- Hey Mike! Tell us, how did you get involved into metal music? How old were you?
- I was raised in a household where every form of music was always played all the time. I grew an appreciation for the live band approach early in life. Growing up in the long island suburbs, metal was more prevalent to me throughout my school years. The beginning of rap was in full progress as well but I leaned towards the band aspect more so.
- When did you realize you wanted to become drummer? Who actually inspired you? When did you get your first drum-kit and what was it like?
- I've always wanted to drum but didn't receive my first set until I was 11. I played guitar for years before getting a set. Either way I was self teaching myself metal. I built pots and pan drumsets until my parents recognized that it wasn't a fad. My neighbor's nd a couple friends had small kits that I made sure to touch as often as possible. Drumming always came natural to me.
- In the late 80s, little by little, the scene was changing, becoming more aggressive and extreme. When did you hear about Death Metal for the first time? What were the first bands you discovered?
- Thrash was the main avenue prior to death metal. Myself and suffocation were part oofthe very beginnings of the Death metal most bands I followed would have termed themselves thrash metal prior to merging themselves into what was becoming death metal. Death, Exodus, Slayer, Venom, Destruction, Merciful Fate, Kreator etc were in constant rotation for me.
- How and when did you actually meet guys from Suffocation? As far as I know, before that you've been playing in Mortuary band, haven't you? Tell us a bit about that band too.
- I went to school with Doug Cerrito and Frank Mullen. Terrance and Josh were from the next town over we all hang out always and had the same taste in music. We played in separate bands as well as merged into different basement projects going through most of the local musicians. We eventually gravitated into the lineup of suffocation after yea rd of mixing and mingling. Mortuary was one of those band projects that I played in with mutual local friends from suffocation/pyrexia/internal bleeding all eventually formed as members scattered throughout the long island circuit of musicians
- In 1990, you released the "Reincremated" demo. How much time did you actually have to rehearse the material?
- By the time we recorded that demo we had been playing those songs for quite a while. That's what we were creating in my basement long before we decided to search for a record deal. We were well accustomed to the songs.
- What can you say about this record now? How long did it take you to record it? Was it your first time experience recording at the studio? Who came up with the idea of the intro sample taken from the Hellraiser?
- It was the beginning of our contribution to death metal for us. We never considered ourselves thrash. We just knew that we had a different approach to our music which we were going to do with or without getting signed.. We probably recorded it in a two hour span. It was our first demo though at times we would go to a rehearsal studio just to get a generic cassette recording for our listening pleasure.
- How did you distribute the demo? Do you remember the first bands you traded the tapes with? Were you in touch with other bands from Europe as well? What labels did you send it to and how did you get the deal with Relapse Records?
- Tape trading was the way at the time along with word of mouth and fanzines. We traded with all and every band we came across. Deceased, Atheist, Ripping Corpse, Cannibal Corpse, Goreaphobia, Incantation, Human Remains, Winter, Immolation etc etc etc. Earache and Roadrunner were the big names at the time that we tried to get. Relapse approached us and was our actual first release with the Human waste EP. Roadrunner came soon after.
- "Human Waste" EP was released in 1991. What could you say about the recording sessions? The fact that this release became the first official CD issued by Relapse, what did it mean to you?
- What it meant was that there was a music genre being created as well as the labels and audience to support it at the same exact time in history. As for the recording of it I really can't remember the exact moments I believe the demo tracks were combined with a new song or two that we were already playing in the basement months prior.
- The same year you released your debut full-length, "Effigy of the Forgotten". When did you first start working on the material? How was the process of writing the music for you like? Was it a collective process? What tracks did you write?
- We were writing and practicing the material in the basement in 89'-90' jamming was what we did all the time. The Music was ready prior to signing the contract. Writing at that time was aalways a group process. If you has an idea you put it on the table if it sounded sick we kept it . We all wrote pieces to form the whole.
- How did it happen that George Corpsegrinder performed some of the backing vocals?
- We were both recording at Morrisound at the same time. The rumbling through the walls drew his interest to stop in. We knew Corpsegrinder for a while the metal scene was close then. The vibe during the recording was definitely an easy party vibe. Frank was laying his vocals, Corpse joined in the moment. The rest is history.
- The whole album was dedicated to the memory of Roger Patterson. Was it a mutual agreement? Were you a good friends with him?
- We were too new into the scene to be losing one of the greatest contributor's to the genre. We were both touring and playing the same club circuits .We all admired each other's approach and diversity that was becoming death metal. We had all played and partied a few weeks before he passed. I believe it was at club g-willikers in New Jersey that we last hung out. We had lost a beast of a musician way to early in the game.
- That was also the first time for you to work with Scott Burns. How did you like the recordings at Morrisound Studio? Do you have any special memories related to this?
- Morrisound and Scott Burns were a huge part of the Death metal beginnings. To record there at that time was the greatest accomplishment to any young band. History was recorded there. We were a part of that .
