- Hello, Andy! Let's get back to your origins. How did you turn up into Death Metal music? What did motivate you to start playing the guitar?
- Hey Dima! Thanks for taking the time to interview us! I started out listening to bands like Iron Maiden, Mercyful Fate, Venom, Anthrax, Slayer... stuff like that. I was always looking for something heavier and more evil. That's what really got my blood boiling. I didn't even know death metal existed until I moved back to the US from England in 1989, when I accidentally stumbled across death metal when I went to go see Overkill at the old WUST Hall in NE DC. Overkill canceled, but luckily DECEASED was also playing that night & blew me off my feet! After that it was all death metal, though I still (to this day) remain true to my old metal roots. And it was the Dave Murray/Adrian Smith split leads that made me lust for the guitar!
- Tell us the story of Morbius' creation. Who came up with that name? How did you meat each other? Do you remember your first rehearsal place?
- MORBIUS formed in 1990, right before I had to leave for college. Matt found work at a car wash in Springfield, VA, and met Jason there. We started hanging out & smoking weed together & very quickly realized we were of the same mind & had the same musical tastes, so forming a band was quite natural. Matt came up with the name MORBIUS for the band, named after the villain in FORBIDDEN PLANET. Our first rehearsal spot was the garage of a friend of ours, and it was great for the time... but cops came to tell us to stop playing fairly often so it wasn't ideal. Our friend told us after a couple months that we couldn't practice there any more, so we moved out to practice in an old pool house owned by Jason's aunt in Marlow Heights, MD. Of course the very next week we went by our friend's house and found out he was now a roadie for OBLIVION, and surprise surprise, THEY were practicing in his garage!
- In 1990, you released your first Demo "The Shades Below". Where did you record it? How many copies did you have? What do you remember about the recording sessions?
- Actually our first demo was REALM, which contains early versions of some of the tracks on The Shades Below. Shades was produced by King Fowley of DECEASED and was recorded & mixed in 2 days at Inner Ear Studios in Arlington, VA. The first release of Shades was on King's old label "With Your Teeth Records" and I believe only about 25 copies were released on cassette. We didn't get a proper release until Last World released it on CD in 1994. What I remember most about the recording is that it was so rushed. We did no punch ins, no edits... we played the whole thing live and laid in the solos after the fact. I was very pleased with the mix at first, since Realm was recorded in a horribly sloppy fashion on a 4-track at Pustulated Lung Studios, which was basically this guy Butane's upstairs hallway in his parent's house. Later though I realized the mix was very rushed, and since King produced it, we didn't get the original reel to reel tapes when we finished. The original recording is gone forever, but I think Ted (Dark Symphonies) did a grand job remastering it!
- Later on, in 1994 this material was released on a CD, by Last Word. Did you rework the songs anyhow or were they taken in their original version? And was it considered as a full-length or simply as a demo re-release?
- We did nothing to the songs at all! Paul Folk did his best to master it but this was before digital mastering was commonplace. What you hear on that version is essentially the same recording that King released. We considered it to be an album, since it was on a label and not released with xeroxed covers on cassette.
- By the time you entered the studio to record your next Demo, "Realm", you've got signed by With Your Teeth records, run by King Fowley, Deceased. How did you get that offer? Have you already known each other, with King?
- Realm was really the only demo released on WYT, though King did also release some cassettes of Shades and a 7" (Underground Civilization/Encoffination). If you have that one, hold onto it... it's SUPER rare! I only have 3 copies myself. We got to know King very quickly, and he was our mentor for a long while. He knew how to do things and get shit done... we were just 4 stoned kids who didn't know what to do to promote ourselves or get shows. King was, for lack of a better term, the godfather of the death metal scene in DC. I seriously doubt there would have been a death metal scene in DC without him. Deceased was the biggest & most popular band around back then, and our scene here was like a family. Death metal was very outsider music back then, and I doubt anyone would have gotten shows booked if it weren't for King and his miraculous ability to get what he wanted from club owners.
- Once the "Realm" was released, how did it help you to promote the band? Was the label responsible for some promotion or was it still on you? How many copies did you get?
- I suppose it helped us, though not as much as Shades did, since it was much more polished and sounded much better. The thing is, we were extremely focused on the music. We wanted to write, practice, play shows... the promotion side was very tedious to us. We tape traded a bit, but nothing like King was doing. I used to think we were lazy, but we weren't. We were only lazy with promotion. We practiced 6 days a week and were writing music all the time. I think we got maybe 10 copies of Realm, but it was only a dub cassette anyway so we just copied & re-copied as we needed. The original release had a blue cover, all the second generation copies have white covers. So the blue cover is extremely rare.
- How active was the band with the concerts? Did it happen for you to book your own shows? Or when some other bands were inviting you to play in their cities? Do you remember any cool line-up where you participated in?
