Malevolent Mass Murdering Maniacs
CoC interviews Malevolent Creation's Phil Fasciana
by: Paul Schwarz

It has been a long time coming, but at last the best part of Malevolent Creation's "classic" line-up has rejoined to bestow on the world another mighty amalgamation of brutal death metal music and sick, violent lyrics. This new monster goes by the name of _The Fine Art of Murder_ and is the first to feature original vocalist Brett Hoffmann since 1993's _Stillborn_. Rob Barret, now thankfully out of Cannibal Corpse (who feebly claim he was not good enough, bullshit!), is also welcomed back after six years. With longtime bassist, and some time vocalist, Jason Blachowitcz out of the band, Gordon Simms was drafted in for bass duties. The drums are handled by Dave Culross (who played on 1995's _Eternal_) and, of course, Phil Fasciana is, as ever, leading the charge into battle. It's not that _In Cold Blood_ (last year's release by the band) was disappointing, far from that, but this new album still stands out as being better, and is surely their finest record since 1992's _Retribution_ -- if not their finest overall. Phil Fasciana, always happy to answer a few questions about the band in which he has been the only constant member, is certainly happy to be working with such professionals once again.

One thing that has been in the air since it was announced that Brett and Rob were back was a return to the sound of _Retribution_. "Well, me and Rob were putting together another album with Brett [and] people say "aha, _Retribution_". We like that album a lot, but we didn't necessarily -intend- to make [the new album] sound like that." However, he concedes, "some of the songs, their structures, two guitars playing different things at the same time, are similar to that sound and style, and Brett's singing again, of course."

But rumors aside, the most significant thing about _The Fine Art of Murder_ is not its similarities to the band's previous work, but its differences. One of those differences is in the album's producer: this time it's Brian Griffin (Broken Hope). Why Brian? "I heard some other shit he did before; I wasn't too into the Broken Hope CDs, he'd done Hateplow's CD and we were really happy with that." But it's more than his skills: "We had some problems with other guys [with whom] it wasn't a very comfortable situation. Working with Brian is really easy, 'cause he's a musician, he's easy to get along with, he's a guitar player, he's pretty cool and he's affordable."

Another difference is that a few of these new songs are slower, longer and more melodic. "When we listened to how long [some of them] were, we went "Holy shit! We've fucking got some Iron Maiden songs here!" Some songs came out quite long, but not like they've got a million parts -- there's maybe four or five parts." Though he carefully adds: "A lot of the album has a lot of our normal three, three and a half minute stuff." However, even these tunes contain differences, as Phil explains: "There's a lot of guitar harmony stuff that we should have done on songs in the past that could have given them more depth."

I guess the question now is why did Malevolent Creation need to add something new into the mix? "Well, we've put out a lot of albums, and you can't constantly repeat yourself. There are other parts of metal you can explore without becoming "wimpy". There's nothing on _The Fine Art of Murder_ that is -pop- or -rock 'n' roll-. Everything there falls into a heavy metal format." But the reasons go beyond Phil's will to change. "Me and Rob play together really well; we grew up together. When the two of us get together, we're like two old style heavy metal guys that grew up playing this stuff. Now it's cool, because we never really sat down and worked out some guitar harmony parts and tried other things to sound different [before]. It brings a different sound to the record." He continues: "Rob always has good ideas. I show him something, he'll show me something he's going to do over that, it's fucking cool -- I would have never thought of something like that --; or he shows me something and vice versa. There's no ego conflict or anything. We just have fun."

And it isn't just Rob and Phil who are having fun on their guitars. The title is "a little bit of both" sarcasm and seriousness. Phil expands: "Brett's lyrics were always based around realistic death, not fantasy shit. Having him back in, [we] have some fucking intelligent lyrics again. That shit comes to Brett naturally. He's obsessed with war, watches the news fuckin' all day long. He's obsessed with really bad things. I think the real world is more horrifying than anything you could make up; the best stories are the real ones. We're not talking about comic book heroes."

This album provided the reunited _Retribution_ members with a common goal. "We said: "That's it, we gotta just put out the fucking most murderous thing we can." <laughs> We [decided] every song had to be completely all out murder. That's the way we got fired up. The lyrics are fuckin' amazing." So is it back to the old days? Not quite. "There are less lyrics. I remember [Brett] used to throw out a whole song in one line. But that was his style. We didn't know what the hell we were doing. <laughs> Now he's put it into a catchier thing and repeats parts over and over, it's a little bit easier to remember."

Staying on the subject of lyrics, I quiz Phil about _Eternal_ and one particular song, "They Breed", with which the band had a few problems. "The song was basically about scum. It didn't really point a finger at any certain race, but at the end of the song it said the word it said, "you fucking nigger"." To many, this made the band racist, but Phil explains the context: "In reality, [now] "nigger" just means a fuckin' slacker." But the word's appearance wasn't planned, at least not by Phil. "It was such a violent fuckin' song and Jason was supposed to say ["you fucking gave us"], but we were doing the vocal tracks and he just did it and it just sounded so much more convincing." Convincing, but maybe not helpful: "We did have some problems with it and as soon as that happened I said to him: "That's it for any kind of shit like that." I think a lot of people took it the wrong way." Phil makes sure to explicitly state: "We're not racist."

