Interview with Max Otero, Mercyless
- Hey, Max! Let's get back in time to the very early days, when you were still known as Merciless. The band was created in 1987, tell us how did it happen? What bands actually influenced you? What was the original line-up?
- Hello!! So yes, we started this band in 1987 as Merciless with Steph Viard (guit),Boris Mandavi (bass) ,Gerald Guenzi (Drums) ,Max Otero (Vox/guit). At the beginning we were very influenced by the Thrash scene from the 80’s/90’s like Slayer, Dark Angel, Kreator, Destruction…etc. We have released 3 demo tapes til 1990.
- At those days, what was the French metal underground like? What was really popular among local metalheads? How was Merciless accepted by the metal community?
- At this moment it was the very first times of the underground French Death/Thrash scene, with bands like Loudblast, Agressor, Massacra, for the most popular. We have definitively entered this local scene after our second demo “Visions from the past”.
- The first demo, "Immortal Harmonies", was released in 1988. Tell us about this record. Where did you record it? How many copies did you originally have?
- We recorded in a small analogic studio (1988!!) here in Mulhouse, France, with a sound engineer that really didn’t understand this style (like most of the sound engineers at this time!). It was a good experience, and it was our first studio recording. We have sold more than 1500 copies of this demo during ¾ years !!
- How did you distribute your material? Do you remember the first bands you traded your tapes with?
- We distributed our tapes by contacts through Fanzines, tape traders, bands, promoters etc. It was good times and the scene became bigger day after day. Euh the first band...probably we trade with a French band like Massacra !!!!
- In 1989 another 4-tracks demo saw the light. Where did you record "Visions from the past"? How could compare it to the previous one?
- We recorded in the same studio the 3 demo tapes but after each recording session there was more new material, and so the sound became more heavy and more professional. This second demo was more technical, heavier and aggressive than the first.
- The last demo was released in 1990 and then successfully re-released by C.C.G. Underground Records. How did you get that deal? Do you think that release gave you a good exposure?
- It was a strange deal like lot of deals at this period, not so professional. The guy contacted us to release series of demo on vinyl, it was a good opportunity for us to have a real first release. But we have sent him our songs and we have never received any copy of this release. We discovered it 10 years after on different record shop through the world!!! A good exposure, hum? I’m not sure but a collector album now !!!
- Somewhere around that time you updated your name to Mercyless, together with the following 7 EP release. At what point did it actually happen? Did you consider to change the name to a completely new one as well?
- We change our name because at the same time the Swedish Merciless released their first album, and so they asked us to change our name. We din’t want to, so we changed just the letter “I” by a “Y”, that was enough.
- Finally, in 1992 you released your debut full-length, "Abject Offerings". First of all, tell us the story of artwork's creation. The main idea is taken from Salvador Dali. So who came up with that idea and how did you manage to make it real?
- So we have at first an idea of a cover with the Christ with an evil face, and we decided to release it with the help of a friend who knows how to paint it. But after all, when the label saw this cover, he thought that it was better to try to get the rights of the original cover of Salvador Dali, because it was the same idea. And so this English label (Vinyl Solution) got the opportunity to use the original drawing. Don’t ask me how it was possible, I really don’t know !!
- How did recording sessions go? How long did it take you to track all the material? Did you face any particular difficulties at the studio or during the post-production?
- It was our first experience of the recording of a complete album, and so we got a very good producer (Colin Richardson) and we went to a new studio ( always the same town) and so we recorded during 1 month in this small analogic studio. We have discovered lot of technics, lot of possibilities to have a good and heavy sound. And finally discovered how it was to work with a producer. There were no difficulties, because we have prepared the songs during 8 months in our rehearsal room.
- In 1993, the following album, "Coloured Funeral", was released by Century Media. In your opinion, what was the main difference between that album and your debut?
- The label! Really professional, with a lot of possibilities and with a big rooster. They gave all that we needed to record in good conditions. The difference was that we had more time to record and better material. The sound was really heavy and clear, and the songs more technical and brutal than the first album. The arrangements were also different.
- What can you say about the cover? What can we actually see on it? Who was the artist and how did you work on the concept of it?
- We have made this cover with a photograph and the principal idea of this cover comes from a sculpture from a friend. Very strange design and it’s about the concept of the confinement of humanity
- After this album you lost half of your team, why did Gerald and Rade had to leave the band? How did you find the new members? At what point did you realize you will need Keyboards as well?
