Unholy Passion (Part 2)
CoC chats with Steve Asheim of Deicide
by: Jackie Smit
"I look back at all of this and wonder to myself how I could have stayed in the old situation for as long as I did. But I just always thought that's part of being in a band -- that tension."

Steve Asheim, long the silently suffering centre of reason within one of the most influential and, until recently, maligned forces in death metal, is finally giving vent to his frustrations. A decade or more stuck in the middle of internal strife that would make "Some Kind of Monster" look like "The Cosby Show" finally came to a head in the latter half of 2004, and now for him and for every Deicide fan the world over, the pay-off has arrived in the shape of the forthcoming _The Stench of Redemption_.

For the second instalment of our two-part Deicide feature, we caught up with Steve to hear the views of a founding member on the Hoffman brothers split, the new record and the state of the union within the band in 2006.

CoC: I asked this same question to Ralph, but given that you've been there since the beginning and your point of view is probably slightly different, I want to start by asking you what your feelings are on the mood within the band, and particularly how are you and Glen [Benton] feeling about Deicide at this stage?

Steve Asheim: Well, at the moment we're off the hook with all the good things -- the excitement of the new album being accepted as well as it is, the excitement of the prospect of future tours, and the new band. Every day it seems like some kind of good news rolls in, and it hasn't been like that for quite some time around here. That's sitting very well on both myself and Glen's part. We talk about it a lot, and like I said, there's always some new bit of good news to discuss and it's just a super feeling to have. We're unbelievably psyched about the whole thing right now.

CoC: After all the hassles that you've had and the criticism that Deicide has taken as a band, it must be good to be able to prove everyone who doubted the band's ability wrong. But prior to this, when you guys were having major troubles, did it ever get to the point where you felt like there was only so much more that you'd be able to take?

SA: There were some dark days, especially back when the brothers [Eric & Brian Hoffman] were still in the band. There was a whole thing going on inside the band from when Glen went off and did the Vital Remains project, and I tell you that really stirred something within the Hoffman brothers. For being as hateful as they were toward him and being as negative toward him, they were so jealous when he went off and did the Vital Remains thing, and they were wanting nothing more than for that thing to flop, but it blew up and they really just couldn't take it. So from an inside standpoint, it then became just a whole waiting game between the Hoffman brothers and Glen as to who was going to quit first, because basically the band being a partnership as it was, no one really had the up to go and fire anyone if they wanted to. So no one was going to get fired, it was up to someone to quit, and I tell you, Glen was almost there. He laid his own groundwork with the Vital Remains, because he was going to jump ship for sure, and that lit a fire under everybody. Before that, when we finished with _In Torment, in Hell_ we were pretty much almost broken up. So Earache stepped in and helped bring us back together, and because of that we were able to put out _Scars of the Crucifix_, and that got the ball rolling as well to the point where we all realised that this was going to go one way or the other, and we were pretty sure that it was going to go the other.

CoC: Had it been Glen that had taken the option and gone somewhere else, would Deicide still have continued?

SA: No. I mean, that's one thing that I'd been trying to convince the Hoffman brothers about for years. They had wanted to get rid of Glen and go on with Deicide without him, and I kept trying to tell them that without Glen there is no Deicide. I don't know if those guys thought that they were Eddie Van Halen or something, but they're no Glen Benton either -- and they couldn't accept that, for some reason. I was not going to go on in some Deicide without Glen in it. Would I have gone with another band? I was sitting out and waiting to see who was more motivated, and obviously Glen went out and made something happen, while the Hoffmans sat on their asses and waited for something to happen. They were never really motivated for anything other than to cause trouble.

CoC: As an outsider to all of this friction, did that almost make you the designated arbitrator in a way?

SA: <laughs> It had really been like that since 1995. The thing is that these guys and Glen had never really liked each other -- ever. But I mean, when it broke down to the point where I had to be like the UN Peacekeeper, I was already used to being the one in the middle, and eventually it got to the point where that wasn't even working anymore. There was just total resentment and hatred toward each other from either side, and I think if I were to have just thrown up my hands and said "fuck this", then for sure the band would have broken up. The thing is that Deicide was such a big part of my life that I was willing to do all that to make things work, but it just got to a place where after a while, with the Hoffman brothers for instance -- I kept it up with them because even if they weren't very productive musically... When they were writing music, stuff like _In Torment, in Hell_ and _Insineratehymn_ came out. But as I was saying, I kept trying to make it work with those guys, because for me the original line-up thing was a really powerful asset to have. We were the only band of our "generation" who had kept the same line-up for nearly twenty years. I always thought that was a strong point, and it made up for any lack of contribution and inspiration from those two. But then at the end, when they were just more destructive to the band than helpful, it was just obvious that they had to go. By the end, their moral was just so low they weren't into the band anyway and it wasn't about anything else except money for them. I don't know if you heard the story?