- In the early/mid 90s we played a show almost every weekend! King booked us a lot, but Matt also did a bunch of booking for us as well. When we played out of state, it was usually King that hooked us up, since we didn't do a ton of mail as I said. Matt was the only one of us that even tried to do mail, so he did get us some out of state shows as well, usually in MD or NY. We played some pretty great shows actually! Most of my favorites were at the Safari Club in DC, with bands like Deceased, Abominog, Corpus Rottus, Nokturnel (NJ), Suffocation, bands like that. One of the biggest shows we played was with Cannibal Corpse, and probably one of the best performances ever by Morbius. Most of our shows were in smaller clubs with local bands, but those were the most fun. Back then in DC it was like being on another planet... most club owners simply bribed the police not to hassle them so anyone could do whatever they wanted in there. We used to take bong hits between songs, on stage!
- In 1995 you released your classic full-length, "Alienchrist". First of all, how did you come up with such interesting title? How does it reflect the lyrical concept of the album?
- Great question! We have all always been very interested in ancient history, astronomy, alternative history, things like that. Matt came up with the title, and the song that most reflects that theme is "Mysteries of the Worm", which is essentially a trilogy: Mortal Reams (Realm), Remains of Javeh (Shades Below), and Thirst of the Heretic (Alienchrist). This was our first taste of writing concept pieces, which we took to the extreme with the next album Sojourns through the Septiac. The theme "Alienchrist" doesn't refer to a UFO alien version of Jesus... it refers to a demon possessing Christ's body when he rose from the dead on Easter, instead of Jesus himself. So we're essentially saying that the Christian religion is based on the teachings of a demon.
- Tell us about the recording sessions, how did it go? How long did it take you to record everything? Did you face any difficulties or challenges while recording the "Alienchrist"?
- We all felt that the Shades recording session had been rushed very badly, so we swore never to do that again. We all took a week off work to record Alienchrist, so 10 days straight in the studio. We practiced like crazy, even more than we usually did, before we went into the studio. We laid down our tracks very efficiently. I remember the music just flying off my guitar without me really having to think about it. I believe you can hear the accuracy of all our playing on Alienchrist, it's very tight. No difficulties in recording, but it was the first time we used digital editing, which was kinda cool.
- How did you like working with the guys from Cyber Music? How supportive were they? And how did you get that deal?
- Our interaction with Cyber Music was very limited. We actually paid for the recording, Cyber Music just licensed the release. Sadly the label went out of business fairly soon after Alienchrist was released, which is one of the reasons that release only had one pressing. I think Matt did mail with one of the guys there, that's how we got the deal. It's a little hazy honestly. Haha!
- So, let's talk about your immense work, "Sojourns Through the Septiac". The whole album was competed already in 1998. So why was it released only in 2005 and through a pretty contradictory label?
- Sojourns was released in 1998 actually, though it was self released and we only pressed about 100. That version has printed stickers on the CD. The 2005 Storms of Steel/No Compis Mentis release was the first real pressing & release, I believe Matt knew the guy from Storms of Steel through GBK but I could be mistaken. The main reason it was released on those labels so many years after recording is the same reason we weren't so popular in the early days: we had absolutely no drive to promote. Also, after we recorded Sojourns the scene in DC had really gone to shit, and we were down to just me, Matt, and Jason at that point, and Jason's interest in playing shows was diminished. It kind of felt like the band was slipping away, and after Jason left Matt & I just did some side project stuff so Sojourns sat idle. It was fortunate that Storms of Steel chose to release it, otherwise it would really be an obscure recording! Luckily we have Lost Apparitions reissuing Sojourns on CD, and Dark Symphonies on vinyl. So keep on the lookout for those, most likely in the next few months!
- This album varies pretty much a lot from the "Alienchrist". What did influence you to develop your play style so dramatically? How could you describe this album?
- I think Sojourns is our most complete album in every sense. Our music had always been going down a more complicated path since the start, and I think Sojourns is the pinnacle. Riffing is extremely complex, with odd timing changes and insanely complicated drum beats. One of the common criticisms of this album is that it's too complicated, there aren't enough "hook" riffs for the average listener to latch onto. But to me that's what makes this album so special. I wrote the songs I wrote in a very stream of consciousness way... in other words the songs came out of my head complete, and I did zero arranging. I wrote the first riff to lead into the second, which led to the third, and so on. Lyrically Matt & Jason made a huge leap as far as themes go on Sojourns. It's a concept album that describes the reincarnational cycle of a man who becomes God in the end. It's about the eternal power of the human soul, not just to create reality with sheer will, but to bend time and space itself to his own ends. We have all always been very much into esoteric & Hermetic philosophy, and this is sort of our reinterpretation of those subjects. For the reissue we wrote a kind of epilogue song to wrap up the lyrical themes of Sojourns, it's called "Infernal Imprint" and it's the only new Morbius song since 2003.
