Where were you born and where did you grow up? What sort of kid were you growing up? Did you have many friends?
JB: I was born in Bristol, PA. I grew up there and in lower Bucks County til I was 5. Then moved to upper bucks county til 7th grade I got moved around a lot, tossed around by my parents. I ended up in Doylestown PA for high school. Then was put in an alternative school graduating in 88. Went to college for a couple of years but dropped out to be more focused on my musical aspirations.
I was a pretty normal kid for the 1st few years. But then again normal to me as I learned later in life was far from the norm. My father bartended at a bar called Phil’s in Penndel PA. I would be there often hanging around picking up on killer music and all sorts of bad habits and really bad attitudes.
It was a biker bar lot of violence and pain went on in there. So I was pretty numb to that type of stuff. I thought it was customary to act like that. Later in junior high school, this would become useful. I used to get suspended a lot for beating up bullies, smoking and cutting school. This type of behaviour melded well with my obsession with heavy metal and going to shows.
I had friends all over the county. My best friends were a regional thing since my parents separated. So I had fun in a couple of different towns.
How did you discover metal?
JB: What were some of the 1st bands that you heard and liked? Was it like a drug that you couldn’t get enough of?
Being raised in bars most of my early years I was exposed to a lot of music. Also, my father besides bartending was a pianist so I had a love for Beethoven and Bach. Dad also had a thing for old country music so I had that love for Hank Williams and shit like that as well. I was into everything rock-wise like AC/DC, Sabbath Ozzy, Led Zep, the easy-to-obtain shit. My best friend Jay’s older brother had a massive record collection with shit tons of obscure metal. he always had a “you ever hear of this band” moment. We used to borrow/trade metal all the time. It was definitely addicting. My favs were Venom, Mercyful Fate, Bathory, Kreator, Destruction, Celtic Frost, Voivod, Slayer, Exodus, and Nuclear Assault shit along those lines. Shit got out of control quick. We were going to shows like 3x a week. Philly Trenton N.Y. whatever it took we would get there. It was an amazing time to live in!
Now when did you decide to pick up the bass? Did you have any desire to pick up the guitar at all? Who are some of your favourite bass players?
JB: I actually am a guitarist. (I picked up the bass to join Deteriorate during the second recording of Rotting In Hell sometime around April 1993.) I started guitar around 6th grade but didn’t get serious til high school. My first recorded band was Random Draw ( you reviewed our 1st demo some time around 89-90)
-Favorite guitarists are Hendrix and Malmsteen
-Favorite bassists are Steve DiGorgio and Les Claypool
-Favorite vocalist-Mike Patton (yeah i know)
-Favorite Drummer -Frost
Now in the 90’s we had plenty of record stores in the area and plenty of shows made their way into Phila, PA and the surrounding areas. What are some classic shows you saw back in the day that you still remember?
JB: The shows in the late 80s were more memorable for me. Voivod Killing technology/Kreator Pleasure to kill tour was amazing City Gardens.Violence/Testament tour. Voivod/Faith No More Soundgarden at City Gardens. Ultimate Revenge 2 was awesome. Death at Empire Rock Club. Danzig 1st tour same place. At The Gates. Type 0 at the Cell Block was interesting.
Slayer South of Heaven? mischief night and Halloween. 2 nights in a row were awesome. Crumbsuckers on Long Island. DBC at Streets in New Rochelle NY CYNIC opened. Entombed at Cell Block beyond sick. Any numerous Morbid Angel shows. Candlemass at G Wilikers was super cool. Like 40 people there it was like the jammed just for me and my friends. I want to say Nightfall tour? I’ve been to hundreds. I could go on and on. Tons of duplicates. More recent Abbath was really entertaining. Also saw Mr Bungle in Brooklyn right as covid came to bloom.
I think you were at most of the shows I’ve been to pre 1999 lol. Watains first east coast show was crushing.
I stood behind Pete Sandovals feet onstage at the Trocodero one night. I went to see Morbid Angel after my band Random Draw opened on a bill at G Wilikers earlier that evening. I scored a couple of backstage passes and stood jaw dropped watching Pete from behind his feet he was literally head level.
