Interview With Cazz Grant of Crucifier
Crucifier. A name when you run of the tip of your lips any longtime underground fan smiles as this band as ozzes blistering death/black for decades now. I got in touch with Cazz Grant for an update on what his band had been doing lately:
Have you lived in the PA area all your life?
CG: I have yes. Moved around from town to town in the same county since birth. Delaware County (Delco) is pretty much a working-class area. Many musicians come from here, and a good percentage of those are metal dudes, especially from my generation!
What sort of kid were you growing up?
CG: I was mainly a keep to myself kind of kid. Played outdoors and such, but had only small groups of friends throughout my early days. I was very into family life, so I did grow up Catholic because my mom was strict about that life. But luckily I moved on from that way of life with an aggressive new way of thinking. No regrets about those early days, I always said that even being an altar boy back then was a good way to get me thinking as a young adolescent!
Did music enter your life at an early age or later on?
CG: I only started to have a fondness for music at around 9 or 10 (1980). Initially, it was old Doo Wop stuff that my dad listened to, and Michael McDonald and Van Morrison from my mom’s side. Radio music was all I had at that age, then somehow someway I came into a cassette player radio. I found Pat Benetar and J. Geils on my own, then, out of the blue, I found Blizzard of Ozz…..after that, it was ALL metal and all that I could find! We were a poor family so getting my hands on anything to listen to was very difficult. But I managed somehow!
Now when did you 1st discover music in general and then metal music in general? Was it a style you took right to?
CG: Answered most above. I was in 8th grade and we had an assignment to bring in and write on our own bands that we listened to, and as every kid in class who rode on bus 11 knew, I was going to talk about Ozzy Osbourne!! And I knew, or at least thought, that I was the coolest kid there. I was the only kid into that type of music, but…turned out that one other kid was into that kind of music too. He then did his presentation, and started playing Black Sabbath’s Zero the Hero on the nun’s record player! I nearly lost my mind, because at that age, I was shy and wasn’t really diving into other kids’ lives. But that day really changed everything! This kid Patrick Hughes was very schooled on all the things that I was into, and it was a very new and exciting friendship. He and I then hung out and even started our first band together, and that was when I knew metal and music were my life!!
Now, how about underground metal? What were some of the 1st bands that you heard and liked?
CG: Early on it was all about Ozzy and Sabbath, then Iron Maiden and Twisted Sister, and Dio. Then Candlemass and Slayer and Sodom. It was like a metal snowball that wouldn’t stop rolling and collecting good artists and music. I was at the very initial stages of my musician life, so everything I took in was key to me becoming who I was meant to be! By the time the “underground” was starting up, I was there…Hellhammer started me off, then Running Wild and Autopsy and so on…..it was a great time and age to be right in the thick of this new age of metal!!
Now, what led to taking up the drums? Did you ever consider the guitar or bass at any point?
CG: As I mentioned early on, Pat and I chatted about doing music. Pat was already super incredible on bass, schooled and seasoned, even at that young age of what 13 or 14. And we had this dude Steve who had a guitar and was interested in playing too. I think his level was a beginner. My level was really nil because I didn’t have drums, I didn’t know music or theory or anything like that. In fact, I was and still am pretty crappy at reading music. Hell, I don’t even read it haha. But I told them, hey, I love music and was willing to try, and perhaps together, we could find me a kit for us to play on. The funny story is, that that same Catholic school we were going to had a priest who worked there. His name was Father Mike, and he was in fact a drummer himself. So, we approached him about teaching me to play. I don’t recall him ever teaching me, but I do know that he did lend me his tiny 4-piece Gretsch kit! And sadly for him but good for me, I never returned that kit!! So in essence Father Mike helped me in becoming the evil bastard drummer that I am today! I dabbled in guitar in the mid-80s because two of my other good buddies from school both played. This dude Brian played a Fender and was very good, he dug music from Mercyful Fate to The Fixx, and I learned a lot from him. And this other dude Jason was into mainly Springsteen but he was pretty good at acoustic guitar. So I managed to get self-teaching lessons from just hanging with those dudes and just fiddling around! I do play most instruments now but many years have passed and I’ve managed to get quite good on my own over this long career!
Now, what were some early shows you saw before you started up Crucifier?
CG: My first show was Twisted Sister/Dio in Philly in 1984, then I saw Slayer and King Diamond in the mid to late 80s and by this time I was already playing in bands but Crucifier hasn’t been born yet. I saw some major acts growing up but not many early on.
Now how did Crucifier start up? Was it hard finding members back in the day and did you know exactly what you were looking for when you started the band up? How long did it take from when you had the idea to start the band up, did it become reality?
