Choice of a New Generation (Part 1)
CoC chats with Danny Lilker of Brutal Truth
by: Jackie Smit
It's tempting to start off this article with a hearty "Extra! Extra! Read all about it!" After all, we may not be paperboys and this certainly isn't the 1920s, but the recent news of Brutal Truth's reunion is certainly one of the biggest stories to hit extreme music this year -- or any other for that matter.

A seminal act in every sense of the word whose bong-stained influence is still vividly present across a slew of death metal and grindcore outfits, it's a return to the fray that is long overdue after the band's erstwhile retirement following 1997's _Sounds of the Animal Kingdom_. But lest we waste time speculating as to the reasons why, I tracked down bassist and founder Danny Lilker to shed some light on matters.

CoC: Well, there's no other way to start this interview other than to ask what made you and the rest of the guys decide that it was time to resurrect Brutal Truth?

Dan Lilker: The way it all came about was oddly enough because of Hurricane Katrina. <laughs> Hurricane Katrina damaged a lot of property around Louisiana, including a couple of members of Eyehategod who all lost their homes and their stuff got all fucked up. So those guys reached out to the scene, and if there was any way that they could put together a tribute record of bands doing Eyehategod covers, they would basically be able to use the proceeds from that to get back on their feet. Just for the hell of it, they reached out to see whether there was any way that Brutal Truth would be on it, because having a band like us on who'd been broken up for a couple of years would be quite a strong selling point and help it get a lot of attention. I'd been in touch with Rich pretty much consistently since we'd broken up anyway, but to make a long story short, they managed to track down everybody in the band and we all said "sure", because we knew someone who had a laptop and some equipment we could use and so we could do it conveniently. So when we got together to rehearse the song -- Eyehategod are a great band, but they never wrote the hardest music to learn. We were in a room with all the original members, and some of us had travelled like three or four different cities to learn the song, so someone said: "Hey, let's see if we can still do some of the old stuff", and we messed around with some of that and found that we could. Then one thing just led to another. I should say that when we did our first show in Chicago, Darren (our guitar player) did participate in the Eyehategod recording, but he won't be a part of anything else that we do, because he has a job and a family and it's a little more difficult for him to do this than the rest of us. He still got up there and did his best, but it's too hard for him to rip himself out of his current situation and do a bunch of touring. But as for the tribute -- that came out really well, and I'm not sure when it's going to be released, but that will be something to look out for.

CoC: So, the reunited Brutal Truth will be yourself, Kevin, Rich and a new guitarist?

DL: Yeah, we have a guy helping us who's from Rochester, where I live now. But when we play in Europe next year we'll actually have someone else helping us, because he won't be able to do those shows. That's basically where it goes from here.

CoC: At what point between getting together to do the tribute track and jamming the old material again did you decide that this could turn into something long-term again?

DL: Well, like I said, when we got together to play the Eyehategod song we did it here in Rochester, New York, and the reason that we all convened here was because there's good rehearsal space and a lot of our friends are here. But Rich had to drive 350 miles to get here, Darren had to travel the same distance -- the fact that it was a bit of a road trip was part of it. Everyone had to go on quite a journey to get here. I mean, Kevin's even further away: he's in Chicago. But basically we were together rehearsing the song, and we got a smoke on to kind of settle us into things, and I can't remember who suggested we try out some of the old stuff -- it must have been Rich. Basically, I think we all just wanted to make sure that the long treacherous trips were worth it, so we started playing some of the old songs.

CoC: At that point you realised that the spark was still there?

DL: Yeah, we figured that our pretty quickly. It took a little while for everyone to remember the parts to all the old stuff, but once that was knocked out of the way it was just a matter of dusting off the cobwebs off the performance.

CoC: And what were the first songs you played?

DL: If I remember correctly, I believe we did the first song of _Sounds of the Animal Kingdom_, which is "Dementia". That was our last full-length studio album we put out, so I guess it was instinctive that we go back to that.

CoC: You had a lot on your plate in the time after Brutal Truth had broken up, but did you ever find yourself missing the band and wondering what it would be like to be doing it again?

DL: <pauses> Well, I missed playing in the band, but I never got to the point where I actively wanted to seek everybody out and encourage a reformation. Also I was always busy with another band -- I was playing in a black metal band called Hemlock from 1996 on, while I was in Brutal Truth. That broke up in 2001. Meanwhile in 2000, I had started with Ravenous, and then Nuclear Assault go back together again. So I always had my hands full. By the time this thing with Brutal Truth came up, Nuclear Assault had come to a halt again because John [Connolly, vocalist] had decided to become a history teacher. So I'm definitely enjoying it again, but I never expected it to happen.

