How well has the “Blood Oath” album been received?
Guy Marchais: Very well. People seem to like the production, the songs, the writing and everything more. It’s been going pretty well so far with everybody.
What is the meaning of the title?
It’s like we all took an oath to the music that we play. We always played metal so we figured “Blood Oath” was a fitting name for the album and for everybody else who has always been into metal.
There are five figures on the album cover. Is that because Suffocation is a five piece band?
Yeah, those are the symbols of us taking our oath, making it more evilish. We’re not really that kind of satanic band or nothing like that but that’s more of a ritual kind of thing, showing that we are committed to our music.
And what are the lyrics about?
“Come Hell Or High Priest” was written by Mike and it’s basically about the system of religion and problems in religion. “Blood Oath” is about taking your oath to death metal. “Cataclysmic Purification” is about the end of something Everything is just boiling up to a point where no-one knows what’s going to happen and where we will go.
The sound of “Blood Oath” is probably less thick than it used to be and all the instruments have more space than before. Is this what you wanted to achieve this time?
Yeah, of course. We want everything to be heard properly. The older albums, like the first two ones, especially “Effigy Of The Forgotten”, have more of a muddy guitar sound. Even my old band used to sound differently: more muddy, mid-ranges cut all the way down. I think the new album sounds better than the last two before. We always try to make it better and better. We try to make it sound heavy and clear at the same time. You can make it sound heavy and muddy but it will not be clear. For me, the “Blood Oath” album is the best recording we’ve got. The older albums are classics to me, I enjoy listening to them, they will always will be heavy to me. I loved them back then and I still love them now. “Effigy” sounded HEAVY and I loved it right away. “Breeding The Spawn” has sick songs, sick song structures, is very technical but the recording is fucked up. And “Pierced From Within” is like a rebound: clear, heavy, great songwriting. That’s one of my favorite albums. “Despise The Sun” is a fast album, technical again but more speed involved. When we did “Souls To Deny”, we kind of rushed in the studio. The songwriting is there but the recording is not quite what we really wanted, it’s a little too rushed on everything. Then when we did the self-titled album, we took our time more and experimented a little bit. So it sounds good, sounds different, it’s clear, but that’s not the way we normally record an album. We wanted to try something different and we like that one a little better than “Souls To Deny”. And we’re all pretty happy with “Blood Oath”, with the recording and everything.
You have been planning on bringing out a DVD for years now. When can we expect it to be out finally?
It’s already been worked on. And it went from being just a DVD with live and behind the scenes recordings and stuff to being almost a movie. So it’s going to have live, personal lives, old and new stuff, interviews and everything. We’ve been saying for a while that we wanted it to be out already by now but we ran into a couple of problems. The guy who’s putting it together for us is a great, huge friend of ours but somebody broke into his house and stole all his shit. All his cameras and the hard drives and everything he has put it on. He had backed up stuff and we had this stuff so we had to start all over and give him the stuff again. Then one of his hard drives broke. He still had the information on another hard drive but a lot of editing was lost. So it’s still being worked on and we’re hoping to have it by October of this year but I don’t think we can have it by October. Maybe we’ll have it done by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, your former record label, Roadrunner brought out a “Best Of Suffocation” compilation album. What do you think of that?
I think it’s good. It’s not really a “best of”, they’ve put “Effigy” and “Pierced” on that. They didn’t put any “Breeding The Spawn” on that, they basically put the two good sounding albums together and re-released them. They did that a while ago. I don’t know when it came out over here but it’s been out in the States for a long time. They’ve put it out pretty much after the band reformed, I guess just to make some more money because those albums are out of print and they don’t make them anymore. But that’s what the record labels do. All the bands start again and they put the CD-s out again.
And how’s your cooperation with Nuclear Blast going? Do they give you the support and promotion that you deserve?
So far, we’re very happy with Nuclear Blast. We’re on a personal level with them, talking with them. If there’s anything we need we can call them, we have people we can call. And when they need something from us they can get in touch with us very easily. So far, there’s no complaint, they’re a very good label.
There’s a re-recorded track from “Breeding The Spawn” on both your self-titled album and “Blood Oath”. Did you re-record the whole album?
