Still Not Loud Enough, Still Not Fast Enough
CoC chats with Rich Hoak of Brutal Truth
by: Paul Schwarz
Brutal Truth began in Dan Lilker's home studio. He wanted to make music similar to the likes of English bands like Napalm Death and Carcass and American bands like Terrorizer: grindcore. BT was formed to some degree as a side project but, for various reasons, became Lilker's primary concern. After the release of their debut _Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses_ in 1992, BT were placed at the forefront of this genre when it was in its days of popularity. This year BT unleashed their new record _Sounds of the Animal Kingdom_, their first full-length in 3 years, in quite different conditions. Most of the bands that were part of the original grindcore wave have now split up or, in the case of Napalm Death, no longer play grindcore as such. In these (extreme) conditions, _SotAK_ was BT's (extreme) response, and through this record they have pushed grindcore to a new level in much the same way that the original grindcore bands pushed metal/hardcore/punk to a new level: everything appears to have come full circle. I got the chance to talk to drummer Rich Hoak (with the band since 1994's _Need To Control_), and the results now lie before you.

CoC: Is the cover of _SotAK_ a drawing or a photo merge?

RH: I got the idea, but the graphic designer made it look even more than I thought it would look like. The gorilla half is from a stock photo, and the guy is the UPS driver to the Relapse office. They used Photo Shop to morph them together.

CoC: What do you think sets _SotAK_ apart from previous releases?

RH: _SotAK_ is where everything has come together for us. We had the tunes, Kevin had the lyrics, we had the ideas that gave us the ideas for the cover [and] for the songs, we have the record label behind us, we have a new van, we have a booking agent, the production is there -- we have everything at this time. _KTS_ had almost all those things, but it had to be recorded in six days on a $5,000 budget, so essentially [it was] set up, play, record, mix.

CoC: What was the budget for _SotAK_?

RH: I don't know the numbers, but _KTS_ was 22 minutes of music recorded in six 12-hour days, [while for] _SotAK_ we had 12 or 14 hours a day, or more if we wanted it, and eight to ten days to record, another six or eight to mix. Plus we had just finished doing _KTS_ with Billy Anderson, and both albums were recorded with the same procedure. With _SotAK_, for the first day we didn't do anything but just work with the drums to get the kick drum sound, the snare sound, the tom sound. We changed the tom sound for certain songs; we spent a day getting the guitar sound, a half day getting the bass sound. With _KTS_ I had my drum tracks recorded before the second day was through, whereas [on _SotAK_] I spent four or five days and I could do all the takes I wanted.

CoC: What about "Prey"? What was the idea behind that?

RH: When we did the sequencing for the record, we did it for the vinyl double LP, and we wanted to have a locked groove at the end, so we sampled a blast beat from the middle of "Average People" and we digitised and looped it so at the end of side four it goes to a locked groove. Then after we got into it, we decided to add the other noise and make it get a little louder [on the CD]. It's the grand finale of the record for the BT fan who has been able to have his head pummelled for the last 50 minutes. When we do our tour of Japan in February I want to do a show, before or after the real show, where we do a noise or improv show and perform "Prey" live. When I go get a CD and it has a cool cover on it or it has a hidden track at the end -- _KTS_ had tracks hidden after it -- or it has covers on it or weird things on it, that's always cool, you know. I like getting that kinda stuff, and I think it is really cool to put it on CDs that I make. We all do.

CoC: Is there a concept running through _SotAK_? There's the Desmond Morris quote...

RH: Some people get the wrong idea. They're like, "Wow, this is a concept record. They based their whole album around this concept."

CoC: Some are calling it a concept record.

