Sunday, May 16, 2010

Interview: Acerbus

Let's start off this interview in a traditional, time-tested manner and get a little background information for our readers first. I know that Acerbus has been in existence since 1999, but is 'Emanating Darkness' your first official release? How old are you guys and how long have you been playing this kind of music? What made you first decide to start a band together - I mean, what exactly was the prompting for this? How did you first meet? Where do you rehearse? Why the name 'Acerbus' - what does it mean to you?

Acerbus first practiced together on October 31st 1999. The reason we waited so long (almost a year) to release anything is that we wanted to have PLENTY of time to adjust to each other's musical styles, and eventually become musical individuals as well as one entity. I believe that tactic paid off.

We all met at a party at a mutual friend's house, the person we call the fourth member Scott or the Flexorcist. I had just quit a band, and Larry and Sam were having problems with their guitar player, so it just kind of made sense to get together.

Just recently (5/5/01) our bassist/vocalist Sam Palmer left the band due to his overwhelming interest in yoga and transcendental travel. Larry and myself want members that are 300% dedicated, so it was a mutual split. We do have a replacement, Mike Allen (my brother) on bass. I, Cory, have now taken over the vocals, so now I'm the singer/guitarist. Or really guitarist/singer...hahaha...

As far as ages go, Im 19...yes, I said 19 (laughs), and have been playing guitar for 5 years. Larry is 25,and has been playing drums for 5 years and Mike is 23, and has been playing bass 6 years.

The name ACERBUS means darkness and bitterness in Latin. That's pretty much how we all feel towards the mass of people, and their shallow, jealous, narcissistic ways.

As I'm sure you know now, having read the review I wrote for 'Emanating Darkness', I lived in Austin for seven years altogether, from about 1992 to '99, and in that entire time I was never really convinced that Austin exactly had a 'healthy' metal scene - compared to, say, San Antonio or Houston, where I grew up. It just never seemed to take hold in the state's capital the way it did in other places...what is it like today? Are there enough opportunities for you to play live - enough to satisfy you? Do you play outside the city? Are the Atomic Cafe and Back Room still going strong? I noticed you have pictures from both of these clubs on your website...why do you think metal was so difficult to come by in Austin? Is it the character of the town, the people, the other musical genres that dominate the city, or something different?

Austin is a really bad place to start a metal band in. That's the main thing I can tell you. There's two main types of infections here. First off, Austin is over run with Ani DiFranco and Ginger Mackenzie wannabes, female folk singer/songwriters. Basically a bunch of dykes rambling on and on over some poor played acoustic guitar, about how much they hate men. The other disease here is the Stevie Ray Vaughn clones. It's always a guy in his early forties still trying to play the blues, or a 13 year old kid that read the tablature for 'Pride and Joy' in Guitar World magazine, and because he can play the opening riff he thinks he is god. He associates it like so: 'SRV is a guitar god, and I can play something he played, so that means I must be as good as him. I better rush to Mars Music and try to play it really loud on a cheaply made Fender Strat from Japan.' But that's just my opinion (Laughs)

[Editor's note: He's not exaggerating at all here...I was once in a music store and watched as some frat boy/Durstite came in, took a guitar down from the wall, plugged into an amp, and played every song off of 'Master of Puppets' (and played them perfectly, mind you) without even pausing for a breath. Austin is the land of primadonnas, and you should be prepared for that as a guitarist if you move there. It also has more musicians per square mile than anywhere else in the world...]

The only place to have local shows is at the Atomic Cafe. The only way a band gets to play the Backroom is if there is a touring band. So it's basically play the Atomic Cafe and hopefully be able to dodge all the raver goth fags or don't play at all. The crowds aren't very good at the Atomic either, but hell it's better than nothing, and we REALLY appreciate all the people who do show up.

The 'scene' (the people, most, not all) here is really pathetic. It's not even really for the lack of people either. It's everyone's attitude that lives here. There is SO much backstabbing and shit talking. To your face people tell you how good you are, then the second you turn your back its non-stop shit talking. Every band here has experienced it first hand, including us.

The bands in Austin that we consort with regularly are Death of Millions, Averse Sefira, and well...that's about it. There are other bands here like Vesperian Sorrow and Masochism, they are both really good but we don't consort with them often like the others, we're all on good terms as far as friendship, we just don't hang out often.