CoC: As far as continuing on in a grindcore vein after Brutal Truth, you had Rich doing Total Fucking Destruction and Kevin did A Venomous Concept among other things. What were your thoughts on those projects?

DL: Yeah, my stuff wasn't really in that vein. As I said, Hemlock was a black metal band; it wasn't grind and it certainly wasn't hardcore. Total Fucking Destruction and A Venomous Concept both had elements of hardcore and grind in them just by virtue of the speed and the craziness of the vocals. So I was definitely aware of both of those bands and in fact, Total Fucking Destruction did a couple of shows with Hemlock and another band you may have heard of called Groinchurn.

CoC: <laughs> One of South Africa's very few notable musical exports.

DL: Exactly. But yeah, I enjoyed what both of those bands were doing, and it certainly had more in common with Brutal Truth than, say, me playing black metal or death metal with Ravenous or whatever. That's just the way things worked out though. It's certainly easy jumping back into things.

CoC: I remember discovering Brutal Truth about a year after _Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses_ was released, and what I found was that much of your acclaim and recognition came, sadly, after you'd broken up, when bands like Cephalic Carnage and Nasum started referencing you as influences. Were you ever surprised by the amount of respect and admiration that was lavished over the band after it had broken up?

DL: Oh, I was totally surprised, and it's definitely true what you say that when we were together we did OK but after we'd broken up we were being called grindcore innovators and icons and whatever else. Then you get on to MySpace and there's all these bands that want to be your "friend" and refer to you as an influence, and they come from all sorts of different styles -- brutal Polish death metal, bands like Cephalic Carnage, math metal. It's definitely been really flattering. I'm not an egotistical person and I'm not going to say that we deserve it, but it's been great to see how excited people are now that we're doing stuff again. I don't know how old you are, but there are people that were thirteen years old when we broke up and never got to see us and only heard about us after that, which will now get a chance to check us out. So I hope everyone who never had that chance will get to see us now, and people who saw us before will do so again. We did our first show in Chicago and that was really positive, and then we did another show in October in Montreal which was great as well. That part of Canada -- the French part -- is great; it's really more like Europe than anything else.

CoC: Brutal Truth's first two records were put out by Earache, and having done some research I know that you had your fair share of trouble with the label. Could you expand on that?

DL: I'll remain diplomatic and not go into too many details, but I think that the problem with them started when they got bored of just having straight-up grindcore on their label. They were signing all these bands like Dub War and Misery Loves Co -- who were all good at what they did in their genre, but it wasn't grindcore, and basically they just started paying a lot more attention to those bands, which made a lot of the older bands feel neglected. It was grindcore that put that label on the map, and it just made some of us feel a little dissatisfied at the time. They've snapped out of it now though. <laughs> That's all I'm going to say, because I don't want people to think: "There he goes talking shit about the label again."

CoC: Well, I think between Shane Embury and Lee Dorrian's extended opinions on the rise and fall of Earache Records, we've probably had enough of that on the site.

DL: <laughs> I take it that you haven't spoken to Jeff Walker yet. He'll fucking keep you up all night. I'll give Digby [Pearson, Earache founder] credit for one thing: he let us off the label. We weren't satisfied and Relapse Records were after us, and we just felt like we should be on a label where they'd focus a little more attention on us and do a little more for us business-wise.

CoC: It always seemed to me that Relapse was a more natural fit for you anyway?

DL: Well, it helped that we were all Yanks, because if you ever needed anything you could just pick up the phone. I mean, I didn't have no fucking e-mail in 1996, I can tell you that much. That was just starting to come out. I guess Earache had pioneered a lot of this stuff, because most people when you say Earache you immediately think of bands like Napalm Death, Carcass and Bolt Thrower. The American style of grindcore was -- I don't know if it's quite the right word to use, but it was maybe slightly more precise. _Extreme Conditions..._ for example was a lot more clearly produced than the first Napalm Death record, which isn't to say I'm trying to draw an international border, but I'm sure you know what I mean. There's definitely a certain beauty to that raw sound though -- that's why I prefer Darkthrone to something like Dimmu Borgir. It's weird, because of course Colin Richardson did that record and he did all those other bands' records too. So the sound had a lot to do with the bands and what they wanted. We wanted to have some noisy shit, but we wanted everyone to hear everything that we were doing because that made us sound more brutal.