That was pretty cool then went and chilled in the dressing room. Trey was treating his wounds with peroxide and shit. all kinds of candles lit and books laying around. I think I saw you backstage that night doing an interview maybe?
I went to March Metal Meltdown #1 I think it was. Was hanging out with Napalm Death shooting the shit with Shane and Tomas Lindberg from at the gates about the killing of Euronymous. someone said Fuck Euronymous or something like that and Shane said something hilarious Tomas was practically crying and said weeping “He was my friend” and Shane yelled something else hilarious we were all laughing our asses off except Tomas. Life is cruel. I wish I remembered more details. Joe Gorski was with me. It was one of the many great times at shows I had.
What were/are some of your favourite styles of metal?
JB: I guess black death metal would be top. also into doom, funeral doom, cold grim black metal, grindcore, symphonic black and death, sludge, slam, noise, hardcore, and technical death metal. anything heavy and evil sounding.
Now you don’t play on Deterioate’s debut called “Gather the Nebbish” which came out on the now closed JL America. What were your thoughts on this album when it came out? Did you see the band many times when it was released and they played live?
JB: I think you mean Rotting in Hell… I actually could have played bass but didn’t end up doing backing vocals and mixing/producing on that cd. I didn’t because I and Mike Trush are and were really good friends. it wouldn’t have been right. So Joe did the tracks. Shame because Mikes bass playing is so killer! He had a huge part in the creation of the Deteriorate sound I was helping them out at the beginning with sound/lights and gear. circa mid 92?
I would go to practice with Mike or meet him there in the early days. If Mike was running late I would mess around on his bass while the band was working on the songs. During the recording for the second version for Rotting, i guess frank and mike had a falling out(you would have to ask them) and frankly asked me to join. They had a show coming up that May of 93 opening for Obituary and Fear Factory at the cell block. I had less than 30 days to master 10 songs. was a great show! When the album came out and during the recording, i thought these guys were amazing and had a different take on the death metal genre. it was really catchy stuff. All the demos were heavy as fuck!
Now in 1994, the band asked you to join up with them. How did this occur and how long did it take you to say “yes” haha? Were you in another band or just jamming around so to speak?
JB: See the previous question on joining the band…at the time I was writing songs for Existence my technical death stuff but once I joined Deteriorate I dedicated my time to them.
How long did it take before you fit right in with the band and began writing new tunes with them, which came out in a demo called “Gather the Nebbish”? How come no drummer is credited with playing on this?
JB: It clicked pretty quick. We all got along really well and had similar musical influences. The writing began almost immediately. after a few shows with them, we really gelled. I had tons of riffs they had tons. we would do the live set at practice and then work on new riffs and assemble them as we went. sometimes a song would get finished in one session.
Now were they still on JL America at this time or was that label on its way towards becoming the Titanic?
JB: If I remember correctly we weren’t happy with JL America regardless and we were shopping for a new label which started when we played the Knoxville Tennessee death fest around 95 late 94 maybe? We had offers from Napalm Records (which I voted for) Pavement really wanted to work with us (my second choice) and a slew of others came after playing in Knoxville. Ultimately we signed with Pulverizer Records which was voted on by the band. From what I remember Randy’s contract gave us more rights towards ownership of our music and was a one CD deal which was important to us. Plus we were a high priority to Randy versus a label with tons of bands nailing it.
Was the band playing live a lot and writing letters and stuff and looking for a new label, as that was why the band put out a new demo?
JB: Frank certainly did a lot of mail. He sends out CDs and flyers. He was big on tape trading. Believe it or not, we would get tons and tons of mail and Frank would divvy it up so we could help him. He was so overwhelmed by it at one point plus postage costs didn’t help the situation.
We put out the new demo because we had new material at the time and we wanted to get it out there while we were hot so to speak. It was kind of a transitional demo so sensuous didn’t ruin our rep(?). That didn’t work out too well obviously. I felt putting both of those together on one CD was a stressful mistake.
Did you get a lot of label interest with this new demo? Did you send it out to any many labels you knew of?
JB: We did. part of the reason for playing Knoxville death fest was that a lot of labels were there. They had tables or booths set up on the sides of the venue. It was a lot of fun. I wish that format was still used today. Frank sent out tons of them and we sold some. Not sure how many were made. But it seemed like it was well received.