- We had o lot of changes in our own lives and so at this moment we wanted to discover new horizons in the music. So we have met a lot of changes in the band, Rade and Gerald lost their motivation in the Death metal music, and they wanted to play something different. We added keyboards in our line-up and we tried to make the music more progressive ( don’t forget that at these times it was the explosion of the Grunge music) and intense. With a new bass player, new drummer, and a keyboard, I think that at this moment the band was too different !!!
- The new album, "C.O.L.D", was released in 1996, and was too different from what you did previously. How could you comment on that play-style evolution? How did your fans react on it?
- It was a different than in the 90’s with the popularity of Death metal, at this times the music busyness was very different and the labels were not interested in Death metal. So we tried to reach the new horizons and I think that it was necessary for our equilibrium. But the problem was that with the keyboard sound and this new style, we have lost a lot of fans !!
- Released in 2000, "Sure to be Pure" followed the new tendency in the band. What can you say about this album? What was the main reason for you to experiment so much with the music, even including your vocals? At this point you even changed your logo.
- Now with hindsight, I think that the big error was to continue with the name of Mercyless. It would be better to change our name at this moment, but we have insisted in the same way . ”Sure to be pure “ was more heavy, a little bit less progressive, but the songs were too different and complicated to be recognized as the real MERCYLESS. We have made a big error I think, but at this time it was important to try something different. That’s life!
- Shortly after that release, Mercyless was split-up. What was the reason for it?
- We have not really split up, we just decided to let the band in stand by during a long time. We think it was a good moment to spend time to explore new things and we have made so much for the music and than to be far away from this music busyness was a good decision. It was time to reflect about the future and what we want to make in our own life style .
- In 2011, you reformed Mercyless. At what conditions do you decide to bring the band back?
- Just one !!! Play true Death metal as the real Mercyless in the beginning !!
- 2013 was marked by the comeback release of your fifth album, "Unholy Black Splendor". That was a very powerful record, but what can you say about it now? How could you describe it to those, who still haven't had the possibility to discover it?
- During 2 years we have played a lot of gigs and at the same time we have composed a lot to release a new album. That was our goal! So now this album represents the band's style since the very beginning of Mercyless, raw, dark, heavy, evil… We are very proud of this album, and we think it’s a good return of the band. If you want to listen to good old school Death metal - go!
- When did you first start working on the new material? It's been 13 years since your previous album, so it was a lot of time to think about the music and the future of that band in general, wasn't it?
- Yes! A lot of time! But we couldn’t forget how to play this kind of music. We got it trough our veins !!! It was a little bit difficult during first 2 months, just in order to find our habits. But then, it was very simple to practice, and it was the time to find the real anger! Too long period but necessary to come back with the true motivation.
- Where did you record the material? The album was mixed and mastered by Dan Swano, how was it for you work with him? Do you think he contributed a lot to the final version of the album?
- We recorded this album at the same place of the “Abject offerings” album. We found the good vibes and then we decided to give the mixing and mastering to someone who knows what Death metal is. Dan Swanö knows perfectly this style, it was the right guy to mix this album and to have a really good sound. It’s very simple to work with him because he knows our direction and how to have heavy guitar sound!! He contributed a lot for the final mix, that's for sure !
- Earlier this year you released a split with Crusher. Who came up with the idea of that Split? It's very cool to have 2 veterans of the French Metal scene at once. Also, tell us about the format of this edition. Is there any possibility for other formats as well?
- My old friend Crass (singer of Crusher) had the idea and the possibility to make a split album with the label Deadlight recs and as we have never made a split in our career and we loved this format of issue! It was the opportunity to release it. With our old friends of Crusher the dream came true! It’s a collector edition, hand numbered with some unpublished songs and live, with a beautiful original cover!!! Just before to go to studio for the new album it was great !!
- This year the band has been playing live quite a lot. So far, how it's going? How many shows do you still have left for this year? Actually, do you play live any songs from "C.O.L.D" and "Sure to be Pure"?
- Yeah! Since 2 years we have played a lot in Europe, and today it’s more important to play live than in the past due to the crisis of labels and music in general. And so we play as much as we can, and it’s important to spread the name of MERCYLESS the most possible. For us paying a gig it’s like going at war. And no songs from “C.O.L.D” or “Sure to be pure”, just true death metal from our 2 first albums !!!
- Thank you for this interview, Max! Is there anything you would like to add in the end? Maybe you plans for the future?
- Thanx for your support and this interview it’s always a big pleasure. The end of this year was very difficult for us (we have lost 2 ex-members of the band), but life goes on and we stay strong, we don’t want to give up our passion for this music, we got so much things to do and so many ideas! So we are recording our new album now, and be prepare, my friends!!! Very brutal and evil songs ! don’t hesitate to contact us on Facebook !!
STAY EVIL !!!!