Death Walking Terror
CoC chats with Steve Asheim of Deicide
by: Jackie Smit
Steve Asheim is a consummate gentleman. Not the sort of description you'd expect for the drummer for band who carry the level of infamy that Deicide have acquired over the years, but it's a fact that you become acutely aware of within five minutes of shaking his hand. Aside from being a welcome departure from the egotistical drones who have a habit of cropping up in this business from time to time, his steady, and down-to-earth attitude also suggests that he has probably been inadvertently cast as the proverbial glue holding it all together in his band more times than he cares to recall. Asked outright whether this is indeed the case, he chuckles: "All the time, man".

"Between me and Glen there's a good cop / bad cop thing going on", he continues, "because on one hand you have this madman who's running around, scaring the shit out of everybody and people turn to me asking: 'Dude, is he serious?' I just have to laugh. But I think that's what makes Deicide work."

It would certainly explain how Deicide forthcoming opus, _Till Death Do Us Part_ has ended up sounding particularly vicious. Coming off the back of huge fanfare and overwhelming positivity even from quarters where the band's brand of demonic death metal had long been written off as a joke, it was Glen Benton's personal problems that saw _The Stench of Redemption_ possibly not receive the level of touring it could have and should have. With Deicide being in yet another state of flux, Asheim decided to ignore it all and stick to what he knows best.

Steve Asheim: I definitely wanted to make something more out of this than just a collection of songs. Normally, you know, you're putting together songs one at a time, practicing them and then everything sort of comes together when you're doing the album. This time, I wanted to do a concept record, but it didn't really take shape until I started the writing and demoing process, and the reason that it was able to become a concept record was because the writing was happening really fast. So I was able to keep in mind the previous songs in relation to what the next song was going to be. Then once that was done, I could make sure that each song was relevant to the other in terms of tempos and things like that. And as I said, I was able to build that because I was writing about one song a day. So I would write the music, demo out the drums for it, and then lay some guitars on top of that.

CoC: It's funny that you should say that, because when you listen to the album it doesn't sound rushed in any way. In fact, to my ears it sounds just as, if not more polished than _The Stench of Redemption_.

SA: <laughs> I kind of surprised myself, to be honest with you. It was really about the efficiency of a new way of writing, but I understand what you mean about the songs sounding more polished. To me, the new stuff is more cohesive as far as complete ideas being brought to fruition is concerned. There's not just a part A, a part B, a blast, a lead and then whatever else comes next. Each song runs a more natural course and I tried my best to stay away from just a set formula.

CoC: That's something I could definitely pick up to an even greater degree than you had on _The Stench of Redemption_, which already in my opinion didn't follow the typical Deicide formula of before.

SA: I think so. But it's weird, because you could refer back to the first album and hear parts similar to that -- songs that are really rocky or have parts that are almost like power metal in them; before it became all about blasting everything to fucking death. So, I think that maybe I was feeling a little freer to use some of these approaches rather than worrying about what people would think if we're not being brutal all the time.

CoC: You had a fantastic response from both the press and your fans for _The Stench of Redemption_, which we already mentioned earlier was anything but a typical Deicide album. Did the positivity you felt there possibly empower you creatively this time around?

SA: I did it a lot. I remember that with _Stench..._ for example, one of the really different songs for Deicide was "The Lord's Sedition" where we had the clean intro that was very uncharacteristic of anything we had done. And I was worried about it at first, because it was really pushing back against the boundaries of what we had done before, and when the album came out generally people were blown away by it and it ended up being their favourite song. So when I noticed that reaction, I felt that I would definitely be doing more things like it in the future. I want to add more elements to the way we write -- add more flavour to the mix. At the same time though, you will always be able to tell that it's us.

CoC: Well, ironically even Glen [Benton, vocals] has moved from his typical style -- at least lyrically speaking -- with _Till Death Do Us Part_ because here he seems to be singing about significantly more personal topics, rather than the typical Satanic stuff he was covering before.

SA: You're absolutely right, and I think it's definitely a stretch for him too. He's known for his anti-Christian views and lyrics, and that's what people expect. Then you check out the blogs and the Internet and people all going: "Well, this is just the same old Satanic crap year after year", but when he finally does change it up a bit, people are upset about that as well. You'll never be able to please everyone, I guess. I definitely think that Glen's lyrics this time round, while they aren't overtly Satanic or anything like that, are definitely some of the most hateful and really truthfully angry things he's ever sang.