RH: Nothing would have fit together this well if we had planned it this way. Everything on _SotAK_ has come from the base of our brain. It all started out with us in the rehearsal room, New York city, drinking beer, smoking pot, writing riffs. What sounded good, stuff we jam, what pops out of the bottom of our heads goes on to the guitar, goes on to the drums. We keep what we like, and once we've got rough tracks we give that to Kevin. Kevin listens to the music, gets into it, fits words he has with it, or makes up words to go with it. We'd finally got it all recorded [and] we didn't have a title or cover, so me and Kevin went back over the songs and talked. I asked him what each song was about, and from that Danny or Gurn got _SotAK_ [as a title] and we kept that. Taking all that information, I went to the library for two weeks just brainstorming for ideas. I had one full cover done, and on the second to last day I found _The Naked Ape_ [by Desmond Morris]. I had read it in school, and I thought "This dude is saying exactly what we're saying with a lot of these songs." When Kevin and I went through it, we figured that 70-80% of these songs have something to do with the animal within man being confronted with problems caused in society which are based on technology. In other words, the intellect coming out of that animal -- it's kinda like the Yin and Yang, the separate but whole. It was after -that- we talked about the concept and the Desmond Morris quote. I had the idea for the cover and went to the guy at Relapse with it. It all sort of goes backward; it's all based on smokin' pot, hangin' out, and letting your mind flow.

CoC: Do you strive to change with each new release?

RH: No, it comes out of us the way it comes.

CoC: You weren't present on _ECDER_...

RH: Scott wasn't there too much either. <laughs>

CoC: From _ECDER_ to _NtC_ there is a big gap.

RH: Yeah, there is.

CoC: At the time, _ECDER_ was very extreme and quite different, but it was still "grindcore death metal", whereas _NtC_ is like, "What is it?" I asked a friend to describe it, and he said "Uh... weird... uh... punk."

RH: Yeah, a lot of people didn't get it, man.

CoC: I like it, but I couldn't classify it easily.

RH: There are always people who come up to last week after the show, and they're like "Dude, man, BT rule, and I like all you guys' shit man, but uh... _Extreme Conditions_, you know, can't you guys make the next record like _Extreme Conditions_?" <I laugh>, and we couldn't if we wanted to: that record is a snapshot of BT at that time. One reason Scott left the band was a musical difference; it wasn't just a personal difference. Scott would say, "I'm not going to play that drumbeat -- that's not a death metal / grindcore drumbeat," whereas when I came into the band I was like "I'm in a band, I'll play whatever."

CoC: If you tried to re-make _ECDER_, it might not work out, because it's not what you want to do with BT?

RH: We don't know what we want to do now. We've been writing songs for the past two years. _NtC_ came out, we toured for a year, we came back and found that Earache wasn't working out and we'd be able to get out of our deal. In those two years [after leaving Earache] we were sitting in the rehearsal room waiting, and we wrote songs. There are a couple of songs on _SotAK_ that were written two months before we went into the studio, [but] when we got to _KTS_ we took ten and recorded those. "Machine Parts" was released on the 7-inch demo way before _KTS_. When I joined BT, a third or half of _NtC_ was written. Dan had most of it on his drum machine. He was like "Here, listen to this beat: this is what I call the Discharge beat. Scott won't play that because he says it's punk." I'd never really played metal, death metal, or grindcore before. I'd always played punk or hardcore. When I [used to] listen to metal, I'd listen to Motorhead or Venom or Black Sabbath. The next half of [_NtC_] was written in a more collaborative way with a free flow of ideas, where Dan would say play like -this- and I would say play like -this- and Gurn would say play like -this- and it wouldn't be any problem. I think that has a big influence on the songwriting. Some of the songs on _ECDER_ go back to when Dan was in Nuclear Assault and sitting at home in his bedroom studio going "Wow, listen to this Napalm Death/Carcass stuff -- I wanna make a side project like that."

CoC: And in the end Dan just preferred BT.

RH: Nuclear Assault had a lot of problems. I could tell you Nuclear Assault stories and BT stories from before I was in the band just from hearing them over and over.

CoC: A lot of people think you've gotten -more- extreme. Do you think BT will ever turn into stuff that you just can't hear [i.e., noise]?