Did any of you attend the University of Texas, or St. Edwards, or are you now attending either? Are any of you natives of Austin, or have you all moved there from other places? In my time there I noticed a distinct difference between natives and 'outsiders' who were not yet 'brought into' the culture of that city...have you noticed this? Or have you already been indoctrinated?

None of us were born in Austin. My brother and I moved here from Houston 10 years ago. Larry is from Center, TX. You don't know where that is? Not a surprise- its one of those Texas towns that has a big sign and it says 'Welcome to ______' on both sides of it, if you catch my drift. Tiny ass towns, they think they're all high-tech and shit if they get a Dairy Queen and they're a damn metropolis if they get a Wal-Mart. (laughs) I do like Austin though, it's a really cool town, shit isn't all spread out like other cities. I hate that (Houston for example). You gotta pay like $50 in toll booths if you want to go to Jack in the Box to get a cheeseburger. [In Texas, you know your town has 'made it' when Dairy Queen sets up a franchise there...sad but true. - Ed]

None of us have attended U.T. I have thought about if I wasn't into guitar that I would make a whole lot of money, save, and take EVERY course at U.T. That would be really interesting, possibly write a 500-page manifesto on my views of the world and see how it differed so many courses/degrees later. Just a thought I had.

Give me your short takes on the following subjects:

a.Stevie Ray Vaughan and blues rock

I wondered what people saw in him so much. I took time studying his style. I think he was a good guitar player, but just like any he was way over-rated. He had his good points but he wasn't a god-send or anything. And DAMMIT I HATE all the SRV clones leaking out of every crack in Austin.

b.The Austin Chronicle

The Chronicle is a good paper. I always check it to see what tours are coming. It generally has better news in it than the Austin American Statesman. I was reading the AAS before work this morning and I was laughing at how stupid it was. That paper, and most papers, is/are total bullshit. I read them for comedy value only. People believe the shit they read in the newspaper too. Just because if they read something in a paper they think it has got to be true...hence the basis for a lot of our lyrical content.

c.Book People and Whole Foods

Book People is a damn breeding ground for whining feminists and people writing poetry on computers, eating croissants, wearing gay berets, and USING A CREDIT CARD TO BUY A $1.35 CUP OF COFFEE. Those places should be burned to the ground, and have the ashes shot into space.

d.Microbrews (especially Celis)

No problem with microbrews, a nice place to have a beer if you don't feel like eating the corporate cock one afternoon.

e.Mexican food, especially all the numbered taquerias

Mexican food is Acerbus' favorite kind. But it's all expensive, and we're all broke, so put it together.

f.Lake Austin - and town lake, the bats of Guadalupe bridge, etc.

Never go to the lake, seems like a nice place to dump some toxic waste though. Maybe we could breed some three-eyed fish. [Ah, a Simpsons reference...I was waiting for that! - Ed]

g.The UT Tower and Tower Records

U.T. has a lot of nice historical value. Such as Charles Whitman's little temper tantrum. Tower Records is ok. I only order CD's from the bands websites. That way they don't get screwed out of any money. [Worth watching, now that I think of it, is 'The Deadly Tower', Kurt Russell's first movie, where he played Charles Whitman. It's mainly interesting because it wasn't made too long after the real event, and it shows the way Austin used to look 25-30 years ago. - Ed]

h. Sound Exchange, on the Drag, and the gutter punks

Sound Exchange is a lot cooler. They aren't corporate at all. The drag is pretty damn annoying, and there are a lot of college kids that are living on their own for the first time, thinking they have something to prove since mommy isn't around. Gutter punks, are ok...I stop and jam with them some times on their old broken ass acoustics.

Tell our readers, many of who are from outside the US, about the challenges of being in an extreme metal band in the United States - or in Texas, particularly. Texas has given rise to a number of now-legendary groups, and yet there has never been a really strong network of musicians through the state - why do you think this is? Is it just that Texas is too large? Why do you think that death metal has always had such a grip on Texans' imaginations, and black metal never really caught on here?

Its kind of hard being in an extreme metal band anywhere. It's always a challenge because you have everyone against you except for yourself. There are a lot of sick hicks here. A lot of gory people that listen to metal. I think Texans are pretty damn brutal hence their love for death metal. Hmmm...why did BM never have a strong following here? Maybe because its kind of a fad in a sense. There are some really good BM bands but a lot (85%) of them are Cradle of Borgir clones. That shit's a fad, and fads never stay for more than a few years.

