracks. The whole set would be weird, but then we thought “what if we’d tour for it with a live audience?”. People could think “what the fuck is this?”, but we thought that with this pandemic the streaming thing could be perfect for metal fans. The great thing with metal fans is that they don’t only buy a record for only one or two songs. They don’t go to platforms buying only just one song. They still want to listen and buy the whole record, the physical product, and this is a great thing about this genre. A wonderful community. The great thing about the metal community is that everyone wants to collect and own most of the records and I know, being a metal fan myself, that every now and then if I see a band that I love playing obscure tracks that I could never expect, sure I would love to have that. You surely get excited and so we were about this idea. We asked in socials and compare our list to understand what we could do. Making the list was really extremely hard and then when we needed to do a lot of homework by playing these songs again in our home, because we hadn’t for a long time. Some songs we hadn’t been playing since the recording studio times, so we needed to try and go again into the rehearsal studio until it doesn’t sounds good enough to recorded. Then getting back to the venue and playing it on stage was amazing. To be again on stage with the band, we could feel again each other energy even if once again there was no crowd, so it was really hard playing and then when you stop you could hear no sound. Just silence, and it was kind of weird. We looked at each other thinking about if it was good or not as we had no feedback, but when the broadcast happened we could see many comments and it was all overwhelming, positive, and insane. Many people asked us to release this as a physical product in vinyl and CD and so we thought that it could really work. We put it out as you can see it!
I think you already answered my next three questions, Mark..
Ahahah! Well.. I am a talker!
If I can say, maybe “Lord Of Hate” is not that bastard, as you played it 127 times – the 27th most played song in your tours according to setlist.fm website. Did you need a hard, good old opener or what? And how did you choose for the others?
Oh, “Lord Of Hate2. Ironically, when our record came up, Killing Season, that was the opening track of that record and on that tour we opened the set every night with that song, so on that tour probably that’s why it is so high. It was the main track of that record and it was really good for opening our concerts but since this line-up and 2009 I don’t know if we ever played it. That’s maybe the reason. It definitely should be at least nine years ago since we hadn’t played it.
We have it on vinyl and CD with Blu-Ray inside it, to watch the whole DVD video of the entire show. And we also have another format in cassette, just because this format is going great again in the metal community.
Let’s talk about future then. Do you have ideas ready for new album and tour?
Well, right now we started writing in the very, very early stages for the next record. There will be another new Death Angel record but we will start to tour again in April in the States, and hopefully July and August we will come back, in some festival, but this is for sure all up to this situation and about how this pandemic will go on. We were supposed to play a lot but still can’t tell it for sure. So probably still early to talk about a new album.
Let’s go back to the early days when you still where the exotic Filipino thrash metal band. How was it to play in the Bay Area? Tell me more about those days and those times. Your feelings, how you started, which first goals and first gigs with other bands.
It was obviously amazing to be there at those times. Being in a band – you know? Death Angel was born about in 1982 – and starting playing in the end of the year. I was joining in 1984 so by that point we were still all playing a kind of NWOBHM. One day we entered a club and we saw a band we kept hearing about, called Metallica, and they were playing here in Berkley and our minds were blown. Of course, we were into bands like Motörhead but since Metallica played in that club we could hear a new sound that was like Motörhead-meets-punk-meets-NWOBHM and people were stage-diving. Our minds were just blown and in the next rehearsal we started to get into that kind of songwriting, too. So we saw bands like Exodus, Legacy (i Testament primordiali – NdA), Forbidden and everyone started to support each other in the Bay Area, going to each other’s concerts and so on. So it was really an amazing atmosphere. My very first gig in front of an audience was supporting Megadeth and for my sixteenth birthday show it was with Slayer on tour. A crazy thing that you can’t make up and nobody can’t take you back.
And what about the Nineties with The Organisation and Swarm? Why did you stop with Death Angel and why did you decide to come back later? Sorry if I ask, you it was not too clear in those days.
Not a real break-up. We saw a bunch of things that we shouldn’t have seen in the Eighties. Some kind of legal assholes coming back to us and making things pretty bad. Of course, we had later some internal tensions. I was done so I left with the intention to never come back playing because the music business made me really screwed up. Those guys called The Organisation played without me, reinventing their sound with a new name and new songs. It was nothing about Death Angel. A new carrier. Then I moved to New York, stayed there for a couple of years and then I wanted to start playing music again. The Organisation had broken up and I approached Rob, and we became Swarm. It was something more rock and we put up two independent EPs and went touring with Jerry Cantrell in North America and then we started again this rambling. We heard that Chuck Billy (cantante dei Testament, NdA) got cancer and we starting hearing about this benefit show here in the Bay Area. Some bands reformed again for Chuck and raised money, for him to cure his cancer. We got approached, too, but it eleven years had already passed by at that point, so initially we answered that we were not interested but then Chuck called Rob and they talked. Them Rob again talked with Andy and we were again into it. So when I was again on stage, after two minutes I never wanted it to end and I realised what I missed most. It was supposed to be an off-show for benefit, but then here we are twenty years later and still going strong.
Your sound changed through the years according to the line-up, different times, and mood. I found The Evil Divide a really amazing evolution of your sound. Tracks like “The Moth” or “Lost” have the essence of Death Angel even if they are very different. What do you think about those songs and that album?
You can ask a lot of people if they like most our first or second era about our carrier. You know? some people don’t want us to play anything after Act III. Some people love it all and some people love just the new stuff.Ssome people just think about that The Ultra-Violence is the best and only one. Then you go over and, moving on, if you ask me, my favourite of all times is for sure THE DREAM CALLS FOR BLOOD and of course THE ULTRA-VIOLENCE because it was our first record. I always loved it. But moving on, life goes on and after this pandemic if someone would ask me the quintessential album that would define us, right now I would say absolutely THE EVIL DIVIDE.
OK, the interview is done so have you got some last words for your Italian fans who are still waiting to see you again on stage?
Yeaah, sure. I know. We can’t wait to get back again in Italy. If you saw Death Angel in Italy, you know what I mean and how we feel to play in your country. We fucking love Italy and it’s one of those places that when we see it on our list of the tour we scream “fuck yes!”! It was heartbreaking for us not to play there but the government rules forced us to cancel. We want to be there again and next time it will be for sure explosive in the most beautiful way!