CG: Crucifier was born a little after other underground projects I had, like the first which I think we called Pyramid, then Satanic Slaughter (ours not the Swedish one), then Rapid Violence, then Caution (which was the very skeleton of Crucifier) and then Hemmorrage which was Crucifer but with a different name. Then once we started jamming I knew that we were going in a more Satanic direction and thought that Hemmorrage wasn’t what I thought we should strive for. So after a couple of name brainstorming sessions, we came up with Crucifier. That was 1990. It was me and two of my high school friends, Jeff Anderson and Ira Redden. We tuned the guitars down as low as we could, and it made for some of the heaviest stuff we ever heard. It was a fun time. Although we were very fresh and wet behind the ears I think we had something very special. The years to follow really challenged the band but in the end, I think the integrity stood fast.
So now early on did you know you were going to be the singer and you were also going to play drums as well? How hard was it early on to play the drums and sing and how hard is it these days seeing as you are much older now?
CG: I never considered singing and playing the drums ever, but when the first incarnation of Crucifier was only me and two guitarists, I thought, hey we need to find a vocalist. But instead of doing that, I said to the guys, hey I’m playing the drums and breathing out anyway, why not put a microphone in front of me ala Chris Reifert? And it worked, and it worked well. I did pretty well at it without much forethought! I loved it actually. It only gets difficult mainly with cover songs. I think with our own stuff I gear the lines to the music and the drum beats, but with covers, it isn’t that cut and dry. But it works. And luckily with death or black metal, you can fudge up the lyrics without too much criticism! haha
Who are some of your favourite drummers and did you ever take any lessons?
CG: I’m self-taught. Bill Ward, Tommy Aldridge, Lee Kerslake, Dave Lombardo, Mike Sus, Chuck Profus, Leonard Haze, A.J. Pero, Carmine and Vinny Appice, Pete Sandoval and Chris Reifert.
So now how did you come up with the name and logo and what were some of the early practices like for the band?
CG: In 1991 I came up with an ink drawing of the logo. It was a bit off and went in different directions. It wasn’t as balanced as most logos tend to be. And over time I reworked the logo in many different ways to give it flair. And as my artistry and drawing got better, so did the logo. I have done logos for other bands and some that I’m in today. Practices were always long and fun. Looking back it’s hard to believe that we played so much and practised so much, considering we did it most of those early years in my parent’s attic. And that house was attached to another family’s house. So, it was a miracle that the cops were only called on us twice in say over 2 decades haha
The best times and all the best people came to my folks’ house back in those days! So many wonderful bands and musicians played there.
Now Cazz, did you know about tape trading and fanzines and stuff as we had Rock n Roll Plus, Zipperhead, 3rd Street Records and other indie stores down on South Street at the time?
CG: Back in the late 80s and early 90s I was a maniac for tape trading. We spent many hours at Rock N Roll Plus in Philly and at Jeremiah’s in Delaware buying tapes and even selling tapes and other merch over the years. Back then times were so much more geared toward the underground and the young musician. Nowadays it isn’t the same. I recall trading tapes with the likes of Disembowelment and Hazarax and Crematory and Immortal….can’t do shit like that nowadays. But I was fortunate enough to be a part of that early scene. (and what a scene it was-Chris)
So how did the songs on the band’s 1st demo ” Humans Are Such Easy Prey” come together in 1991? Did you know what you wanted as far as the sound of the band goes and did you achieve it somewhat at the time with this demo?
CG: We were going to do a demo called The Unholy Trinity, right before the Humans demo. But we had some issues with the first incarnation (I had a seizure which kind of put the band on hold for a sec, and Jeff left to pursue other endeavours). And that sound of the band was sort of like Crematory meets Autopsy. Now when we met up with Dan Kamp and his buddies who later joined also, the sound changed a bit. Dan and Chris Miller and even Mike Machette at the time all had their own styles, which were great and innovative but not like the first Crucifier sound. So that difference in sound really made us go into a different sound scheme if that makes sense? I think out of all the ex-members of the band, Dan Kamp had the most input to put Crucifier where it needed to be.
Did you send it throughout the underground and what was the response to it like at the time? Looking back how do you think you did for a debut demo? Around how many did you give out/sell over the years?
CG: We gave that demo out everywhere! I think the Humans demo really got our name out there. Although it was done with a copier and dubbed tapes, it still made a very good impression on the kids at the time. I want to say that we got rid of a couple hundred over the years. I really enjoyed that demo. I think the production was very good. It was done at Snug Fit Studio, which a couple of other locals recorded at back in those days. I think the first Goreaphobia was done there as well.
Now it didn’t take long and in 1992, you were back to demo # 2, which was called “Crown of Thorns”. Did you record this at the same place and did you feel at the time and even now that it was a step up from the debut demo?
