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Chat with Don of the Dead from Nunslaughter

Nunslaughter. A name any self respecting death metal fan should know and if you don't go on you You Tube and listen to some of their amazing death metal music that have put out since 1987. They have just released a fantastic new album on Hells Headbangers and I got main guy Don to answer some questions about the early days of the band and about this new release, which by the way, you all should buy dammit:

Don, obviously Nunslaughter have been around since the early days of the underground and I could easily make this a 100 question interview ha ha, but instead I’d like to focus on the early days of the band and then slide right up to your excellent current release on Hells Headbangers Records. So how did the lovely world of underground metal find you and where are you from also?

DON: I am originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania USA. I was introduced to underground metal music by an older person in my high school. He would bring me tapes to class and tell me about a store in the city called Eides Records. Eventually, my friends and I, found to store and started buying and looking at all these bands we never heard. I believe it was a flyer on the wall that mentioned a metal show at a venue called The Electric Banana. It was at that show I met Ted Williams. He just started talking to me about a new band he was in and that they were going to be playing a show in a few weeks. That band was Dream Death. (love em-chris) From that one connection, I met most of the heavy hitters in the Pittsburgh music scene.

Now how did you come to pick up the bass and did the thought of drums or guitar enter your mind? What are some of your favourite bass players you have liked over the years?

DON: I was always a bad bassist but my brief career began when we, NunSlaughter began to form. I mentioned that I could get a bass from Ted Williams (Dream Death) and that was how it started. Ted gave me that bass and now my friend from Midnight has that bass.
I have no talent for playing bass but I do like Geezer and of course Simmons.

Now, how soon after starting to get into the underground did you decide you wanted to be or form a band? Did you know from the onset you were gonna be the singer or did you try out some people?

DON: I would say it was only about 2 years after learning about the underground metal scene that I wanted to make music. I was not the original singer for NunSlaughter, but I was the original bassist. I did sing a bit in a thrash band called Death Sentence but that was 1985 and a terrible band.
After I wrote the music for our demo Impale the Soul of Christ on the Inverted Cross of Death I asked the singer Gregoroth to sing on the demo. He declined and I decided to give it a go with me on vocals and bass. It turned out I was a better singer than bassist so eventually, I switched over to only being a vocalist.

Now how did the coming of the band come together before you had a line-up? Did you start off doing covers or did you also start to write originals as well?

DON: From the very beginning we started writing original songs. I don’t think we had the talent to learn other peoples music. In fact the lyrics to our first song, I Am Death were lyrics I originally wrote for Death Sentence. The guitarist, Jer the Butcher, was the drummer in Death Sentence and he saved the lyrics because he thought they were good.

Now in 1985, the band was known as Death Sentence and you released one demo before changing the name of the band to Nunslaughter. What are your thoughts of the band back from 1985 till 1987? What sort of music would you say it was and did you play any live shows under that name?

DON: In 1985 I was 15 or 16. That band was short-lived, maybe less than a year. We never really did an official demo rather it was a collection of rehearsal tracks we passed out to friends. We never even had a bassist so no shows were ever played and that thrash band should have been forgotten.

So now in 1987, you changed the name of the band to Nunslaughter. How did you come up with the name and logo of Nunslaughter? Have you ever gotten much shit over it over the years?

DON: None of the band can remember who came up with the name or said it first. I just remember being at a show and we tried to have a unique name. Many of the one-word name names were already taken so we decided to make a band name using two words that usually do not go together. Think Morbid Angel…what a great band name. So from there, we started to just throw out names and we all had a good laugh until someone said NunSlaughter. We stopped and looked at each other and decided that was the name.

Sure we have taken some shit over the years because of the name but that is what makes it memorable. I think right away you know what kind of music we are going to play.

The band or yourself were based out of Pittsburgh, PA and then became based out of Cleveland, OH. Any particular reason for the move?

DON: Only one reason, Jim Sadist. He was unwilling to move from the Cleveland area. At that time I was living in Hawaii and we were working on finishing recording Hells Unholy Fire. He suggested we start taking the band on tour and I decided to move to Cleveland to further the band.

Did you tape many of your rehearsals and send them out in the tape trading world to get the word out about the band way back when?

DON: It was not until 1999 or 2000 that we started sending out rehearsals. Most of the demos were written alone and then the members came together when we wanted to record. We did not have a solid lineup until I moved to Cleveland.

Now when did you think it was time to release the bands first demo which was called “Ritual of Darkness”. Were they all the original tunes you had at the time? How was the response within the underground from all the maniacs who couldn’t get enough of underground bands back in 1987? Did you send it out to many fanzines as well and what was the feedback like back then?

DON: Back then most bands did a three-song promo tape and we wanted to give more. It was shortly after we wrote the 4 songs that we decided to record. It was all the songs we had at that time. In Pittsburgh and around the music scene in Pittsburgh almost no one liked that kind of raw recording. We were overlooked by our peers but as for the worldwide scene we were accepted and another death metal band.