No we didn’t. We’re talking about doing something like that but honestly it’s a lot of work. There are a lot of notes involved on “Breeding The Spawn”, it’s very technical. Probably one of the most difficult albums I can think of. So for now, we’re just doing one song on one album, one on another album… I don’t know if we’ll do another one on the next album.
You played a quite bizarre show in Vienna, Austria some years ago: Terrance Hobbs couldn’t make it there because his passport was stolen and Derek Boyer broke his leg so he played sitting. Could you tell us some other hilarious stories from the band’s tours?
Yeah. We’ve left Frank in numerous locations. I know that before I was in the band, they were playing in Europe and left him in Spain and the bus drove on. From what I heard, that was pretty bad because the bus kept on down the road and there were no cell phones at that time so he couldn’t call anybody. And then we were touring in South America and we had a lot of airplane flights. We were on our way from Peru to Ecuador and Frank missed that flight. They could have let him on but I guess they didn’t want to. Luckily, he remembered somebody’s phone number and he ended up getting another flight so he had a flight to Panama and then flew to Ecuador and just made it to the show in time. And there was another time when we played in Belgium. We played the show, then left very late at night. Early in the morning, when we’re hungry, we stop by the roadside and some people are up and eat or get some food. But I think at that point everybody was sleeping except for the driver and Frank went to the bathroom. He came out and saw the bus driving away (we were on our way to Paris). That was a bad one because he didn’t have any money or anything. He was able to call Derek but Derek was sleeping so when he woke up he had like fifty missed calls on his phone from Frank. So they sent a car all from Paris the way back to Belgium to pick up Frank. And he was there with no money, no nothing, all day long… And in Nottingham, England, we were out drinking from the minute we woke up. We didn’t have a show on that day so we wanted to get breakfast – so we had breakfast and Guinness beer. Then we had lunch and beer, went to another bar and hung out in that bar for a while and drank. Later on, at night, we went to a third bar… And I don’t really remember the third bar. I remember taking a cab back to the bus, then I fell down at the side of the bus and threw up. But they left me. It was cold and I fell asleep on the concrete. They went to another bar and when they came back, I was still laying there. That’s when I went on the bus and I fell down again. So that was a bad one.
Which Suffocation tour would you name as the bet one so far?
I really liked it when we did a US tour with Fear Factory. Fear Factory is cool but also on that tour were Hypocrisy and Decapitated. That was right before Decapitated went to Russia and had that accident. That was a really fun tour, hanging out with the Decapitated guys and the Hypocrisy guys. They were really cool dudes and we had fun time on that tour. Every tour has some fun things but another memorable one was with Morbid Angel when the band first reformed and it was a risky tour. We had a good time with them, hanging out every night… And it seems we always tour with Napalm Death. We toured in Europe with Napalm Death, we toured in Japan with Napalm Death, we toured in South America with Napalm Death. They’re one of my favorite bands to tour with, they’re all cool dudes. Cool guys to hang out with. They love us, I think, and we love them just as much… When you’re on tour, though, you don’t get to see half the shit, there’s so much stuff I haven’t seen. We’ve been to Paris at least four times but I never got to see the Eiffel tower. I mean I’ve finally seen it but I’ve never been in it. We’ve been to England a bunch of times but never seen Stonehenge. We’ve been to Italy or Greece a bunch of times and I’ve never seen any of the landmarks. We’ve been to a lot of places but don’t get to see good stuff.
How come you screwed up “Catatonia” at the Brutal Assault festival (Czech Republic) on both occasions you played there?
Ha ha! I don’t know, I think we’re cursed on that song. I remember the first time we screwed up on that song we hadn’t played it for a while. It was me to screw it up the first time. We were playing and I forgot what I was doing. I was like “Oh fuck!..” Sometimes we need to practice, sometimes we don’t. Most of the older songs just come easily. I don’t know what I was thinking, I don’t know what it was. But I screwed that up, sorry. The second time, I remember before we got on stage, we said: “We’ve got to play “Catatonia” and we can’t fuck it up. We fucked it up the last time we played here so let’s not fuck it up.” But Terrance had a problem with his pedals. The cord came out or the battery was low, but something was wrong with his pedals, and we stopped – right on an important part. We couldn’t believe it happened. And you can see it on Youtube. We’ve seen it on Youtube ourselves. Well, whatever. We’re Suffocation but we’re not perfect. Everybody fucks up. We played in Seattle (I think it was on the Morbid Angel tour), we played “Suspended In Tribulation” and came to a part where Terrance was supposed to go. We were playing, then we stopped, Terrance was supposed to go and there was nothing. We were like: “What happened?” And Terrance was like: “Sorry, I’m very high today.” Shit happens.