CG: I think Crown of Thorns really gave us a leg up in the scene. The cover was pro. And the ideas were eviler and although the production was not as good as the first, it really boosted our name. That one was not recorded at Snug Fit, but at a studio called Echo Studios in Tullytown Pa. I think bands like Cemetery Earth and others recorded there. I thought it was received better but the production was lacking. But overall it was definitely a step up in most respects.
Did you get to play many shows around this time? I know you played G Wilker’s I’m sure, but did you get to play out-of-state shows at all?
CG: We played Willikers all the time. Loved that place. We were received well there too which made it easier to give it you are all. I think we played in Va and other states back then.
How would you say you were as a live band back then? Would you say you weren’t bad and how much of a blast was it playing live back in the day as live shows were fantastic?
CG: I think with some of our stage antics and props we might have made an impact. The music was good in its own right. But I think that Satanic imagery put us over the time in most clubs. Nowadays everyone is doing that kind of stuff, so it’s not really something we do anymore. But we always give it our all on stage.
In 1993 you began work with Pagan Records, out of Poland as they released “Unparalleled Majesty”. How was it working with them?
CG: Tomasz and Pagan Records were very good to us. They really gave us a direct path to follow with regard to careers.
Now I’m not gonna go over every release ha ha, as this interview would be a novel. When do you think you started to hit the Crucifier sound? Exactly what is the Crucifier sound?
CG: I think our sound was nailed later in 2003 with the Stronger LP. That kind of was the new definition of Crucifier sound for me anyway. Although I was a big fan of most of our varieties of sounds over the year. In fact, the pre-demo sound was so heavy that I’m surprised I didn’t keep that sound all the way until now, but I thought it would muddy up some of the recordings, so I opted to tune up a little later on.
Now after a few more releases (demo, compilation, EP, etc) you began work with Death to Mankind Records who issued your first full-length in 2003 called “Stronger than Passing Time”. What are your thoughts on this record now and how tough was it to write a full-length release seeing as how before it was EP’s and demos, etc?
CG: Writing was easy, especially on Stronger mainly because most of the songs were demo-era songs re-recorded. But I think the writing style has always been the same, especially now. It’s quite easy for us to write. I think the challenge is in the re-editing because I am never happy, I think riffs can always be improved. So that can always be tough.
Now the underground had really started to change by 2003 and long gone were tape trading and even printed fanzines were starting to fade and the internet began to rear its head. How did you as a band embrace this technology, which to me has good and bad things?
CG: I was always a nerd type, I embraced the internet and tech culture. Even in the early days, it was invaluable for connections and communications with fellow musicians. So in that regard, it was great. Now it does take the money and other things away from you in the end though. YouTube and others like that definitely can alter an income, as it were. But luckily for guys like me, it isn’t about money. We do this for adrenaline and love and passion and brotherhood….it was always about being evil and pure and fresh in a world of boring music. I love the internet but yes it has its downsides.
Now from 2003 till 2008, the band released nothing new. Did you (as you are the leader of the band) put the band on hold to concentrate on working and playing with other bands at the time and how in 2008 did you end up working with Time Before Time Records on a 4-way band split? How easy was it to get the band together to record these songs? It is quite the release too.
CG: I did many things during the “downtime” with Crucifier. I’ve always had projects and other bands going on during the years. The Time Before Time release was easy cooperation. We’ve always been pretty good pals with many dudes over the years and anytime someone wanted us on their splits it was welcomed. I can’t really recall recording for those songs haha getting old! But I’m sure we managed somehow. We’ve always had a good pocket of musicians to choose from and I’m sure it worked out easily. I tended to procrastinate back in the day, on top of having personnel issues, so not releasing new stuff was sort of our “thing”. But as I get older I see that ultimate end on the horizon and actually write a little faster now. I can’t really put things on hold as I could in the old days. Band mates’ schedules are too precious for that.
In 2009 an EP came out, which I remember the big time on Paragon Records called “Trampled Under Cloven Hooves”. I know this went over really well in the underground from what I remember. What are your thoughts on this EP these days where did you record it and was it working with Paragon Records at the time?
CG: Paragon was great to work with. Recording locally with Dave Spencer was easy and fun too. I recall it being well received over the first few months of its release too. Then we managed to put it out on disc with Lost Apparition Records too.
Now for the hell (ha ha) plug any of the other bands you are currently in and feel free to add social media sites if you wish.
