Paul Ray is the lead singer/guitar player of the great 80’s thrash band False Prophet who I actually used to write to back in the day of my print zine. Well they are back, well I wanted to do an interview with the band, and Paul said sure and well prepare to read this great interview…
Where were you born and where did you grow up?
Was born and raised in Greensboro, North Carolina.
What sort of kid were you growing up? Were you shy or more outgoing?
I guess just a typical kid was kinda a gear head into cars and bikes because of my dad. Started playing guitar around my teens I’m still a gear head. I was definitely shy as a kid and still am to a point as an adult. I kinda hang either by myself or with close friends, I don’t need to be the center of attention.
What sort of kid were you in grades 6 through say 8?
Still basically the same but I was definitely starting to get more into music. In 6th grade that’s where me and Chris Lyndon became good friends, he was one of the founding members of Prophet. So him and myself along with a few other metal heads in school would just trade tapes and talk bands. At that time, I was discovering bands like King Diamond, Venom, Celtic Frost and a kind list of others.
So how did you discover these bands? Did you read about them or did Chris tell you about them?
All of the above at the record stores, in magazines and a lot of word of mouth in those times.
Was this music easy to get into right away or did it take a few spins to really get into it?
Yeah it was easy for me I seem to gravitate toward heavier music. There are only a few bands that I had to listen to a few times to get into them. Most the time if I didn’t like the first time I heard it I knew I wasn’t gonna like it.
Me the same way. What were some early concerts you saw? Did many or any underground tours roll your way back then?
When I was younger the typical shows Iron Maiden, Ozzy and so on. As I got a little older, I would hit a lot of the underground clubs either as a spectator or with False Prophet. We played with Dark Angel, Danzig, Forbidden, Cannibal Corpse, Death Angel, Demolition Hammer, Corpse Grinder, Confessor , Nile and a ton of other bands. As a spectator I’ve seen Overkill, Kreator, Coroner, Morbid Angel, Sepultura, Napalm Death, Megadeth, Metallica, COC and probably a ton of others I can’t remember. Yeah a whole lot of bands came through the Raleigh and Charlotte area back in the day and still do now.
So at what point in your life did you want to start up a band?
In high school was when Chris and I started talking about getting something serious going.
So when did you take up guitar and decide you were going to sing?
I had been playing guitar on and off since I around 12 I was just more serious about playing as I got older. It wasn’t until we had a band together that I started doing vocals. At that time around our area, no one was really into thrash and death metal so we had no one wanting to do any vocals. So, after talking to friends of mine in other bands we just decided to try doing the vocals ourselves everyone in the band trying it. I ended up doing it for some reason.
So how did you and Chris recruit other members for the band? How long did it take to get a steady line-up?
We had approached Tim Haisman, a drummer that was in our school he had turned us down wasn’t really interested. So Chris and I just started writing music and lyrics between the two of us and I guess word got around and later on Tim hit us up to see what we were doing. So, we started off as a three piece called Abattoir we played out a few shows as a three piece. We already knew we wanted a second guitar player so through a mutual friend I was introduced to Mike Morrison he came and jammed with us and everyone seemed to click so as he joined we changed the name to False Prophet
Why did you change the name and who thought up the name change? I used to be a pen pal with Mike back in your demo days.
No, I meant from Abattoir to False Prophet.
There was already a band called Abattoir so I came up with the False Prophet name when Mike joined the band.
What were the early practices like? Did you mess with any cover tunes and how soon did you start to write original tunes?
Yeah we did a few covers some Venom, Slayer, Kreator and Sepultura, but always did original material since the beginning.
So how did a song come together?
We would always write the lyrics first then write the music around the lyrics. Before Tim joined, the band Chris and I would work on the lyrics then write the music together. After Tim joined and we had a complete band Chris and I would still write the lyrics first then write the music altogether as a band. And for the most part we still do it that way today.
So what would you say your musical influences were back then?
Back then my personal influences I would have to say would be Possessed, Megadeth, Morbid Angel, Dark Angel and Slayer.
Now how soon was the band together when you thought about doing a demo? If you did, did you know a studio and what songs you wanted to use?
We were together probably a year at the most when we decided to record a demo. Mike had already joined the band we had changed the name to False Prophet and had been playing out quite a bit. It was till we opened for Dark Angel that Gene Hoglan approached us after the show and asked if we had anything recorded. At that time we were just a bunch of dumb kids wanting to play our music we really didn’t think anyone else would be interested in buying anything we recorded. But after a long talk with Gene we decided maybe it’s time to do this. So, we went with the best local studio at the time where other metal bands had recorded Acoustic Creations with Kip Williams. We took a few of the songs we had already had written and been playing a while and added False Prophecy which we had just written that song showed our growth and the direction we were going to go.
Now did you know all about the underground scene, by meaning, tape trading, fanzines etc, passing out flyers in the mail, etc?
Yeah we knew about all that stuff. We were doing a few interviews with fanzines at that time and trading tapes with other bands even before our material was released. That’s how I found out about bands in different states.
So when the “Sign of the Cross” demo came out in 1989 how many fanzines do you think you sent it to and how many did you initially print up?