RH: We don't -plan- what we write, and we don't -plan- to make a change like that, [but] the one thought at the back of our heads when writing songs is "Let's make this tune as extreme as possible -- as crazy, fucked up as we can make it." I've learned to play drums better since I've done like 800 shows over the past four years, and we've learned new ways to play extremely. Where _ECDER_ was just extremely fast and extremely heavy, now we [sometimes] play extremely slow or with an extremely quick tempo change or extreme chord structure. We find different ways to reach for the crazyfuckedupedness of our music. We recorded this record, we took three months vacation -- our first one that long since I joined the band -- and only in the last couple of weeks we've started practicing to start touring _SotAK_. I don't know what the next songs are going to be like.

CoC: Are the lyrics unplanned as well? They're not so political on _SotAK_ as on _ECDER_.

RH: It's more politically conscious than outright political. I don't wanna speak for Kevin, but it is hard to keep shouting the same things over and over, because no matter how positive a message a band presents it's really hard to change the world. It's like do right by yourself, be a responsible person, and try to leave the world in a little better shape or at least not make it worse. That's what we're trying to do, through our music and through our lives. Our lives don't fit the status quo, and that's the whole thing -- even the human animal versus technology thing, that's about people coming to terms with themselves, and there's going to be a problem with someone who watches 12 hours of television a day, and there's a problem where people let a member of their tribe be taken and attached to machines and kept alive for years after they're supposed to be. Technology causes those problems, but the main concept of the BT lyrics from day one [is]: think for yourself, be responsible, take care of the people in your family, shit like that. I say "family" loosely -- like the "tribe", the other people that you should take care of. Desmond Morris [also] wrote a book called _The Human Zoo_, and he uses the analogy where a city is like a zoo. If you put too many monkeys in a cage too small for them, they exhibit anti-social behaviour. Instead of living in a regular family group, they commit violent acts against each other or don't take care of their children or eat their children. Monkeys do that in a zoo where they're too crowded. Humans are animals too -- you put them in too crowded of a cage and you have them feeding on their children. It's the same thing.

CoC: I heard BT were into black metal and Dan went down to Norway and met the guys from the bands.

RH: Right on, man. Yeah, he went to Norway. I [had] never heard of black metal until I joined BT and Danny turned me onto _Ugra Karma_, the first Impaled Nazarene record, and some of the other bands.

CoC: I just recently got the new Emperor.

RH: I haven't got too much of the new black metal except for this band called Usurper. You've got to get a Usurper CD or vinyl -- it's killer, man.

CoC: Do you think black metal influences the band?

RH: Sure it influences us. Whatever we listen to does. When we're rehearsing, I'll be like "Dan, weren't you playing sort of a black metal sort of riff, and I was going to put the hardcore drumbeat to that." There are certain bands in the black metal thing which are really good with killer music. Certain bands... I don't agree with their politics, but I won't get into that because that's been done to death. I first looked at black metal like Kiss, because Dan goes "These guys wear corpse paint," and I go "What's corpse paint?" "They paint their faces white." "Like Kiss?" "Yeah, look at this!" Mayhem and Burzum and Impaled Nazarene [are] the originals of that wave, and there are a million bands which sound like each one. There's even a fourth wave of really good black metal bands coming out of the states like Usurper, Absu and Demonic Christ. Danny sometimes plays bass under the name of Balse [not sure of the spelling here --P.S.] for this band called Hemlock. It's not really a side project of Dan's, but he jams with them, so that's where he gets out his black metal frustrations.

CoC: Who in the band has side projects?

RH: Danny is playing in Hemlock, and I played in this band before BT called Ninefinger, [which] was sort of Black Flag meets Black Sabbath. I've got a solo noise project called Caveman. I got drunk one night and made this 8-track tape of cavemen music, and it's just people beating on drums and grunting, man. There's a song called "Mating" and "Stone-Age Warrior" and "Worship of the Sun".

CoC: Is this private, or are you going to release it?