CoC: About the amendment to the publishing rights and royalties in your contracts when you moved to Earache?

SA: Yeah, that's it. So once that had happened and they left, they started going online saying how I can't play drums and I don't write music and I'm a joke. Fuck them. I look back at the last couple of years and I feel like a fucking idiot for trying to be their friend and trying to be loyal to them in any way. On the inside we all knew who was doing what, and that made it so funny to me how they could come out... Actually not they; he, Eric, could come on to the Internet and say stuff like that. It didn't even just stop with the Internet. He actually went out and got a lawyer and tried to sue us for firing them. I have it in writing and in e-mails that he quit. He posted on Blabbermouth that he quit! Then on another instance, he tried to sue me for the publishing money because he supposedly wrote all the songs from _Scars of the Crucifix_. Meanwhile I have a tape of me doing like an instructional video, playing the songs for him, because that's how I've always had to show him the songs. I'd put them on videotape, play the parts, explain the parts, and that way he'd know everything, so that by the time we went to the rehearsal room, we could put the songs together. So knowing that I know that he has a tape, knowing that I have a master copy of that tape -- he still tries to sue me and say that I didn't write the songs!

CoC: Sounds to me like that came from too much booze and too much weed.

SA: <laughs> Dude, it was funny the extent to which he went out to try and cause as much trouble as he could cause. Then their lawyer goes and quits on them, because they obviously don't have a case. Now Earache and everyone is in agreement that I'm owed the money that I'm owed, but Earache needs an agreement signed by everyone to make that happen. So guess who wants to be an asshole and not sign the fucking thing? Here goes two years for a guy who tries to sue me for writing songs he knows he didn't and he's dragging his feet, keeping me from getting paid the money I'm owed, just because he can be a dick about it. It was going on like that for years when he was in the band. Cancelling shows, not coming to practice -- just really pathetic, high school, fucking childish behaviour, and I put up with it because I thought he was my friend, but I feel like a fucking retard for doing it for a guy who tried to make a fool out of me in the end.

CoC: Getting back to Glen doing Vital Remains for a second: how did you personally feel about that, especially when you heard the record come out sounding as strong as it did?

SA: Well, I tell you it was a wake-up call for me, and I think it was a wake-up call for the whole scene. I think that people had written us off and had written Glen off, especially after _In Torment, in Hell_, and Eric was one of the loudest detractors, saying that Glen was finished. Then he goes out and does Vital Remains and lights the world on fire. That made me think like maybe we're not finished and maybe Glen still wants to do this. It was also a wake-up call to me that the tensions in the band were killing the vibe to the point where it wasn't going to work anymore. Even if people have talent and they've done good things in the past, when the relationship deteriorates to that point it just kills off any creativity that used to be there. So when he did Vital Remains, it was obvious that he hadn't lost his touch.

CoC: We've touched on a couple of points already, but when you look at the factors responsible for how much better this album sounds, I think first of all you now have two guitarists who (and I'm sure anyone who actually plays guitar will agree) are better than the Hoffmans could ever dream of being. It sounds to me like having those guys in the band also made you and Glen step up your game. Your drumming, for example, on this record strikes me as being better than anything you've done in years.

SA: Well, I appreciate that and I think that over the years I had slowly been progressing speed-wise. I always had the double-kicks, but it was to keep up with the new generation and all this crazy blasting that's going on right nowadays. So I was trying to advance with my drumming, but still trying to keep the Deicide groove that I've always tried to lay into the songs to keep them catchy rather than mechanical. But just as far as how the record came together, I wrote all of the music for _The Stench of Redemption_, I wrote ninety percent of the music for _Serpents of the Light_, and _Once Upon the Cross_, and I also wrote a fair bit of everything on _Legion_ and the first album. So my process as far as writing hasn't really changed much. I amass a bunch of riffs and I turn those into songs. With this album, I did the same thing as I did with the Hoffmans: I put everything on video tape and handed them over to Jack [Owen] and he learned them and showed up at rehearsal. But once that had happened, then the whole new thing started happening with the new guitarists that had never happened before. They asked me whether I minded if they did some of their own stuff on every song, and I was like: "No, I hope you do whatever you want." And they just went nuts! Now let's say that I wrote the same material with the Hoffman brothers still in the band, then surely ninety percent of the harmonies wouldn't have been there. The songs would have been shorter, like they were in the past, and all the extravagant guitar parts wouldn't have been there either. Those parts would have had to have been shortened to the point where there would be more vocals and more bridge parts and ten second leads. So when we were writing the songs -- the way I was writing the songs, I was always writing them with the room that these sorts of things could happen, but we always had to cut them down because the Hoffmans had nothing to offer. So for instance when I wrote the song "Stench of Redemption", I wrote it with all the guitar stuff happening and with space for the other stuff to happen and they just filled up all that space. And for that being the first song on the record, I think that there are other songs that are heavier and maybe songs that people will like more, but putting it first on the record was a good idea because it makes people realise that there's something really new and improved about the Deicide they're hearing, with the harmonies and the leads and the classical parts and the blasts and the vocals and especially those solos at the end. I think that really gets people to listen to the rest of the record and not just think it's the same old shit and start skipping around. I don't want people skipping around. I want them listening to the record as a whole.