- In 1993 you release "Breeding the Spawn". The story behind this album is pretty messy. Could you clarify why Roadrunner didn't want you to cooperate with Scott Burns once again? And how did you decide to record at Noise Lab?
- The labels didn't understand the genre and The importance of sticking to the formula of ussand morrisound. Their goal was to keep us local and save money. The album suffered because of it.
- With the following albums, you re-recorded certain tracks with the new sound and production. But have you ever considered to re-record and re-release the whole album?
- To rerecord the entire album would have been the way to go ,if we were still the original lineup that wrote it. Let's just say it was a difficult album to teach newer members. We had to spend the time we had moving forward. The best we could do was to add a track on following albums with hopes of recording it all eventually.
- After that album you left the band, what did you do until the reunion? What do you think about "Pierced from Within"? And especially, what can you say about the drums on it?
- I worked and just moved on. I dint really follow what was going on in the scene. When I left it was far from providing a living so it was easy to move on. It was when we reunited that the business of the band was at a point where it made sense to drop all else and pursue it.
Pierced from within was a great moment in time for the band. The music was focused and polished which was needed especially after the breeding the spawn disaster recording. Doug bohne I had know for years. He was always around and playing in the circle of musicians we all hung with. He came from a hardcore background. He grew up with Terrance and was a local and convenient choice when they were searching for a replacement.
- In 2002, after 4-years break, Suffocation was back. At what conditions did you return to the band? How did you end-up with that line-up? Did you plan to invite any other ex-members as well?
- All members from the original lineup was asked first. That was the goal. That didn't work so we had to move outside the core to buddies we knew to fill the void. That turned into the most accomplished and world traveled version of the group. I ran the majority of the business along with my wife until I departed. I don't know who handles the biz now or claims the success of the name.
- What was the atmosphere in the band like? How was it for you ro rehearse once again, all together? How could you describe the working process on the "Souls to Deny"?
- Tense. Always tense.. some wanted to work to their ability others didn't ..those that didn't, won ultimately. I Was accustomed to influencing the genre,not following it. We eventually morphed into all the other bands which stifled our ability to lead and survive.
- During the recordings, you also had to perform the bass for some tracks. What happen? Why did Josh Barohn have to leave?
- We gave him the chance to enjoy the return with us but he couldn't shed the old baggage that would have ended us before we started.
- For that artwork you cooperated once again with Dan Seagrave. Was it a symbolic choice? What is your opinion regarding his works?
- Dan Seagrave was one aspect that fit perfectly with Suffocation.... We wanted to keep a vibe we knew worked.
- Two years later, you released the fifth full-length. At what point did you decide to release a self-titled album? Did you discuss any other possible titles?
- It was time to do it. We couldn't guarantee how many more heartfelt albums we were going to make. It was just the time for it I suppose.
- What is your favourite track? I really enjoy listening to "Redemption". Could you also select the most challenging track for you from this album? And why was is it so special?
- No tracks were too challenging. We always wrote to our ability. Bind Torture Kill was my favorite track. Why? Because I wrote it and we did the most promotion with that particular track. Ex the history channel commercial.
- "Blood Oath" was releaseв 3 years later. What can you say about the recording sessions? Looks like Joe Cincotta became your favourite engineer.
- Joe Cincotta was our proven sound man on tour .no one was more consistent night for night with our sound.. he was also local and owned his own studio. It made sense to keep the business close he deserved the opportunity.
- "Pinnacle of Bedlam" was released already after your departure from the band, but you were still invited to perform drums at "Beginning of Sorrow". Does it mean that you are still in good relationships with the band?
- I don't wish death on any of the members so I guess we are still civil..
- At the moment, you are busy with some other projects, could you tell us a bit about them? Especially about Grimm Real.
- Grimm real is my no holds barred Alias through which I create any and all forms of music with no regard to genre but definite intent to speak the truth on all topics.. it started as my personal musical diary which turned into the demise of the clone album that I did in 99' but is super relevant today still. Besides that I've been booked soI'm, recording drums for various bands via my home studio, pro tools and file sharing. I'm currently working on the Inverted Matter album. They are a band from Italy. I've been doing the hired studio work since day one of leaving suffocation.
- Besides that, you keep giving drum lessons. How often do you teach others? How people can reach you?
- I do teach drum lessons from home. I taught at the local School of Rock as well for a bit but between my day job, the hired studio work and the drum lessons I was spread thin. I had to leave the school and focus on the other outlets.
Anyone can reach me at Smithblast@gmail.com if they need to discuss drum tracks, lessons advice whatever. I've always been accessible to the fans then and now.
- Thank you a lot for this interview, Mike! Would you like to add anything in the end?
- BLEED ON OR BLEED OUT! Don't waste time , nor space. Do something or move out of the way.
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