Whatever Phil may have said at the time, these problems were not to go away, and things came to a head last year while the band was on tour in Germany. "Jason was wearing a KKK shirt [on stage]." The result? "People started freaking out, throwing shit at him and flipping him off. I told him [before the show] that if he wore the shirt I'd fuckin' kill him, and when I left the venue, man, people were throwing bottles at me, we had all our merchandise returned, people were calling us "Nazis" and "scum", they wanted to fuckin' kick our ass!" As you might imagine, Phil didn't take this kindly; the result... "When I got onto the bus and he was fuckin' laughing about it, I fuckin' beat the living shit out of him." This would explain Jason's absence from Malevolent Creation. "When we got home, he quit. He couldn't live with the fact that I did that to him." Continuing on the subject of his former bandmate, Phil says: "The kid is fuckin' unstable, he does a lot of stupid things and says a lot of stupid things that in turn made me look like a fuckin' idiot, so the only way to resolve it was for me to punch his head in. And it worked and I haven't talked to him since. <laughs>"

So the old was out and problems had left the band for good. Well, not quite, actually; Dave Culross' inclusion in this album's recording line-up, though heartily welcomed, was not planned -- the reason? Read on. "It was really weird. We had a drummer down here and he's really good and fast. The one problem was [when we recorded the album] the really fast double-bass parts were kinda screwy." And when they got to the mixing studio, "[...] they put triggers on the kicks where you can hear 'em crystal clear, they were -fucked up-." There was only one solution apart from ditching the record altogether for Malevolent Creation: "We knew that Dave had just quit Suffocation and was in New York. We told him: "We'll get you out here, we'll fuckin' show you all the songs..."." And they were lucky. "He said: "You got me at a good time, I don't have to work, my girlfriend's out of town -- let's do it"." For those of you who've heard the man in action, I am sure the decision needs no explanation; but for the rest of you, Phil elaborates: "He's a total professional. Rob never got to play with Dave, and he was always the best, I never had a problem [with him]." So did Dave make the grade? Stupid question; he seems to have gone above and beyond for this one. "In three days he learned thirteen songs, recorded them, and he was out of there on the fourth morning. It's unbelievable." Dave is pretty happy with it too, it seems. "He fuckin' loves the album. When he heard the whole thing, he was like, "I can't even believe I played on this, it's great"." So will this be sufficient encouragement to get the master onto the tour too? "We really want him to do it and it is up to him now to see if he's available to do it. If not, we have a couple of guys we could use to tour but, I mean, I think we'll be able to coax Dave into it."

This album is Malevolent Creation's sixth in eight years. Does Phil regret anything they've done and does he listen to his own past works? "To be honest with you, I don't listen to any of them anymore, I don't have the urge." There's a pretty good reason for this, though: "I listen to them so much before we go to record them that by the time we record them and get it done -- and I listen to it about 50 times after we finish the album, you know -- I burn myself out on it." Of course nearly every band has a personal low; for Malevolent Creation it will always be... "_Stillborn_, 'cause that was a time when the entire band was fuckin' it. It was totally falling apart. I think just me and the other guitar player John Ruben knew what was going on. Jason was a mess, Brett was a complete mess, his life was all fucked up and he wasn't sounding too hot, and our drummer Alex [Marquez] was just getting worse at the time. On top of that, we recorded with people that were just complete idiots and everything about the album was just fucking shitty." So mistakes were made, but Phil does have plans to somewhat right some wrongs: "We were thinking of re-recording some of those songs with the line-up we have now. Played a little bit faster and a little more aggressively, those songs would probably sound pretty cool. We might throw some on an EP or something."

Regardless of their extensive back catalogue, Malevolent Creation have been an influence to many a new band appearing on the scene over the last couple of years, but what originally influenced Phil? "My influences are British metal, of course -- Judas Priest, Iron Maiden. Then Mercyful Fate. Then you get into Slayer, German metal -- Destruction. Stuff like that I was always into. That's what always started us off, to me." To the extent where Phil feels "It seemed like when we did the first few albums we didn't really have "Our Sound"." Phil's not going to start copying those he influenced, either: "I still look for influences in the older metal, as opposed to new death metal stuff. So much has been done already. I can't really see somebody who can blow everybody away with death metal [influences]. So that's why I have to bring older parts of metal into it." As Phil points out, "You can play a melodic guitar riff and throw a blast beat underneath it, and it could sound fuckin' killer! Influence-wise, I'd have to say older metal, of course, a lot of two-guitar bands."

Malevolent Creation, like so many other death metal bands, have suffered at the hands of labels. They were signed to Roadrunner and dropped when the label decided they'd only retain death metal bands with the commercial potential of Sepultura. Pavement, their current label, have gotten bad rap from some bands (Crowbar, for example). Where do Malevolent stand with regards to labels? "I would say Pavement seems to have been promoting us a lot better lately, we have a good deal over in Europe now, on System Shock in Germany." As regards the past, "With Roadrunner we always used to get some royalty cheques and stuff." As regards the present, "We have yet to make shit money from Pavement, which is something our lawyers are looking into now. We're not getting paid fucking what we should be getting paid, put it that way." The band are also at a crossroads now: "This was our last album with Pavement and, unless something drastically changes, I don't see us staying with them. It's more likely we'll sign a deal with System Shock." System Shock is a division of Koch International and house Vader, among others. "Those people really push their records. When I was over there I couldn't believe how much advertising they had done for Hateplow and Malevolent. The guy from the label even put together the new album for us. I hung out with them for a week and did interviews and they were fucking great."

With a year as musically good for death metal as this, one would expect more people to sit up and take notice all over the place. "I know that metal is always good in Europe. I just wish more people would see it like that over here." And, in true '80s fashion, Phil takes the line that "Metal will never die, there's always people out there like me who need to hear it. We'll always listen to it."

I guess the other thing we'll want them to be listening to more specifically is _The Fine Art of Murder_. I have drooled on about it, but let's hear Phil's view. "If anyone was familiar with us in the earlier days, it is like _Retribution_, but taken to the fuckin' extreme. We just hope that people enjoy it as much as we enjoyed putting it together." He adds gleefully: "It's a 56 minute assault of metal." And if that isn't enough to make you go get it, I don't know what is.

(article submitted 19/11/1998)

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