We only did 500 copies of “Sign if the Cross”. As far as how many zines we sent it to there is no telling it been a long time ago. I honestly have no idea how many we sent out.
What was the feedback like on it at the time? Did the demo lead to you opening for many national acts when they rolled through town?
Feedback seemed to be good. Especially for a budget demo of 500.00. There were even a lot of people that preferred “Sign of the Cross over “Second Death (bands 2nd demo-chris). We were opening for national bands before we ever had a demo and we continued to get national shows after the demo. That part really didn’t change I think we were a really good live band.
So did you send the demo to any labels? If so do you remember who and any feedback from them?
We sent them out to a few labels I can’t really remember who. As far as feedback we were just too young of a band to get real label interest.
Got ya. So at what point did you start to get the idea for demo #2?
After a few member changes back in the day, Tim our original drummer had left the band and returned a year or so later. So with his return we had written a lot of new songs and decided to it was time to release a recording with all new material.
So was it easier this time around do you feel and looking back which demo do you like better, number one or 2?
Yeah “Second Death” was a little easier to record. We had been in the studio before so we knew what to expect. We tracked the drums live went back and recorded bass, guitar all leads and overdubs and vocals. On “Sign of the Cross” we recorded everything together and went back and did vocals. I personally prefer “Second Death” over “Sign of the Cross”. I always wanted to be more of a death metal band instead of thrash, but I kinda had to push other members to that direction.
How was the response within the underground from fans and fanzines back then to this new release?
The response was awesome to “Second Death”. We got a lot of good reviews and college stations playing it. Fans seemed to really enjoy the new material. That’s when we started getting label interest.
So what labels were interested at the time? I imagine the morale of the band was doing great at the time?
I can’t remember all the labels we were dealing with but a few were Peaceville, Earache, Mausoleum (name I hadn’t heard in years-chris) and Relativity Records are a few we were talking to. Yeah moral was good, reviews coming in were positive fan response to “The Second Death” was good. Things were looking up.
So did you manage to play out of state at all back then?
Yeah we played out of state all the time back then.
So now with all this label attention what were you guys thinking back then?
Just thinking maybe we can move on to the next step of the band and turn this into something more serious.
Ok so why the name change and was there several member changes at this time?
The name change came about because of a couple of issues. One being the band “The False Prophets” they were threatening a lawsuit which they most likely didn’t have the cash to pursue the other is that musically we had changed a lot and just thought it was time for a new start. There were no member changes at that point.
Now what was the new name and how did you come up with it and the logo? Was this a total band decision to change the name?
The new name was Infernal Hierarchy. I saw the name reading some book can’t recall the name. Mike Morrison designed the logo as he did with False Prophet. And yes it was a total band decision to change the name
How soon after you changed the name did you record some material?
Right away Ed Farshtey at Rage Records wanted us to do a 7” and at the same time a few labels we were talking to wanted to hear some new material so we wrote “First Born” and recorded it with an updated version of “False Prophecy” on the back side.
What would you say is the biggest difference between the 2 bands? What would you say the new band sounded like?
The biggest difference would transitioning from a thrash band to a death metal band. The newer songs were getting heavier and shorter.
How was the response to the 7” and easy was it coming up with new songs?
Response to the 7” was good that’s the recording that got a lot of labels interested. Yeah writing the new material was pretty easy.
So after the 7” was released and you had labels interested where did the band go from there?
We were approached by several labels long story short we ended up signing with Mausoleum.
So did you end up recording anything with this label?
No, they were just going to rerelease “Second Death” and add “First Born” to it, but that never happened.
So what happened with the band at this point?
The whole reason we lost this deal was our drummer at the time Tim had decided to quit the band so Mausoleum wasn’t interested in us replacing Tim and continuing with the recording deal. So that was the end of that.
That sucks. So did the band continue on or break up shortly after this?
We brought in a replacement drummer and when we figured out Mausoleum didn’t want to follow through we ended just calling it quits at that point.
Looking back do you regret packing it in that quickly?
No not really.
So what did you do with yourself after the band broke up?
Like I said earlier I was a gearhead so I got into repairing and building custom Harley’s. I opened my own shop and did that for years. And here recently have started making custom guitar knobs and other accessories.
During your time away, did you get any offers to join any bands?
No, I didn’t get or entertain any offers. I was just burned out from the music scene and the band and was done. I never sold my gear I knew as long as I’m breathing there was a chance I might do this again. I think a lot of musicians go through this at some point but in the long run it did me a lot of good I’m playing again and actually enjoying it. I’m not just a bitter musician. If I would have kept pushing in the music industry I’m afraid that’s how I would have turned out.
So what led to the reforming of the band?
Over the years we had been approached by small labels wanting to rerelease “Second Death most of them I really didn’t want to deal with, but Jeremy with Heaven and Hell Records hit us up and we talked on the phone for hours and he seemed really cool and sincere about wanting to rerelease the old material and to do it right. So we decided to let him go with it. Now the answer to the question. Jeremy also wanted False Prophet to at least do one reunion show and at first I was against it but after hashing everything out with two of the other original members we decided to give it a go. Not just for one reunion show but playing out again as False Prophet.