In 1996, Pulverized Records released your 2nd album called “Gather the Nebbish”, which was a big change of pace from the debut album and even you in which you play keyboards, some vocals, and bass on it. It is way more black metal, especially the vocals. Why the big change in sound? Is this what Pulverizer wanted?
JB: So Gather the Nebbish was an EP/ demo we made after Rotting in Hell… around late 94? did it come out?..by mid-95? we were playing these songs live and the CD was called “the Senectuous Entrance” with Gather the Nebbish as bonus tracks. The genre change was really just a natural progression of songwriting and Gannons vocals took it further into the blackness. We felt really good about it and didn’t care what anyone thought. Live those songs were crushing. Like a friggin unholy freight, train shit was sick. By late 96 we were working on the next album that never got recorded. Again it was progressing so well that we were totally on fire and it would have been an epic release. Pulverized loved where we were going with it.
Looking back, do you think the band should have kept more of its death metal sound and lost the black metal?
JB: I was cool with it either way. The album we didn’t record had more diverse vocals so that might of satisfied the death side more.
How was it working with a label like Pulverizer Records? Did they treat you pretty good for the time you were on there as a band?
JB: As far as merch and shows it was ok. Randy was cool. But the money thing got messed up of course. I didn’t really care about the money though I was more focused on touring. Speaking of touring in between labels we turned down a great tour that I remember. A Morbid Angel 40-date tour and I think another tour with Deicide. Unfortunately our 1st drummer Rich couldn’t do those tours so we were forced to say no. We eventually found Chris Dark Woods to play the drums who was like 16 when we recorded the Senectuous Entrance. Amazing drummers both of them!
How was the response to this new release? Do you think the reviews were fair? Did you get to play many shows after the release of it?
JB: Yeah I think it was well received. You can’t please everyone. We played quite a few shows in support of that release. We turned down a ton too.
How soon after the release did the band break up? Was there just low morale in the band at this point or was there a lot of fighting or was it just a band decision overall to break up? Did you all pretty much stay friends after the breakup?
JB: I think it was a good year and a half. Really one small argument over a set list was how it ended. We were playing a show in NYC that was going to be the first live metal show on the web from what I remember, forget who all was on it but it was a huge deal at the time. Yeah, we stayed friends, especially Joe and me. We packed up and moved to south Florida shortly after.
Did you miss much of being in the band after it happened? Do you know if either album is still for sale in some way shape or form?
JB: Best music years of my life hell yeah I miss it. For a minute on eBay, an original Rotting in Hell CD was like #1 most expensive death metal release. Like $200! It was tied with 1st press and possessed seven churches cd (which I have one).
It has been reissued on double vinyl and CD through Dark Symphonies. All demos are included with Rotting In Hell. Sick package. There are patches out there from Pull The Plug. Shirts from Russia. I’m always getting requests to rerelease these things. But I don’t own any of pre-gather the Nebbish so that goes through Frank. I’ve seen bootleg merch for sale on eBay as well.
So what did you do with yourself after the band broke up?
JB: Joe and I started Treading On Divine shortly after the breakup. We started it here then moved to South Florida. We had some good times down there. Numerous members. No shows. I was in a couple of bands down there don’t even remember their names. But it was fun. Huge scene. Totally different vibe. By 2000 I was back here soloing the Treading thing and had numerous guys helping me out at rehearsal spaces over the years. I sang for a band called Live Suffer Die that was hardcore /lamb of God type shit. I played bass in Silveth out of philly killer band, now is half of the band Master. I played the guitar for T.O.M.B. for a few years. And about 7 years ago I met Gary Hadden from Lesch Nyhan played with them for a bit then Gary was interested in singing for Treading and we hit it off. We had my long-time friend Johnny on drums. Like 3 years ago he quit and we had Craig Smilowski for a while which was a really great time. I always admired Craig and jamming with him was like a dream. The first couple Immolation albums are gold. It was a real honour spending the amount of time that I got with him. But he ended up being too busy. Then Brian Deal was with us for a few months until covid hit then he was done. I’m giving you the major condensed version of the history of Treading On Divine there are other interviews of done with more details out there. So Gary had a friend down in Maryland help us get our 2021 release made. Mike Connors from Unendlich. He was a major push for us and recorded our debut Embrace the Dark. I feel relieved to get these songs off my roster some are over 20 years old! I have at least two more albums worth of material right now. But alas were again drummerless. Story of my life.