RH: I've been sending it out on cassette to whoever will take one. I'd like to do it over at CD quality and put it out or get somebody to put it out. We'll see.

CoC: What do you listen to yourself?

RH: I listen to whatever. I'm still a vinyl collector, so I've been listening to tons of underground grindcore and punk singles. I mean punk rock, not Green Day. When I first got into music, I decided to become a punk. I saw Black Flag, The Bad Brains and The Dead Kennedys; I had a mohawk or I shaved my head, and I was punk. Then I found out about straightedge bands and UK Discharge bands.

CoC: What do you think of the current state of metal, what with decreased play on MTV etc.?

RH: Underground music is never going to be mainstream. That's why it's underground; we realise that. I've thought over the past while I've heard metal coming back: Jag Panzer's reforming, there's a new Overkill record, Testament's on tour, Flotsam and Jetsam's on tour. None of those bands are death metal bands or underground. They were popular the way Metallica were before they became a rock group. The music that BT and bands like us are playing I don't think is going to be mainstream. We got close with the "Godplayer" video: they played that on MTV Europe and MTV South America, but that wouldn't even get on Headbangers' Ball in the States at that time. Headbangers' Ball was playing Nirvana, Tool, Soundgarden.

CoC: You've shown you're a band with longevity. Do you feel more alone, now that death metal and grindcore bands are less popular? Or is the underground still full of bands?

RH: The underground is still full of bands. I could think of 20 bands off the top of my head: Rupture, Burn the Priest, Spazz, Man is the Bastard, Capitalist Casualties, Unholy Grave, Agathocles, Groinchurn... None of those bands are metal -- they're all coming from the grindcore/punk thing. They're not coming from the death metal thing, and there are tons of death metal bands around still.

CoC: It seems like the bands have gone underground again.

RH: I don't know what I can say about that, but we have noticed at our shows we don't get just a death metal crowd. You can see all sorts of people at a BT show: punkers, skaters, noise freaks, crusty punks, there's [also] plenty of death metal people. When we went on that Cannibal Corpse tour, you could tell that if there were a thousand people there, there were like 150 people 'round the edges who were BT fans.

CoC: Sounds good to have all those people at Cannibal Corpse.

RH: It was cool. Now, I don't wanna say "the state of the metal scene", 'cause there is like an 'extreme music' scene that's come around. There are people who are into death metal, grindcore, extreme hardcore or punk and like crazy noise like Merzbow and who are into crazy black metal. If you were to go out on tour and take BT, a death metal band, a black metal band, and a punk/grindcore band, you're going to have an awesome show 'cause you'll have tons of people coming going "This is -my- favourite band -- I've got to see them," and tons of people going "Look at all these -four- bands! It's like each different thing at the same time man, awesome!!!!!" Not like where you're watching four bands playing the same kind of music in a row. That did a world of good for us on that Cannibal Corpse tour, 'cause [you had] Oppressor, Immolation, BT, and then Cannibal Corpse. And Oppressor, Immolation and Cannibal Corpse are all awesome bands, but you gotta say they're death metal bands, and they look like death metal bands: they all have long hair and huge drumsets and full stacks. When we went on that tour I had a little drumset with only one kickdrum and one rackpalm and I used a double pedal, and Kevin had his hair short and was wearing a cowboy hat, and we had half stacks because were travelling in a van, just us and our soundman. We would come out, be settin' up our stuff, and people would be standin' there looking at us [going] "Look at that drumset. What are these people going to do?" Then you come out, and then <explosion noise>! It gave us a chance to wallop people who weren't expecting it.

CoC: How important is the live setting to BT?

RH: Well, that's what it's all about. For us, it's not just the live thing. We like to travel and meet new people and go to a different party every night.

CoC: A friend of mine who is not into metal but mostly into drum'n' bass really got into _SotAK_. Why do you think that is?

RH: I think BT has become a lot more musical; our songs are more like songs. Even though we'll have a song that has a super-fast blast beat, when you're thinking about it later, taking a shower, you can sing it in your head.