That’s great to know. Heaven and Hell is a great label too. Now what was it like all being in the same room for your first meeting/practice?
We didn’t do anything that official when we talked. We all met at a local club where some friends of ours was playing and kinda just shot the shit about getting back together and everyone’s concerns and problems that might come up with a reunion. Everyone was pretty laid back like I said everyone else wanted to do it I was the one kinda being hesitant about the whole getting the band back together.
So from what you know how was the response to your Heaven and Hell release?
I guess it was good Blood Harvest Records approached Heaven and Hell about releasing an album at the same time The cd was to come out and we did a second run of the cd’s.
Very cool. Now correct me if I am wrong you have done some re-union shows already correct?
We did one real reunion show for the cd release we played our hometown in Greensboro, North Carolina. We brought in our good friends Confessor and had an amazing show. Since then we have just continued to play a small number of shows mainly focusing on festivals and bigger shows with national bands. And we still enjoy playing local shows with our friends in bands around here.
Any chance of new music or are you just gone play shows here and there?
We already are playing new songs live and are gonna start booking some studio time to record the newer stuff.
What would you say the new stuff sounds like and will you being for a possible label to release it or are you gonna put it out on your own?
I think the newer stuff is a little more aggressive than some of the material we wrote in the earlier years and there are some songs that are a little different from what we normally do. We are writing more for ourselves than just what we think everyone wants to hear and that’s the fun part. But people seem to like the new material. Most likely we will release all the new material ourselves he haven’t decided if we want to go the label route yet.
Now obviously the band isn’t a full time thing these days, but how long do you see it lasting?
It’s pretty much full time we just traveled from east to west coast to play with Possessed and are booking shows all the time. We are mainly playing festivals or bigger shows. And as long as everyone in the band now wants to keep going I’m good to go.
What are your thoughts on the underground metal scene these days?
Not sure which part of the scene you want me to comment about. The band part or crowd part. But for the most part the scene all the way around seems good. There are a lot of awesome bands new and old kicking around and the metal crowd is always true to the scene and supporting by supporting shows and buying merchandise.
Did you ever see any of your demos or that 7” go for big money on any sites?
Yeah I know there for a while on eBay people where asking ridiculous prices for “Sign of the Cross” and “Second Death” tapes. And there were a few people just straight up selling bootleg cd’s.
Wow that’s crazy. What are some of your favorite memories or the band and not so favorite?
There are a ton of good memories like just meeting all sorts of people in the world industry either in bands or not. The best memories are my good friends Confessor getting signed to Earache or playing with Dark Angel and getting to be good friends with those guys we used to hang with Gene and everyone else every time they came around our hometown. Or it could be just not long ago playing on Florida and reconnecting with Mike Browning from Nocturnus and just shooting the shit or meeting Lee Harrison from Terrorizer for the first time and him remembering False Prophet when we used to write back and forth to each other in the early years. We talked about the whole music scene present and past. I guess my not so favorite is at the end when we were finally getting some real label interest and was ready to sign with Mausoleum having our drummer quit and basically lose everything everyone in the band worked so hard for. That was a big kick in the balls.
Does it amaze you in some ways how the music industry has changed? Nobody buying music anymore, people downloading stuff for free? Way too many bands and labels. Demo days are gone and look how social media has exploded. Does that blow you away in some ways?
Yeah it definitely is amazing how the industry has changed but people still buy music and merch and of course since music is on line some people are always gonna download it but for the most part I think the metal fans support the bands by buying their albums and cd’s and trying to buy official merchandise. As far as way too many bands I’m not sure that’s the case there are probably a ton of bands that were playing back in the day that people never heard of I just think now with the instant access of the internet you just think there’s a over abundance of bands (if you saw my weekly email box, you might think different ha ha and I got lots of demos back in the day-cf). Young bands I know are still putting out singles and demos and with the latest technology recording is way cheaper than back when I was younger. So a lot of new bands can even release full length cd’s on a decent budget. Social media has exploded in some ways that’s awesome in some ways it’s very detrimental. The bands and members that can stay professional and positive on social media is a good thing. It’s a quick and easy way to connect with exiting fans and create new and younger fan bases. The bands and musicians that like to bitch and air their dirty laundry is not doing themselves any favors. People are always trolling to get you to say or do something stupid we even have a few always wanting to start shit with us. I just ignore them. The internet is a good tool to help but bands still need boots on the ground in the scene. (it’s a shame we don’t have the closeness as we did back in the day. Your right too many stupid bands or people bitching about this or that as well-cf)
In your wildest dreams did you think in 2019 you would be doing an interview for Metal Core Fanzine?
There are a lot of things I didn’t think I would be doing in 2019. Number one playing in False Prophet. Number two playing with some of the best bands out there like Possessed, Obituary, Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel and a lot of others and more to be announced. I’ve been fortunate to have these opportunities. And it’s great to have people interested in hearing about us and wanting interviews. So being a part of Metal Core Fanzine is awesome.
Any last words, horns up for the interview?
Yeah man just thanks for taking the time for the interview it was awesome.