Malformed Musical Mayhem
An Interview with Danny Lilker (Brutal Truth/Malformed Earthborn)
by: Gino Filicetti
Barely days before X-mas would come to pass, CoC conducted this chat with Danny Lilker from his home in New York City, focusing not on his band of fame, Brutal Truth, but on his experimental ambient/noise sideproject Malformed Earthborn. Together with ex-bandmate Scott Lewis and Napalm Death bassist Shane Embury, the three set out to record an album that reflects something of themselves that just wouldn't jive with what their respective bands are currently into. This is what Danny had to say about the events of the past three years that went into Malformed Earthborn.

CoC: So what have you been up to lately?

Danny Lilker: Just chilling out 'cause we're supposed to be going to Australia, so we are just waiting for the immigration shit to come in the mail. And we're rehearsing and stuff.

CoC: So you are touring with Malformed then?

DL: No, that's for Brutal Truth. No, Malformed isn't going to really tour or play live anywhere because there is a lot of programming and sequencing that would be particularly boring live, I think, unless you had some cool strobe lights and shit. So unless we come up with a really wicked live show that has like lots of film and lots of smoke, stuff like that, but I don't know what that would cost.

CoC: How did the idea to form Malformed Earthborn come together?

DL: Well it came together during the Campaign for Musical Destruction tour in September of '92. It had like Napalm, Carcass, Cathedral and Brutal Truth. That was when Scott was still in Brutal Truth, and you know, we already knew each other pretty good already so when you are on a seven week tour, you get a lot of time to just sit around, talk, listen to music and things like that. So the three of us found out that we all have a mutual admiration for stuff like Skinny Puppy and Coil and we thought, 'Hey, we should do a band like this.' I had an eight-track cassette which is basically what Smoke, Grind, Sleep Studios is. Then Shane just changed his flight plans after the tour and stayed over an extra week and we did half the session then.

CoC: Have you guys been friends with Shane for a long time before the tour that brought all of you together?

DL: Yeah, well, I've known Shane since like '88 or something. That's back when I was in Nuclear Assault. I was in touch with the whole English grind scene like Napalm and Carcass. I used to write those people and go to their shows here and hang out. So I've known Shane for a long time and obviously Scott for a long time because he's from around here.

CoC: Are you still doing the Exit-13 stuff?

DL: Well, I'm not really in the band anymore and I never really was. They have a permanent line up now. However I did do something with them, a weird album that's going to come out next year.

[That would be the new Exit-13 album containing covers of various keep marijuana legal anthems from the 30's and 40's.]

CoC: What is the thing about side projects that attracts you to them?

DL: It's just something where, you get to express yourself musically doing things you might not always do in your band. As varied as Brutal Truth is, as far as incorporating hardcore and noise and this and that, one thing that we wouldn't sound right doing would be like rhythmic industrial stuff. And Napalm Death wouldn't be right doing that stuff either, so I guess it's a way to get certain musical urges out of your system. Which is kind of the way Brutal Truth started. I wanted to do stuff that Nuclear Assault wouldn't do. But this would never take over because like I said before, Malformed would never play live because it's not made like that so it's not something that would take a lot of our time up.

CoC: What took so long from the recording of the first five tracks until the completion of the album?

DL: I guess one thing is that Relapse was really psyched about it, but they also said that, 'We're really into this, but we don't know when the hell we can put it out so you don't have to rush.' Another thing is the scheduling thing you know. Even though it only took a week to do the last half of the session, it's also the thing that people are doing different things, like when Brutal Truth had time off, Napalm Death would be somewhere off in Japan or something. And also it's good to take time and let the creativity build up again.

CoC: Is there a noticeable difference when comparing the newer songs to the older ones?

DL: I don't know, it's hard to say. I like some of the newer songs better, but then again, I guess that's just something where when something is fresher you just like it more. Well, on both of them we have our regular, kind of like danceable stuff, and then we had things that were just weird seven minute soundscapes. And also this time around we were also a little more, 'Uh oh, we are going to put something out on album so we better make sure it's good.' So I don't think we went through the same natural process.

CoC: Did any one of you contribute a major part to the music as compared to the others?