Was there ever any talk about the band getting back together over the years? How has been the response to the Facebook page I assume you put up?
JB: We have had so much interest in a reunion from various people over the years. It’s always a possibility I’m totally down. I’ve asked these guys a million times..but I guess until the right offer comes I can’t get the members I need to make it amazing. It’s complicated but not impossible. I think the FB page is a dud I don’t know if it’s active can’t remember if it’s a member ran page or not. Add it to my to-do list….
What are you doing with yourself these days?
JB: Working on finding a drummer and getting the next Treading On Divine release recorded. And hopefully playing some shows to support Embrace The Dark!
Do you have copies of both of the band’s albums and either of the demos they did?
JB: I do. And Mike Trust has a master copy of the alternate studio version of Rotting In Hell. Such a different release much darker and old-school sounding. More like Old Slayer versus old Cannibal Corpse recording-wise.
Favourite memories of your time in the band? Who did you share the stage with while in the band?
JB: My favourite memory is we were onstage I forget where and we all looked at each other and nodded because it sounded so crushing, we could feel the connection through the music everything just felt right for the 1st time in our lives and it felt so good to have achieved that level of musicianship. Hard to explain but It was all great for me.
Opening for or played on bill with Death, Carcass, Obituary, Suffocation, Sinister, Fear Factory, Master, Human Remains, Ancient, Immolation, Vital Remains, Cannibal Corpse, Broken Hope, Brutality, Mortician, Naplam Death, Deicide, Internal Bleeding, Incantation, Bolt thrower, GWAR, Brutal Truth, Malevolent Creation and with other bands Dark Funeral, Finntroll, Daath, Arsis, Gut, Sunn(()), Dead In The Dirt, Today is the Day, Faith or Fear, Judge, Gorilla Biscuits, hard to remember so many bands so long ago
Any crazy road stories to share?
JB: Opening for Master in Chicago a riot broke out after one of our fans broke a bottle over some dudes head the place was mobbed and we literally sat in the middle of the chaos banging our beer bottles on the table chanting Master! Master! Master! The police came in swarms and shut it down. What a night!
Another more recent one was when I was in T.O.M.B.
We opened for Sunn(()) and Dead In The Dirt. I was playing my guitar with a violin bow that night. As the set got going people start blacking out and hitting the floor from the sludgy black doom riffs I was hitting with that bow. That was a first I never knew of such a phenomenon until that night. There were a couple write-ups about it if I remember correctly. I mean every show I ever played something crazy went down it was always something.
Do you still talk with any of the former members and do they know about the Facebook page that is up?
JB: I talk to Mike the most and Frank once in a blue moon. The FB stuff never comes up.
Any merchandise for the band, even if it bootlegged ha ha?
JB: Yeah like I was saying there’s vinyl and CDs at Dark Symphonies unless it sold out.
You know since JL America is no more, any label or yourself can release the debut album?
Pulverizer Records, you would have to contact them about that.
Yeah, so I’m told. Got a couple of different guys that want to reissue the Senectuous Entrance but I’m a little too busy working on Treading On Divine at the moment to worry about it.
What sort of people has contacted you on the band’s Facebook page so far?
JB: I get messenger hits all the time asking if so and so the label can reissue Rotting. YouTube gets a lot of plays. Cool comments as well. Lots of fans from all over the globe. It’s really cool after all these years to still have an interest in our art.
Horns up for doing this and sharing some old memories. Any last words to wrap this up, the floor is yours.
JB: Hey Chris thanks a lot man. If anyone is interested in a Treading On Divine CD Digi pack I have a few left hit me up at [email protected]
or we have a band camp page where you can buy or listen there Treading On Divine@bandcamp.
And if anyone is a drummer in Southeastern PA and like our music hit me up at my email. Thanks again, Chris!