CoC: Word has it that he took a lot of inspiration from his own personal problems, particularly his divorce. Could you argue that singing about something more real and more tangible has given him more of a bona fide reason to be angry?

SA: Well, it was definitely from true inspiration, I'll tell you that much. You can hate God and the church, but at the end of the day that's all just window dressing. You can be passionate about it, but you'll never be as passionate about it as you'll be about something real like a failed marriage or something like that. To really write about that in that vitriolic sense where the hatred is just searing off the page -- with his delivery of the vocals, this is really the most hateful thing I've heard out of him.

CoC: I've got to ask you -- when _The Stench of Redemption_ came out, there was more buzz around this band than there's been for a very long time. Then of course, Glen had his problems and that meant that he had to drop off the tour. Do you feel like _Stench of Redemption_ was in some ways possibly a missed opportunity for Deicide?

SA: Yes, definitely. But we've had a lot of trouble like that, where we've done a new album, there's a lot of buzz around us, we're getting good reviews and then we try to hit the ground running and we just slam into a brick wall for some reason or another. Sometimes it's our fault, sometimes it's somebody else who's to blame. I don't know if it's like this for every band, but we've certainly had our fair share of bad luck, that's for sure. It's gotten to the point where I'm expecting these failures. I'm expecting everything to just kind of fall to shit.

CoC: As purely a musical statement, how do you feel about _The Stench of Redemption_ now that the dust has settled?

SA: Comparing it to all of our other stuff, I still feel the same way about it that I felt when it came out. Up to that time, I think it was our best release. The songwriting had matured. The guitar playing was greatly improved. All the important aspects of the band had just gone off the chart, and looking back just before I started writing the new record, I was actually really worried about being able to do another album that would come close to that. So I was little concerned about that for a few weeks until I started writing the new material and then I didn't even think about _The Stench of Redemption_ until we'd actually finished up all the recordings and I was listening to it at home. I played the two albums back to back and started comparing and I started worrying again, because it was a bit of a departure for us. The slower, sludgy intro on the new album for example is a very different thing for us. But that's just the way things go. _The Stench of Redemption_ with all of its melodic parts and all of the new things we tried captured a moment in time. That's where we got Ralph [Santolla] into the band and we were able to get on with the next chapter in the Deicide story and make it into something really special.

CoC: Of course now Ralph has quit the band and he's in Obituary on a full-time basis -- at least, so it seems.

SA: Yeah, I mean when Ralph first joined Deicide he told us that he'd love to join us if we were going to be touring a lot, which was the plan at the time. We did tour, we got around an awful lot, but then it became apparent that Glen's situation was getting worse and that he'd have to be sidelined off some of the later tours, Ralph just said: "I'm out of here". There were some hard feelings at the time, but nothing permanent. We knew that he was in it to tour, and he needs to pay the bills somehow, so he did what he had to do. He was able to come in and help us with the leads on the new album, and he's done a fucking awesome job of that. He never disappoints. As far as the future is concerned, he's still with Obituary, and I hope that if they happen to be off the road and we're in a position we're ready to go out on tour, that he'll be happy to come on board again and come and play with us. If he's busy with something else, then we'll figure out another plan. Jack [Owen] is still with us, and we know a few other guitar players that can help us out.

CoC: If you compare _Till Death Do Us Part_ to anything you've done in the past, what stands out to you as the major examples of where you're really pushing yourself as a musician and as a songwriter?

SA: I think when we included the instrumentals to bookend the album, that was a bit of a stretch because we had never done anything like that before. The diminished harmonies on _Till Death Do Us Part_ are far more elaborate than anything else we did, even on _Stench..._; there's dual guitar lines on this record that are really different from each other all through the song. There's a lot of straight-up harmonizing and a lot of instances where we're actually carrying on with specific musical themes beyond just linking parts together with a lead or whatever. _Till Death Do Us Part_ is all a direct result of what happened on _Stench..._.

CoC: Your drumming also sounds particularly impressive to me this time round. I've spoken to a lot of musicians over the years who say to me that they don't really play their instruments when they're not on stage or in a recording studio. How much time and effort do you still put into improving as a drummer?