In 1987 Gregoroth took care of the interviews and sent out promo tapes. Unfortunately, both of our families were poor so even coming up with the money to by blank tapes was difficult. I think our first demo sold for $3 USD. We really did not know anything about what we were doing.

What was it like for you to actually have some product to sell/give out to people back then?

DON: We just didn’t have shit. It was not until 1989 that Ken Owens (Carcass) did a trade that we even had a shirt. I asked my girlfriend to paint a one-off to send to him. We just had no idea what we were doing and even if we did we had no money to do it.

Did you play many live shows around that time and did Cleveland have at least a decent underground metal scene where bands could play and turnouts were solid?

DON: Cleveland seemed to always have a great music scene. I didn’t move here until 1999 and I think that was when our first official show happened. NunSlaughter (me personally) did not want to perform live. But now all that has changed.

Was there any record stores that sold underground metal releases by labels such as Combat, Metal Blade, Noise, Earache, etc?

DON: In Pittsburgh there was Eidos. A fantastic record store and the record buyer Robbie Tabachka would order and did order goodies from all around the world.

We would, back in the day, drive up from Pittsburgh to buy records from Shattered Records and Chris’ Warped Records which were in Cleveland, Ohio and a 2-hour drive from Pittsburgh.

Between these three stores, everything was at our fingertips.

It took 2 years, but in 1989, you released a new demo, with 3 tracks be re-recordings of your debut demo) and 3 new tunes. What are your thoughts on this demo these days? One review I saw while gathering up questions for this interview gave it a 5 out of 100, which seems way too harsh in my book, but what is your opinion of this demo these days?

DON: I think even for that day and age it was a bit too heavy and raw sounding. Ill admit it does sound disgusting so 5 / 100 may not be far off but it was a favourite to a few friends and it did get pressed on vinyl by Whisper in Darkness. The 7″ Killed By The Cross is just our 1989 demo on vinyl minus 1 song.

We messed up the recording and that is the best I can come up with.

Now, how much time were you spending doing band related stuff in a week back then? I am sure by demo # 2 much mail was pouring in and dubbing tapes, promoting the band, doing mail interviews, band practice, writing new tunes, etc was taking up your time?

DON: Hell no. We never really go very much mail. Gregoroth was still taking care of the letters but it was dwindling. We had all scattered to different places and there was not the same enthusiasm we had when we were in high school.

I kept things rolling by driving all over to work with the band members but eventually, everyone quit. It was up to me to carry the torch and again, I had no idea what I was doing but I kept moving forward.

How serious was the band back in 1989? I mean death metal was huge. Was there ever a plan to send possibly your next release to a label to get a record deal or were you happy just putting out demos and playing live? What were some of the things you were noticing about the underground back then?

DON: I never really thought about putting out an album. When we were making music and recording everyone was all in but at that time people are going to college, getting married, going into the army and getting jobs so it was not our main focus. We had and still have, no label interest. We just do not get offers and I don’t ask. Frankly, I have done more for the band than most labels could do. Maybe not as fast but fuck it NunSlaughter is DIY.

What I noticed back in 1990 or so is that bands were being signed quickly but the contracts they entered into were not something I was willing to do. I mean great for them and I’m glad they did what they wanted but it was just no for NunSlaughter.

Now did you get to play many out of town shows back then and how would you rate yourselves as a live band back then?

DON: It was not until 1999 that we performed our first live show and the band has gotten better ever since.

Now an EP followed in 1990 and a demo in 1991, but I big time remember your 1993 release called “The Guts of Christ”. Did you ever send any of your releases to record labels at all and if so, what kind of response did you get?

DON: The Guts of Christ was my favourite demo. I actually pushed that demo fairly hard but again we did not gain much traction due, mainly to lower quality products. That did not deter us and we just kept on promoting and writing new material.

It took until 2000 before you released your 1st full length. Did you feel at the time it was finally time to do a full length? Was it pretty easy to come with enough tunes to do one?

DON: Much like every band all but a few songs were cobbled together from our previous demos. It was only through Jim Sadist pushing me to do an album did we manage to pull it off. A small label asked us to record and they provided a few dollars for the recording but eventually, as we neared the end, they disappeared and Repulse Records decided to release it. After a while, they decided to sell the agreement to Revenge Productions and that is who released our first album.

Jim handled most of the recording and some of the mixing. I recorded my voice in Hawaii at Rendezvous Studios. He recorded such bands as Rat Attack and Hawaii and Sacred Rite. Everything was 2″ analogue and a bitch to mix. When released Hells Unholy Fire quickly went nowhere.

Have you ever played live much of the US over the years and if so how did that go?

DON: We have not done a proper tour in the US. I think we have performed more times out of the USA than in the USA.

I know you have been overseas before playing shows. What was it like to finally play overseas after being in a band for so long?