Alright, enough about Texas...on to death metal! 'Emanating Darkness' shows, throughout its running length, a characteristic concern for technicality as well as off-kilter or innovative rhythmic techniques...on your website you mention that you have derived influence from jazz musicians...could you elaborate on this? Is it just something you picked up listening to records, sympathetically, and found that it suited your own tastes, or is there a deeper theory behind it? Who are some of your favorite musicians or groups, jazz or otherwise? Why?

Well we can begin with that fact that I work in music store. I come across more styles and innovators than you could possibly imagine. That's sort of a window into new groups sometimes. Well, in the jazz genre of things, as far as over all, I REALLY like Miles Davis. He is the craziest, most original, most innovative person ever. End of story. If you have any musical talent, and a love for crazy (tripped out) music, pick up a copy of 'Bitches Brew'. He crossed so many boundaries musically. It's unreal. I also like Coltrane, and well...there are so many to list. For jazz (fusion) guitarists, I highly recommend Shawn Lane, Scott Henderson, Jonas Hellborg (bass), Victor Wooten (Bass), Tribal Tech and Vital Tech Tones II. There are really too many to list. In the drumming field I like Buddy Rich, and Max Roach, those guys rule. Buddy Rich is in my opinion the first to do double bass. Many, many years ago B.R & M.R. had a vs. cd. Check out track six. It's a drum duel, and B.R. throws in some double bass its wild and its one footed. I also really enjoy Medeski, Martin and Wood. Those guys are awesome. I listen to a lot of kinds of music actually. Metal of course, jazz, fusion, classical, Johnny Cash, and anything really well composed. I just went to the symphony to see Peter Bay's presentation of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana. That was quite amazing. Hails to the Austin Symphony and Choir (all 300 members).

There is a real advantage to working in a music store, I see all the filth of corporate regurgitations, mind washing with marketing, and some fat pastrami eating guy writing bubble gum pop tunes for 5 homosexual guys in their early 20s to sing for a bunch of preadolescent girls. That really makes the bile rise to the back of my throat, but it also drives me to work harder at my music as well.

Do you think death metal, as a genre, is now going to once again come back into the scene and dominate, in the wake of black metal's fall? What do you think has been learned from the genre's former failures? What do you think are the ultimate goals of the biggest death metal bands - do they really want to enter the 'mainstream'? What do you think of Morbid Angel touring arenas in support of Pantera, for example? Where would you like to see the movement head, as a whole?

Death metal has come back I think. It is defiantly [definitely?] more alive now than ever. I think some 'leaders' of the genre get to the top and are like 'Whoa, shit! We're at the top, what do we do now?' Some bands that get large, begin to see the dollars signs in their eyes and try to 'go for the gold'. Those bands are always found out though, such as Cradle of Filth. I mean c'mon...any band who makes a regular verson and an MTV friendly version of a music video is just dying for some mainsteam acceptance. How pathetic. Morbid Angel...well, we opened for them at the Backroom a few months ago. Talk about death metal divas. They said not one word to us. We tried talking to them and they gave us the cold shoulder. So basically if you cant give some respect to the people that pay your paycheck...then you can fuck off and go straight to hell. But it doesn't bother me much because I KNOW that they know while touring with Punetera, and Soulfly that they were opening for a band every night (Soulfly) that has been around 3 or so years and already has made hundreds of times more fans and money that M.A. ever will. That's got to eat them up, at least I hope it does.

Because I don't have the lyrics to your release, can you explain to me and our readers what the songs are based upon, what their lyrical themes are, and what prompted or inspired their composition? What do you find the most inspiring, musically - life or 'reality', in the abstract, or your own imagination, ideality?

Our lyrics are basically about how programmed everyone is these days. People are born, and IMMEDIATELY drowned with bullshit. They are told what to think is right and wrong, what god to believe in, and what they must look like or own to be accepted into society. I mean SOMEONE TELLS YOU WHAT YOU SHOULD THINK IS RIGHT AND WRONG!! - how arrogant is that? It is total crap, and really sickening to me, but parents these days don't know any better because they are products of the same nature....this mind control, brain washing and programming that is wrong...