CoC: Since we're on the topic of grindcore, given Brutal Truth's stature in the genre and particularly looking at the period where you were in limbo, what's your view on the evolution of the style to where it is today?

DL: Well, for one thing the drummers have gotten a lot faster. I mean, what we did in 1992 is still fast as fuck in the grand scheme of things, but when we broke up you'd hear bands like Dying Fetus and stuff like that -- all manner of bands playing death metal and grindcore just doing these hyper, full-on bomb blasts. So it was interesting for me to see all these bands push the envelope on that front, and also what we were talking about before about using us as an influence; it was pretty cool to see a lot of bands adopt that aura and using it on their own stuff. But it's like when an actor dies they become more popular -- it's the whole post mortem treatment.

CoC: So in that time you had some marquee acts come along -- Cephalic Carnage, Nasum and a number of others. Out of those names, who do you feel held the flag highest and proudest in Brutal Truth's absence?

DL: Oh man, that's a hard one, because both those bands you mentioned right there are fucking amazing. But let's see; Phobia from LA are still around, playing Terrorizer-like grind. It's a really difficult one to answer. <laughs> I'm sure we could go down a list of names I'd say: "Oh yeah, that one too!"

CoC: I imagine you've had at least a few moments where you've pondered Brutal Truth's history, and with you returning to the scene now, which album in your mind stands out as the band at the peak of their power -- and conversely, which record didn't quite cut the mustard, in your opinion?

DL: Well, to answer your question directly, I'd have to say _Sounds of the Animal Kingdom_ and _Extreme Conditions..._ for different reasons. _Sounds..._ was just us being really tight as a unit and we'd had Rich in the band for a few years; we were at our peak there. As far as a low point -- I do like _Need to Control_, but it was a pain in the ass to record, and we'd only had Rich in the band for a short while.

CoC: It's interesting to hear you say that, because on so many online forums, that album is always cited as a fan-favourite. In fact, it's my favourite as well.

DL: <laughs> I do find that ironic too, and like I said, I don't hate it but it was just so dragged out. We tried mixing it in New York and that didn't work. Then we ended up having to do the mixing in Liverpool and it just took such a long time. I guess maybe I'm being unfair to the record, but that's because I'm associating certain memories with it that were a pain in the ass.

CoC: So when you get round to doing the next Brutal Truth record then, would you use _Sounds..._ as your starting point?

DL: I suppose that's fair to say. The riffs I've been coming up with have been in a similar vein, but if you talk about the philosophy toward the music and so on -- I think that there are bands that have caught up to us in terms of speed and whatnot, but we still have our own unique way of doing things. If anything, judging by the way we've been playing the old stuff, we've probably sped up a little. So we'll give our own style a kick in the ass for sure, but we've always had that thing where we rip off other bands affectionately, as many do, and make it our own. It'll definitely sound like Brutal Truth.

CoC: As a band, are all the reasons why you broke up in the first place behind you now, and is this truly a different time and place for Brutal Truth?

DL: Yes. What was involved in us breaking up in the first place is not a factor now. I can't say much more than that. <laughs>

CoC: In closing, I'm sure that there are going to be quite a few detractors who will write this off as just another reunion. What is your response to those people?

DL: They'll always be there on the Internet message boards and so on, but for every one person that's super-cynical, there will be ninety nine that will be creaming their pants that we're doing stuff again. I can't control what other people say, so I really don't care.

(article submitted 11/30/2006)


CHATS
11/30/2006 T DePalma Brutal Truth: Choice of a New Generation (Part 2)
1/1/1998 P Schwarz Brutal Truth: Still Not Loud Enough, Still Not Fast Enough
11/18/1996 A Bromley Brutal Truth: Revealing the Brutal Truth
1/17/1996 G Filicetti Brutal Truth: Malformed Musical Mayhem
ALBUMS
5/29/2009 D Cairns 9 Brutal Truth - Evolution Through Revolution
12/9/1999 A Wasylyk 8 Brutal Truth - Goodbye Cruel World!
10/16/1997 A Bromley 7 Brutal Truth - Sounds Of The Animal Kingdom
10/11/1996 G Filicetti 8 Brutal Truth - Kill, Trend, Suicide
GIGS
9/1/1998 P Schwarz Brutal Truth / Kataklysm / Solus / The Swarm True Brutality Under Extreme Conditions
3/16/1997 A Bromley Cannibal Corpse / Brutal Truth / Immolation / Oppresor Cannabis Corpse and Friends
2/5/1997 A Gaudrault Brutal Truth / Blood of Christ / Dirge Sounds From the Embassy
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