CG: Currently I’m soon to put out the newest Hearse album with all new tracks. It is being put out by Sinistrari Records and should be out first on CD in January (I’m sure it’s out by now-Chris), and then soon after on vinyl! Hearse was a band we did during the downtime with Crucifier and GBK and Bludgeon. We put out two demos and a couple of vinyl comps over the years but this new one will be a whole new experience. The Hearse in my opinion will be a crusher for the new year!!! Crucifier also signed a deal with Iron Bonehead Records for 5 years, and we’re in the midst of putting out an ep with them entitled “Say Your Prayers” and should be out next month as well! A brand new full-length album from Crucifier will follow that ep release and hopefully will get done in the Spring of 2022, that will be titled “….led astray.” Visit weltenfeind.com for Crucifier info!
In 2013, Iron Bonehead Records did a limited edition double 12″ of your music called “Coffins Through Time… a Mourning in Nazareth”. That must have been really cool to see come out as they are a cool and honest label even though I don’t love every band they sign. What was your reaction when they emailed you about doing such a thing? What were it like getting a copy of it through the mail and I am sure this is long gone as far as copies go?
CG: Working with Patrick is always a great time! He is very honest and that is a great departure from what we’ve known over the last few years. I was very happy to work with IBP. And although we’ve had other offers, I think Pat’s label is a good home for Crucifier! Yes, I have no copies here! haha That is a good thing I think!
Now we fast forward to 2018 and Deathrune Records did a digital release (a full-length one) called “Thy Sulfur Throne on High”. How do you keep on with the desire to keep the band going seeing as this release is 5 years after the one in 2013? How did this release do seeing as it is a digital-only release?
CG: Well in my mind, and I think you can understand, Crucifier never dies. We can go into hibernation or whatever, but in the end, it goes on. It’s like I tell my bandmates….”Crucifier is much bigger than all of us at this point in time”! So, time, at least for the not so passed future was something we had, so taking a break wasn’t an issue. However, now, I have been feeling the anxious need to hustle. So you won’t really see that long time in between releases now. And especially working with a great label, it helps to stay motivated. Sulfur Throne was digital but it was also released on cd and vinyl. The DTM guys apparently don’t do much distro work, so you won’t see it in other places. It is kind of annoying, but, as I tell the band members, let’s move forward and keep the past releases in the history books. It helps to keep me sane.
Does it sadden you in some ways the way the underground is with so many bad and below-average bands and so many labels signing these bands and putting their stuff out? How have you as a musician reacted to this?
CG: I’ve always been an old elitist prick in most respects, so, I’ve never been akin to enjoying new stuff just for the sake of it being new. If something new strikes my fancy I’ll give it props. But overall the new stuff lacks something. They can play fast and extreme, but in the end, it seems they lost something along the way. Not to say they all aren’t interesting, but overall I don’t find myself a big fan of new music. And with the technology today, any guy can put out wonderful sounding garbage, it’s just the way it is. And we have to take all that into account when discovering new stuff. At least an old veteran myself follows that ideal.
Now I know not too long ago mentioned on your Facebook account that there will be some new upcoming music from the band in the future, which is great news. Can you fill us in on when you hope to have it out and what label will it be coming out on?
CG: I touched on this above in another question. But yes the new Crucifier EP is underway right now and should be released early next year (2022). Also, we need to go into the studio to record drums for the next full length too. The songs are written and ready for recording. We just need to nail down a studio for recording. I want to try and work with Studio Crash out of Philadelphia, they were the ones who recorded the Stronger full length. I love that sound and hope to get it with the new album “…led astray.”
Now do you have original copies of all your releases and what stuff is still for the sake and what stuff is long gone, minus the demos of course? Is there any unreleased stuff that may see the light of day?
CG: I have mostly only my own copies, minus a couple of cassette eps from the old days. I almost don’t have anything to sell at this point. But on the horizon, now that we are with Iron Bonehead, I was thinking we should do a bunch of splits or one-offs over the course of the next year or so. We are working with Sinistrari Records on some other stuff and they might do a thing or two for us down the road. We’ll see how things go.
Live shows. Where is the furthest you have played away from PA and do you think you are a good live band and what are some of your personal favourite shows you played on and have seen as a fan?
CG: We’ve been to Houston. And that was a great time. I think we held our own there, considering the talented guys they had play there. Back in the day I always enjoyed Corpus Rottus and Profanatica. Immolation and Incantation were always a good time. And my fave back in the old days was Lesch-Nyhan and Hazarax!! Nowadays there are a couple of good ones….Mortem, Imprecation, Nocturnus and some others.
How long do you see yourself being in bands and stuff?
CG: I’ll never stop.
Please plug any merchandise and any social media sites you have?
Any questions hit me up on Facebook or [email protected]
Cazz, Horns up for doing this chat, any last words to say the floor is yours.
CG: Chris as always thank you for a great interview. Always fun answering your questions…hell been doing that for years now!! Thanks to all the fans and friends for their support and best to everyone for a healthy covid-free new year haha