CoC: One of the striking aspects to this album, aside from the melodies, is the extent to which you've been experimental as well, and on the last song in particular you have a sequence that's almost slightly reminiscent of "Seasons in the Abyss". Again, where did that come from?

SA: That was my whole idea. I wrote the acoustic piece, which is something I've always wanted to do, especially because we've never done it before. With this being the new record and the new line-up, I played it for Jack and he liked it and I played it for Ralph and he was a little sceptical. Glen was accepting of the idea but wanted to hear it done before he made a decision. So we did it in the studio. I gave it direction and Ralph heard it and just laid down the guitar solos. That part in the beginning with the layered leads -- once he laid that on there, that just put that song over the top, and it had to go on the record at that point.

CoC: When the split happened and Jack's stint seemed to be more than just a temporary solution, what made you and Glen decide that Ralph was going to be the man to join him?

SA: We knew Ralph for years. He had been coaching Eric with his leads since 1994 or something and had actually been writing a lot of the leads, and Jack knew Ralph as well. We were searching around for guitarists and even though Ralph wasn't Mr Death Metal, there aren't a whole lot of better guitarists out there right now, and he was open to the idea and he was open to playing Deicide-type death metal. So we just made it happen. It took him a little while to catch on to everything, because it's hundreds of riffs to learn, and there was also the writing of the new album. As far as him joining the band full-time, it was basically just a case of all of us being into it. We have a reputation for being hard to work with and violent and all these kinds of things, but once we'd met and done a day's work together, it was so good. He's a great guy to be around, he's funny and we all get on great.

CoC: Now about Ralph, I have to ask: with the whole incident in Chile, he and I have already spoken about it and I know that he was misquoted, but either way it is quite apparent that he and Glen in particular have some significantly different ideas about religion. Has that ever been an issue in the band, or is Deicide slightly more open-minded than they'd appear to be to an outsider?

SA: Well yeah, people have been saying all sorts of things about Ralph and saying that he shouldn't be in a band or whatever, and if you want to listen to the people online who are saying all of that, then whatever. As far as generally him being in the band, I think a guy like Ralph -- or anyone else, for that matter -- if he believes what he believes, I really don't care. I believe what I believe. He can believe what he believes. Whoever can believe whatever the fuck they believe. I don't care. It's not the driving force behind this band. What drives this band for me is the love of extreme metal and making things happen, and just the life of being in a band. As far as how I feel about Deicide's message: I have no problem with it. I'm not Steve the Satanist or anything, but I certainly have no respect or love for any kind of religion. I don't have a begrudgement toward anyone for believing in any kind of religion; if they want to believe in something, be my guest.

CoC: From my point of view, I think it's just something that was taken out of context to the point of being ridiculous, and I think that Glen said it best when he mentioned in an interview a couple of months ago that people forget that this is all just entertainment.

SA: Well, exactly. Ralph's a great guy. Jack's a great guy. Glen's a great guy. If we can make something like _The Stench of Redemption_ happen and have a great time doing it, then any kind of criticism that people can throw at us doesn't mean shit to me. People that are offended by anything like that will grow up eventually.

CoC: So is this definitively the new Deicide line-up, and are we going to see a lot more from you guys in the future?

SA: I think that right now we're just very satisfied with how the record came out. We're enjoying the positive reviews and we're really looking forward to getting back out on the road, and there's definitely no plans for any kind of line-up change that I know of. I hope that this line-up can stay intact because it's productive and it's fun to be a part of. So we're going to tour and stay productive and maybe make another record, which I hope will be as good as or better than this one.

CoC: Anything else that you'd like to add, Steve?

SA: I'd like to add that we've had our share of troubles with tours being cancelled and shows not happening. It happens to a lot of bands, and it's happened to us a lot, and I'd like to let everybody know that with the new band and the new line-up we're trying to put that kind of stuff behind us, and anyone who may have come out to a concert and was disappointed in the performance, those days are over also. Anyone who listens to this new record is going to feel the fire and feel the vibe, and if they come out to the gigs, they will not regret it.

(article submitted 12/8/2006)


CHATS
4/27/2008 J Smit Deicide: Death Walking Terror
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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