CoC: So what's your favourite album this year?

RH: It's hard to say. I am into a lot of weird stuff. I go with my mom on weekends to flea markets. You know the song "Blue World"? I put that together from junk sale records: the ocean's from an environmental sounds record, there's a Molly Hatchet sample, a Telly Savalas sample, there's the musical Oliver! and that's the bit on the song where it goes "I'm so high, I'm so high, I'm so high." It's hard to say what I listen to. I've been really diggin' this Usurper record, the Groinchurn is fuckin' killer, the Candiria is fuckin' killer, the Black Army Jacket / Hemlock split is killer. Disassociate rules. There's this band called Burn The Priest, and I wandered into one of their shows drunk and I was just blown away. I'm releasing a single by them on my label; it's the Agents of Satan / Burn the Priest split 7". They're a fuckin' amazing band.

CoC: So you've got your own label?

RH: Well, it's a hobby. Def American Wreck recordings is a hobby. In five years I've put out 3 records. I only put out bands I am friends with or bands I really, really like.

CoC: So, how much does smokin' pot influence your music? You have the "Smoke, Grind, Sleep" studio.

RH: Well, because that's all we do there. Kevin doesn't come to a lot of practices when we're just working on music. Me and Gurn travel into New York city. We meet in New York City, we smoke out, we grind, and then I pass out on the floor for two hours. Then we wake up, practice again, smoke, practice, then Gurn and I crash out there on the floor at night. We wake up next morning, smoke out, have some breakfast, and practice again. In three days we'd try to fit the maximum number of rehearsals... that's five rehearsals, four or five hours long each, in two and a half days. So we'd go there, we'd smoke, grind, and sleep, and that's how the studio got the name. We write songs about smokin' pot 'cause we do it and have to drive around in a truck being hassled. It's this ridiculous hypocrisy of laws in the states: you can go buy a six pack of beer, but you can't buy a joint. A lot of that goes back to the day when William Randolph Hearst owned all the forests and wanted hemp to be illegal so he could make money selling paper. "Postulate Then Liberate" and "Promise" are both songs about the hypocrisy of hemp laws, and the tune "4:20" is a slang word -- at 4:20 everybody meet up to get high, and at 4:20am true stoners wake up and get high. We thought it would be a good spot on the CD to leave a blank space for people to light up and smoke a little bit before the final assault of the record.

CoC: Do you want to talk about any of the other songs on _SotAK_?

RH: "It's After the End of the World" is a cover of Sun Ra. Sun Ra is a man; it's Sun Ra and his orchestra, and he started out in the 50s and 60s playin' bebop jazz. Then in the mid 60s he got into psychedelic drugs and music and African and ethnic instruments and instrumentation and also the first noise, Merzbow type oscillators, in the late 60s.

CoC: Is there anything particular you want to say to the readers of CoC?

RH: Thanks to all the people in the underground who have been supporting us in the past, buyin' our stuff. We are totally psyched about _SotAK_ and hope to be playing it live fuckin' everywhere.

CoC: Are you gonna be in the UK anytime soon?

RH: We have a couple of weeks in December where we are doing four shows in Canada and a bunch on the east coast and up to Chicago. January we might do some shows in the south and towards Texas; February is Japan, and after that it is unknown. We are trying to hook up another gig like the Cannibal Corpse thing where we're opening up for somebody bigger than us, and we want to do an extensive tour of the US and Europe. Definitely within the next four or five months you're gonna see us everywhere, man.

(article submitted 1/1/1998)

11/30/2006 J Smit Brutal Truth: Choice of a New Generation (Part 1)
11/30/2006 T DePalma Brutal Truth: Choice of a New Generation (Part 2)
11/18/1996 A Bromley Brutal Truth: Revealing the Brutal Truth
1/17/1996 G Filicetti Brutal Truth: Malformed Musical Mayhem
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
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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