DON: It was in 2000 our first tour happened and we had no idea what we were doing. Some of the drives were way too long. Not planned very well and underfunded. I sold my Harley Davidson to purchase the tickets and after the tour, I was in debt of almost $2000.

I had a great learning experience and met some lifelong friends along the way. In the end, it was worth it but damn I miss that motorcycle.

Now for those who don’t know, how many releases exactly does the band have out and do you have an original copy of all of them? Have you ever seen a NunSlaughter bootleg or a band do a cover tune of the band and if so what were your thoughts on them doing one?

DON: Yes. The first one I was aware of was our Ritual of Darkness demo on a boot 7″. The label was The Black Vomit. Mayhem was their first boot and NunSlaughter was #2. After that, I lost count of the bootlegs. Maybe only 10 or so. I encourage anyone to make NunSlaughter bootlegs or live shows and rehearsals.

There are many bands that have sent us their version of a NunSlaughter tune but there is also an entire CD called DEVIL METAL that has bands doing NunSlaughter covers. We are honoured.

Don, now we were both around in the early days of the underground and here we are in the later stages of 2021. What are your thoughts on the underground these days, with album sales almost non-existent, downloads everywhere, Facebook “likes”, Bandcamp pages, Instagram, YouTube, email (haha) replacing fanzines, tape trading, album hunting, live show attendance, etc.

DON: It is just the way things are done at this time. I didn’t make music to be famous or popular so those avenues and not overly important to me. It is just another way for people to hear and listen to NunSlaughter and I think it is good if that is what you want. If you are looking to make money then it is probably difficult without album sales.

With the internet, I have been able to hear many more bands than I could have back in 1987 and that is a positive. I am also able to write and communicate with people all over the world a lot faster than ever before. I confess I do not understand all of the ins and outs but I am not concerned with it either. The more music in the world the better.

How has the band taken advantage of this new technology or you don’t really give a shit much about it ha ha?

DON: I would not say we don’t give a shit. I let the younger guys tell me what I going on with Instagram and Spotify. What can I say, I make music it is up to others to figure out how to spread it around.

When do you think the band found the Nunslaughter sound so to speak?

DON: That’s difficult to say because I think for a “sound” it is ever-changing. But if you are referring to writing style, lyrical content and attitude, I think that was defined on our first demo and it has not changed nor do I want it to. We are and will always be an 80’s death metal band.

Tell me how the coming of the songs of your excellent new album called ” Red is the Color of Ripping Death” and how did you come with the title for it? Who came up with the cover art for it?

DON: The title was taken from something Jim Sadist said to a fan while we were on tour. The fan asked why we had red tour shirts and Sadist replied because “Red is the Color of Ripping Death”. I always liked that and when we were thinking of a title I mentioned this story. I think it is a nice way to pay honour to Jim.

The cover art was conceived by Guang the artist. We just told him we wanted fire, inverted crosses and Satan. The rest was up to him and I think it turned out well.

When it comes to writing new music and lyrics, do you have to be in a certain mindset to do that or it just comes naturally?

DON: It comes very naturally to all of us in the band. If it is forced then the music does not flow very well.

How long were you in the studio for and I imagine going in the studio is a piece of cake so to speak for you these days?

DON: It is / was very easy. Our guitarist owns his studio and records many of the bands from the Cleveland area. The recording went smooth and fast. What takes time is the mixing and production that goes into an album. All of that was handled by our guitarist Tormentor.

How has it been working with Chase and Hells Headbangers over the years?

DON: We have been working with Hells Headbangers for 20 years at this point. They make it easy for us to put out many releases and it does not hurt that we are friends and he lives in the same town. Chase is a bit of a recluse. I don’t see him often but we talk often either on the phone or email/texting.

Now with Covid or this new Delta shit, how do you see live shows in the future going for you?

DON: That is up to the powers that be. Winter will be shit for shows but let’s see how the world governments handle the pandemic next year.

Did you think in a million years when the band started, you would still be releasing stuff in 2021?

DON: Hell no. We were only going to release one demo and here NunSlaughter stands tall after 34 for years and countless releases. It is quite a ride.

If you did a boxed set of everything you ever released, how many pieces of vinyl or CD or would it be on ha ha?

DON: CD’s would probably be 60 – 65. The vinyl would be over 100. With so many tape only releases and small runs, we must have over 150 releases.

How much longer do you see the band being around as bands like you, Incantation, Deceased, Immolation, have been raising the death metal banner for years without changing your sound much at all?

DON: We only have one life and it is short. Interferences like health and willingness play a factor in a bands longevity. Most of us on your list will be 60+ in 2030. How much more can we hope to accomplish and do it well? The time and era of the first wave of death metal is coming to an end.

Horns up for doing this chat and any real death metal fan needs to have your new release in their collection. Any last words to wrap this interview up?

DON: In the immortal words of Jim Sadist:
METAL IS DEATH DEATH IS METAL NUNSLAUGHTER DEATH METAL

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