Morbid Angel is back with a ripping new record on December 1 on Silver Lining Records. I reviewed Kingdoms Disdained a few weeks back and I must say, after about 60 or so more listens I’d say that I love this record even more now than I did the first few spins. There are some definite will-be classics like “D.E.A.D.” and “From the Hand of Kings.” I recently spoke with Steve Tucker, bassist and vocalist, who you may recognize from Warfather and Nader Sadek if not, of course, from Morbid classics Formulas Fatal to Flesh, Gateways to Annihilation and the vastly underrated Heretic. We spoke about this new record, the way the band wrote it and Tucker’s bass idols.
I’ve listened to the album nearly 100 times now and have a good amount of time to really digest it. I hear more things as I listen to it again and again.
I knew this was one of those albums once from the get-go that was going to be (growing on you). Once we had about six or seven songs I knew that this was going to be one of those albums that the more you listen to it the more you find things. Trey did some pretty interesting progressions with the polyrhythm thing he does. You know, two guitars going (with different rhythms) and you just don’t hear that shit at first. It’s stuff you pick up later.
Most of my listens have been with headphones on the way to work and with those good quality headphones I notice that I’m picking up stuff on this record I hadn’t heard even the first 50 times or so I listened to it.
Right on. That’s a good thing about bands that are original. That’s the good thing that happens with it and you like those albums for a much longer period of time than those albums you like immediately. I’ve always preferred to be involved with music that grows on you longer.
This is a really mean, aggressive and angry record. It smacks you in the head and doesn’t let up for the duration of all 11 tracks. Was that your strategy going in to the recording, giving fans a record that is genuinely relentless?
I don’t think that was something that was ever talked about but that’s just the way we went. We split it up, doing some songs at home, and we wrote some songs that were live when we were together in the studio and those were the ones that we were mean. Just the vibe in the room was aggressive. There was so much crazy shit going around (in the world) at the time that everyone sort of felt angst. I do think its mean. I do think its unrelenting but I don’t think it was something (where) we said ‘hey, let’s do this,’ it was just a vibe that was happening.
What songs did you write together in the same room?
“The Righteous Voice,” “For No Master,” “From the Hand of Kings” and “Fall of Idols.”
Your bass lines are a bit more intricate on this record than previous recordings and the bass is clearly up in the mix on many of the tracks. How did you approach the bass parts and recording for this record?
Some of the polyrhythms actually left a little bit more room for the bass. A lot time with these Morbid Angel songs you sort of have one guitar riff that’s sort of driving and then the other guitar and the bass drive with it and then they separate into a harmony. But with the polyrhythms you have one guitar doing a melody and then the other guitar doing a melody or a percussive movement and then the bass… you can kind of pick where you want to be. You can go with one guitar or go with the other, or you can go out on your own. Those songs like ‘Paradigms Warped’ – I’m doing a complete stand alone bass line and not just when the guitars aren’t playing in the breaks. I’m talking while the guitars are playing and doing these polyrhythms… I’m doing a third thing. It was great to branch out a bit.
Getting steps out of the ‘traditional’ was so fun. We got such an amazing bass tone (on the new record). I love what Rutan (Erik Rutan, producer) did and it took us a while to get it to where we were like ‘man, that’s perfect’ and I still feel its perfect and its just one of those things that once it blended in, you were able to hear much more what I did. And in the past, on Heretic for instance, you really don’t hear the bass at all. Formulas the bass is there but its not a real bass thick mix. Gateways its there a little bit more. It’s definitely the loudest I ever had the bass in the mix and the tone was so good we were able to do it without it interfering with the guitars.
Since you mentioned Heretic… I think Heretic has some classic songs on it and I love the guitar. On that record you were a bit more of an experimental mode and on this record it seems you didn’t want to experiment a lot?
There was actually every bit as much experimentation going on on this album as there was with Heretic. Its just that the final mix and the studio that we worked in (on this new record) comes out much better. I know that it’s (Heretic) the album I’m on that people like the least, but to be honest I was hurt by the mix of that album because it has some of the coolest songs that we’ve ever written together. A lot of them are experimental and they do get weird but I really honestly believe that if we had a much better mix on that thing, man, you could hear more of what was going on with everything and it might be a much more appreciated album.”
Talking about bass, who would you say are your influences? Who do you like to listen to?
All of the people I emulate are the more simple guys like Cronos from Venom and Tom Araya. Guys that are front men and that are playing bass and up front at the same time. Lemmy Kilmister from Motorhead. Bass was there and it was mean and nasty but he also had these cool vocals. Was he a fancy bass player, no? But I had seen them probably 30 times and he fucking kicked my ass every time.
Songs like “D.E.A.D.” have some real heavy groove to them. What were you listening to when you composed songs like “D.E.A.D.” and “Declaring New Law?”
Trey wrote both of those and its not what he’s listening to… its more like what he’s into at the time and what he’s watching and what he’s searching for. That song ‘D.E.A.D.’ was originally called “BattleBots.” That song was influenced by the BattleBots tv show. These fucking robots that kill each other. There are parts in that song when the riffs wind up and slam into each other and they open up to big grooves. On the show the wheels wind up and (the robots) slam into each other and then they kind of do a dance around each other. With “Declaring New Law,” Trey was staying out by these railroad tracks and listening to the rhythm of the tracks. I’m not talking about commuter trains but these freight trains down in Florida (which is real flat) and these trains run at 40 mph and the rhythm of the trains got into his head and we went from there.
The lyrics on Kingdoms are pretty deep, pretty emotional and forthright. It seems like you’re discussing the end of civilization?
Maybe the deserved end of it. I don’t lay it out there like ‘my opinion.’ I sort of lay things out in a very neutral manner. Whenever I’m approaching a topic to write about I look at it not from my perspective. I try to look at it from the perspective of ‘How does everything affect you internally in your soul? Way down deep inside of you. The real truth… How would seeing an event like this affect you?’ How does seeing an event affect you? In terms of this album it seems that the only way to make any of these issues right is to wipe the slate clean and that seems to be the undying sort of pattern in the album.”
What can we expect in the live shows coming up?
Expect to hear a wider amount of the catalog. Last time we went out we pretty much did stuff from my times in the band and that was about getting the rust knocked off. We’re playing a bunch of the new songs because we love the new album and we’re going to add in some other songs to the set and tear it up every single night, man. I’m looking forward to playing ‘D.E.A.D.’ I think that is going to be pretty goddam phenomenal live. We’re coming soon. We’ll be out there very soon.