On the Suffocation Myspace site, there are lots of photos of fans with Suffocation tattoos. What do you think of that?
I think it’s really cool. Probably there’s a bunch that’s not even up there. There is some I haven’t got the chance to put on there yet. But I’m sure there’s a lot of people out there with them now and it’s really cool. We’re really appreciative of them doing that. There’s that symbol that we came out with, with all the spikes on it, on the self-titled album and people started to get that one now. Actually, the first person that ever got it (on his forearm) was Shawn Whitaker from Viral Load. He’s a great guitar player, a friend of ours. We also have friends at home who have it. We have a friend who has a full arm Suffocation tattoo. Another friend has got this Suffocation symbol across the whole side of his body. Really cool!
What do you think of today’s extreme metal scene? Are there any bands or musicians nowadays that influence you?
The death metal scene? There are some spots that are really good and there are some others that suck. But probably overall the best scene for death metal is going to be South America, I think. Those fans are crazy. They’re dedicated, very much into music. You go to South America and you would think you are a pop band the way they are. Really crazy. And there’s a lot of bands down there that we played with down there, that I met and that gave us CD-s. So I have a lot of CD-s at home I haven’t even listened to yet. Other than that, I listen to old death metal. I’m not really into a lot of newer death metal. The newest stuff that I listen to is Gojira. I like Gojira but I can’t listen to it every day. I like Machine Head and I listen to a lot of Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa, King Crimson and stuff like that… Cephalic Carnage is cool, they’re good friends of mine and Leonard influences Terrance for sure, ha ha! Actually, Leonard came out to one of our shows and brought Terrance a vaporizer for weed that’s made of metal and has “Suffocation” on it which is really cool. He brought it to Suffocation but it’s Terrance’s now. He’s a cool guy. But if anything is influencing me in death metal, probably the first name that comes to my mind is Matt Sotelo from Decrepit Birth. Their music’s great, I appreciate it but I can’t listen to it really. Derek loves them. But I think Matt is a fucking amazing guitar player. I love listening to him. If anything that’s new would influence me, that would be him, his guitar playing. I would like to be a player like that but I won’t. Different styles…
How does it feel to hear a band that is obviously influenced by Suffocation?
I appreciate it a lot. I think it’s cool that there’s a lot of bands (that are well known and new) that were influenced by us. And some of them are huge. There are a couple of bands out there that we know personally and that have platinum records. Slipknot are friends of ours. Also bands like Suicide Silence or The Black Dahlia Murder love us. When we see those bands in magazines that aren’t death metal but newer type of death metal, wearing our shirts on stage, it’s cool. It’s a good thing, I guess.
And how do you view the overall acceptance of extreme metal today?
I think it’s more accepted today. I can remember when I was in high school listening to “Ride The Lightning” by Metallica, the other kids in the school (unless they were metal heads, which they weren’t that many – in my school anyway) couldn’t understand the lyrics. They were like: “This music’s all noise, I can’t understand the lyrics.” And then all of a sudden, it became bigger and bigger. More people got into it, listened to it, everybody caught on and liked it finally. But it took years for it to happen. And when you look back at it now, it’s like: “How the hell can anybody say they can’t understand Metallica’s lyrics?” And with extreme metal, it’s the same thing. Even with death metal. Most people are like: “Oh, I don’t like death metal because it’s awful, I can’t understand what they’re saying.” But if you listen to it a few times you can understand what they’re saying. Just pick any album that’s death metal (most of them). They may sound pretty crazy but listen to the whole album, read all the lyrics along. Do that once or twice and you will think: “How could I not understand it?” I don’t know if death metal will ever be in the mainstream the way thrash metal went but it’s definitely more and more accepted.