DL: No, I think it was pretty much even. I mean the reason we don't put the credits on it, like who did what, was because it was all kind of split responsibility-wise. As far as the creative parts, I mean, we all had that. I did more stuff as far as like the actual programming, you know, turning the dials and pushing the buttons here and there and making things work right. Shane did most of the vocals. Scott and Shane did the guitar parts, some of the guitar parts were like regular guitar parts. And you can hear some of the riffs that were sampled and deconstructed. Sometimes you hear a regular riff, and sometimes you hear just really weird shit. So, no, it was all pretty much evenly split you know, responsibility-wise and creativity-wise.

CoC: Why the name Malformed Earthborn?

DL: Shane came up with it, it's a Skinny Puppy lyric, and we thought it sounded cool.

CoC: Where did the album title come from?

DL: Actually that was stolen too. I got that from a book of short stories. The whole thing with Malformed is that when we put it together it was all very casual. We didn't think it was going to be something that was going to be released, we just thought, 'Alright, that'll be the album title.'

CoC: So you really didn't think there was going to be a future in this thing?

DL: Well no, I mean, I don't know if it's going to be huge or anything. I really have no idea what people think of it, but I know Skinny Puppy are from Canada, so ... <laughs>

CoC: What steps were taken during recording? How does the production on this album compare with the usual production used with your respective bands?

DL: Oh, it was way different, a lot of different aspects of it. For one thing, it was done entirely on an eight-track cassette, so it's going to be a lot cruder and rawer sounding than other things. Another thing was that opposed to how we regularly do albums where you lay down all the drum tracks and you lay down all the overdubs, with this stuff we kind of approached it one song at a time, where we'd lay down a drum track and take it from there and complete the song. So it was an entirely different recording procedure.

CoC: Do you think there is a big musical difference with Shane coming from Napalm Death, and you guys coming from Brutal Truth?

DL: I don't really think so, because as far as music goes, we had the same sort of backgrounds, we all appreciated the same stuff. I don't think it made that much of a difference. I know that from our field of music, our bands are two separate entities. As far as our collective influences for making Malformed, I think it meshed pretty well. Any weird idea we had came from our being into that type of music, that grind thing, although we threw a blast beat in there just for the hell of it. <laughs>

CoC: Is this side project something that you think will stand the test of time, or was it purposely a one time only affair?

DL: We'll probably do more, I mean, like I said, when it was done in the beginning, it was done just for a creative outlet. So we'll need that again. Everyone's been asking if there is going to be more so I can see it having a positive reaction. It's not something where you have to have a big budget. I mean, this album was made for like nothing man, you know, it was all done on the eight-track and then put down on a DAT player. Scott had pretty much all the artwork together, then they just scanned in all the pictures and that shit. All it cost Relapse was the production of the CDs and the packaging. It's not like they had to pay for a $20,000 recording and $10,000 in drugs for the band, you know? <laughs> So I imagine we can do more because it's not going to cost them a whole lot of money either.

CoC: What's the story behind the artwork?

DL: Um.. Scott's just a pervert, he's into a lot of weird shit. You should see all the stuff that he has, I mean, that's just the tip of the iceberg. We just wanted something that fit with the music as far as strange stuff. The album cover is actually something that Japanese people hang up in their houses to ward off evil, because it is shaped like a demon, so Japanese demons would come up to the house and see the demon there, so they say, 'Well, ok, they're already possessed. Let's cross 'em off the list.' And all the weird stuff inside is just stuff Scott had lying around and wanted to use, so we're like, 'Ok, whatever.'

CoC: Do you have any side projects in the works?

DL: Well, me and Kevin kind of did this band, the same thing actually, a recording project with this guy Bones from a band called Disassociate, a crust/grind/whatever band and it's called Last Satanic Dance. The thing is that one night we all took acid and recorded, and it's pretty interesting, but it's only like 25 minutes worth of stuff though, so we have to do another session then. But right now we just have to get ready for Australia.

CoC: Do you have anything else to say to everyone out there?

DL: Yeah, if people in the metal scene really like the Malformed Earthborn stuff, I'd suggest going out and checking out stuff like Skinny Puppy and Coil. That's where we got a lot of our stuff. And a lot of people express enthusiasm and ask where we get our stuff from so, it's not like we're trying to be totally original, and we don't want to take credit for starting a whole new thing. So I think that people should check out our roots.

(article submitted 17/1/1996)

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