SA: A fair amount, especially when it comes to things like increasing speed. I'm always trying to push my limits as far as possible, because there are a lot of great bands with great drummers out there and I don't want to be left out in the dust like some old man. So I'm trying to at least keep up speed-wise. <laughs> But then, I don't want Deicide to be all about blasting. I do a good deal of solo practicing; not just when we're touring or when we're recording.

CoC: Before we finish up, I've always wanted to ask you a question purely as a fan: why do you guys play so few songs off _Legion_ these days?

SA: <laughs> I know what you mean. _Legion_ started off basically from a few songs that were left over from the first record. Then we wrote a couple of new ones, one of which was "Satan Spawn". Then for a couple of months, nothing was going on, so I decided that I needed to start writing again so that we could finish things up and go into the studio. I wrote "In Hell I Burn", "Behead the Prophet" and "Dead but Dreaming". Once we got that stuff recorded, I think everybody realised that it was pretty technical and it wasn't the easiest songs to play. So we got on tour and all of a sudden the Hoffmans were struggling to pull off any of the new material. We tried a few times, and every time it would be a disaster. Then you'd have Eric [Hoffman] blaming Glen, and accusing him of ruining the song. I'd suggest that we go practice it some more so that we could actually pull it off, but then the Hoffmans started refusing to play anything off _Legion_. So you'll notice that when we did _Once Upon the Cross_, there was a conscious decision to make the songs easier to play.

CoC: I've always wondered about that, actually.

SA: Yeah, well once the Hoffmans were gone, we planned to add a couple more songs off _Legion_ to our sets just because those guys could never play them. We were going to start each show with "Trifixion" and do "In Hell I Burn", along with a couple of others. I gave a videotape of me playing the songs to Jack and Ralph to learn, but they never bothered to do it either. So that's why it hasn't been done recently. And I don't know -- maybe it is too hard to play on stage. I don't know. I'm not the one who has to play it live. One day though, we're going to do a _Legion_ tour where we do the entire album front to back. Mark my words. <laughs>

CoC: So, on to my final question: based on what Glen has been saying and the rumours surrounding the band at the moment, it's a fairly uncertain time for Deicide. With this in mind, what do you feel the future holds for you?

SA: Well, you're right. It's definitely a shaky time for us right now, just because Glen is up to his neck in the problems that he has to handle. Hopefully that will get squared away fairly soon, but the fact is that there's no guarantee that those problems won't continue to fuck with him until the day he days, you know? I definitely don't see _Till Death Do Us Part_ as the end of Deicide. I definitely see us touring and making more music. We just need to get over this rough patch. We've been through rough patches before and we've survived. This will blow over too, and we'll get back to it. If it does happen -- and I seriously doubt it will -- that this is our last album, then I'll be glad that we were able to get to the point we got to, because I really believe that this is our best effort.

(article submitted 27/4/2008)


CHATS
8/12/2006 J Smit Deicide: Unholy Passion (Part 2)
8/7/2006 J Smit Deicide: Unholy Passion (Part 1)
7/17/1996 A Gaudrault Deicide: Lucifer'S Right-Hand Man Speaks
ALBUMS
3/6/2011 J Carbon 7.5 Deicide - To Hell With God
5/25/2008 J Smit 9 Deicide - Till Death Do Us Part
8/12/2006 J Smit 9 Deicide - The Stench of Redemption
2/29/2004 J Smit 8.5 Deicide - Scars of the Crucifix
4/12/2002 M Noll 6 Deicide - In Torment, in Hell
11/20/2000 M Noll 2 Deicide - Insineratehymn
1/1/1998 P Schwarz 8 Deicide - Serpents of the Light
GIGS
6/3/2005 T DePalma Deicide / Immolation / Skinless / Despised Icon / With Passion Tear Through the City, Tear Through the Soul
12/31/2004 J Smit Deicide / Arkhon Infaustus / Ted Maul Glen - You Are Forgiven
12/26/2003 J Smit Deicide / Destruction / Nile / Akercocke / Dew-Scented / Graveworm / Misery Index Redemption at the Palace
8/12/2000 M Noll Deicide / Immortal / Cannibal Corpse / Marduk / Vader / Dark Funeral / Hate Eternal / Vomitory There's No Mercy in Satan's Oven
3/14/1999 P Schwarz Deicide / Rotting Christ / Aeternus / Ancient Rites / Behemoth Dead by Dawn
5/10/1996 V Singh Deicide / Fallen Christ / Immolation / Incantation The Wave of Death
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