Do you think death metal bands that live in urban areas have an advantage over 'rural' bands in coming up with angry music? Is death metal primarily an 'urban' form of music in this country? At one time it was understood as such by certain record executives and producers, who were convinced that death metal was going to explode in popularity, like rap or hip-hop did in the '80s. What do you think of this? Why do you think musicians, more than any other type of artist, seem to be effected creatively by the environment they are placed in? Is it just because modern life is so strenuous, sonically, and as musicians we seem to have only two choices: the silence of the country or the white noise of the cities? In the nineties there was an increasing concentration in music on the aspects of 'nature' and the 'environment', or the past (all escapes, really, to silence), especially in the black metal scene...how do you explain this?

First off I think that death metal will never explode into popularity and have a whole bunch of spin off wannabe bands. For one simple reason, all Dm and BM musicians are at least above average musicians. It takes a certain understanding to listen to metal. Especially on the more technical side of things. Does it just sound like white noise to you but their fingers are moving 400 miles an hour? That's because you can't comprehend the technicality of the music, and for that reason it will never become popular.

A lot of metal I think is originated from hatred and it's a way of releasing it in a non-violent manner. Face it...it's pure rage. Every metal musician has a thorn in their side, something that drives them. Mine just happens to be the RAW HATRED of people that are programmed at birth and through out life. The music business, which is actually a tributary of the programming, drives as well. Your parents and society tell you that you must get out into the 'real word' and make as much money as possible, and your amount of money reflects your level of success. That's fucking horseshit.

They say a picture is worth a million words...it will all be explained in our full-length album cover. Just wait till you see the idea I have for it. It will make you understand better where I'm coming from.

As far back as I can remember, 'progression' has always been a key concentration in death metal, starting with the earliest bands. I would get excited about every new album that was released (this is going way back, now) because the bands operating at that time were always pushing themselves and, in the process, pushing back the boundaries of the style, innovating, incorporating, trying new things, building slowly album upon album - reacting to what was released by other bands, etc. Do you think this progression has been halted now? If so - why? How much farther can the genre go? Should there be a new concentration instead of just explorations into 'brutality' or an 'evil' sound? What does Acerbus primarily concentrate on building with its music - and how would you like to be remembered?

We basically are trying to invent something new. Something unheard. A fact that drives me mad is influences from other music. In the seventies there was no Grindcore. The heaviest thing out there was Black Sabbath. Over time people improved upon the sound and made it heavier and more technical. And so on until we reach bands like Dillinger Escape Plan and Cryptopsy. Those are the limit pushers now in my opinion. My whole idea is to obtain the sound of a band in the 40th century. I will die trying to see how music will be in the future, I will not wait around 20 years to be influenced by others. Damn evolution, I refuse for my abilities to be controlled by the people and times I am surrounded by. As far as being remembered I want to be known as the band that made god awful music that no body liked. But 300 years from now people will listen to it and go 'Damn, that's advanced even for our time!' That's how I want to be known.

Do you think it will ever be possible to find a form of music that completely reflects the nature of modern life? Or will it always be on the edge, almost there, somehow not...satisfying? Are we past the stage in our civilization when one work of art can mean the same thing to a large number of people? Is it all just...subjective now, solipsistic, determined by the individual? What technical death metal makes me think of is...this state of modernity, where musicians and artists come closer and closer to aphasia, a form of art that can not (or will not) communicate anything at all...comments?

See my response above. Damn! I'm already looking into the future! (Laughs)


Finally, let us know what Acerbus is planning for the future...you told me that you will appearing on a Slayer tribute album - anything else that you would like to mention? What can we expect? Thanks for doing this interview, and for supporting Erebus.


Well what we plan on creating for our 1st full-length is listenable, technical ecstasy. An album that makes you ponder all aspects of music and your own abilities as a musician. Everyone has a lot more than they think they do, they just need to unlock it from their brains. Just be watching for the album.

Watch for the Slayer Tribute album we're going to be on. We'll be doing a blistering version of 'Angel of Death'. It will be released on WW3 records.

What to expect from Acerbus in the future? Three musicians pushing their bodies and minds to the limits of sanity. A pure experimental technical holocaust.

Thanx for presenting me with the opportunity to share my ideas. And thank you for reading my lengthy responses. I wanted to type a lot more but I don't want Erebus Magazine to have to buy another server just for this interview. THANX AGAIN!

Completed 6/08/2001, 1:30 AM CST