- Tell us about the work in the studio. Where did you record this time? Did you record it as a trio? Why did V. Bee Somphone leave the band?
- We recorded Sojourns at Oblivion Studios in Upper Marlboro, MD with our old friend Mike Bossier, who ended up playing a couple reunion shows with us last year. He actually wrote the music for Infernal Imprint as well. I absolutely love Oblivion Studios!! It feels like you're recording at home. Plus Mike is a fantastic engineer. When we were recording Sojourns he was still fairly new to engineering, so some of the album sounds a bit rough, but it's reflective of that period of time for us. Very chaotic. As you point out, Bee left and Jason was turning his attention elsewhere. In some ways I do think Sojourns would have benefited from a bigger studio and more experienced engineer, because there are some riffs that sound a bit muddy and you can't hear the true subtlety of the music. But it's still my favorite Morbius album!
Yes, we recorded it as a trio, Bee left mysteriously just as we were finishing up the writing for Sojourns. He sort of disappeared, and we found out several years after the fact that he had been locked up in a mental hospital. He's since doing much better though, but he's still an enigma of sorts.
- As far as I'm aware, "Sojourns Through the Septiac" will be re-released by The Crypt. Tell us a bit about the upcoming release. Do you know the approximate date?
- Yes it will, on gatefold LP!!! Ted is awesome. It'll also be released on CD by Stan from Lost Apparitions Records, both will have 2 bonus tracks: Infernal Imprint which I already mentioned, and a cover of a very old Oblivion song "Bodies on Ice." I'm really excited for these releases! Ted did a magnificent job remastering from the original recording DAT, and we'll have updated packaging too. I'm dying to see the clear purple vinyl Ted is pressing! You know, it feels strange and wonderful all at the same time that there's this sudden interest in Morbius. We've released more in the last 2 years than we ever did when we were playing shows! To me it all comes down to Stan wanting to finally release our final album "Trismegistus" which I never expected to be released at all, and his love of our old music which led him to reissue the first 3 albums. If he hadn't done that, I suspect we wouldn't be doing this interview. I've really come to appreciate how many people love our music, which is something I never felt in the old days. Back then it was purely done for our own satisfaction. That's why some of the music is so weird and intricate: we did it for us, and couldn't have cared less if everyone else hated it.
- Besides that, in 2012, Lost Apparitions Records released the "Trismegistus" CD, which contains some of your unreleased EP and tracks. Could you share a bit more details regarding this record? - Do you consider it being a full-length or rather a compilation?
I would say Trismegistus is an EP with a bunch of bonus tracks to make it SEEM like a full length album. Stan came to us and wanted to release it, but we felt bad only handing him 3 songs. So we dug up a bunch of unreleased demo versions of older songs and three live tracks recorded at Club Asylum in DC in 1995. As I mentioned, I never expected this to be released. Matt & I had 3 songs that we had finished after we recorded Sojourns. These songs just sat there, unrecorded except for rehearsal recordings. Matt wanted to get them recorded properly so we could wrap up the Morbius recordings in their entirety. I agree with him too... I wouldn't want to have work that hadn't ever been recorded. It would be a huge waste, and do disservice to the music we wrote. Since Jason left, I did lead vocals on the recording. Not Jason's vocals by any stretch... I don't think anyone could replicate his vocal sound. But I did my best, and I think the music is very strong. It's less intricate than Sojourns in many ways, but I'm a big fan of these songs.
- So, what is the current band's status? What are your plans for the near future? Is there any possibility for a new album?
- As of today, we are officially not playing. But if the past couple years has taught me anything its that nothing is impossible! We may still play a show here & there, and I wouldn't say we'll never record again, but the odds aren't high. I found out in February of this year that I have MS, and it causes numbness in my picking hand which makes playing VERY difficult. It makes playing songs like the ones on Sojourns virtually impossible. But it's supposed to go into complete remission, and if that happens I'll be back to 100% again, and then who knows! One other obstacle for us practicing/playing out/recording is that we don't all live very close together anymore and getting everyone to practice enough times per week to get to the level of tightness we need to play is very challenging.
- Thank you for this interview, Andy! Would you like to add anything?
- And thank YOU Dima for granting me this interview! Matt & I have been making films since Morbius stopped playing. We actually did the reunion show last year for the final scene in a documentary we've been working on for 3 years now, about the death metal scene in DC in the 90's. We interviewed a bunch of band people and we've got a TON of archival footage of shows, parties, etc. that's being used. Anyone who wants to know what it was like here in DC in the 90's should check it out when it's done! It'll be available on DVD as well as download. Oh and lots of our video work is available on YouTube, links are at our website www.blueibisfilms.com.