In the mind of Deicide

Although he was touring the US all through the month of October, Steve Asheim, Deicide’s drummer and one of its two pillars, still found the time to answer our questions via e-mail on the occasion of the release of In The Minds Of Evil, the band’s latest album, a very good vintage that will hit stores on November 25th. The answers are brief and straightforward, but they’re also honest. At the very least they show Asheim does have a strong character – which is quite coherent for someone who plays such uncompromising and fiendish death metal. And it’s probably that very same character that turned the Florida-based musicians into a cult band, recognized as much for their music as for their mischief and clashes in civilian life.

The following interview obviously revolves around In The Minds Of Evil, but it was also a good opportunity to talk about Asheim’s love for classical piano, about some of his old colleagues to whom he shows no mercy, and about the Hellfest (French festival), which has already cancelled the band twice in the past.

« More mature though, that comes off a bit condescending, don’t you think? Like we weren’t mature before… »

Radio Metal: Apparently, with this album, you guys wanted to capture the Legion album’s feel. What is so special about this particular album?

Steve Asheim (drummer): People seem to like it. Plus I think we were just looking for an old school feel to the record and I think we got it.

Actually, until 2010 the band played only the song “Dead But Dreaming” from Legion. What has changed since then for the band to include more from this album in its live sets?

People keep calling out songs from it, so we’ll try to deliver live what we can from it.

Legion is actually regarded as the most technical Deicide album, and the band’s ex-guitar player Eric Hoffman, when he quit the band, was stated saying that Glen Benton could not do the technical riffing from this album on his bass anymore. Did Glen actually work on his playing to put back more technique into In The Minds Of Evil?

Yeah, Eric’s good at blaming other people for his own faults. He could barely play that stuff himself, hell he still couldn’t play more than 40 minutes and did less then half his leads live, so he’s hardly one to talk about other people’s performances.

Since The Stench Of Redemption, or maybe even Scars Of The Crucifix, the melodic component in Deicide’s music is a bit more developed, especially in the guitar leads. This is also evident on this new album with songs like “Thou Begone” or “End The Wrath Of God”. How can you explain that? Could this be a sign of maturity?

You can call it whatever you want to but it’s definitely a sign a musical development as a band and as a whole. More mature though, that comes off a bit condescending, don’t you think? Like we weren’t mature before, is that what you’re implying? Get over yourself pal.

Regarding the lyrical themes covered on the new album, you said that the lyrics are typical Glen Benton lyrics, « blasphemous and brutal rhetoric ». Do you think that Deicide’s music is transcended by this lyrical aggression?

No, I don’t. Do you? If you do, please explain to me and your readers. I’d really like to hear that one. No, in fact I think they fit well together, they compliment each other and help deliver the other where they need to be, they give each other meaning and purpose. If anything, I think the music may transcend the lyrics.

This album was produced by Jason Suecof. What’s interesting about that is that he is mostly known for producing very modern sounding bands like Trivium, Devildriver, August Burns Red, etc. Considering the fact that you wanted to go back to a more old school sound, why did you choose to work with him?

He’s a really cool and fun guy to work with. He’s right here in Florida. Plus he grew up listening to Deicide, all our old stuff. He wanted to do this record with us, he couldn’t wait. He said he knew what this record needed to sound like, and I believed him. And we were both right and I think the results speak for themselves.

« Ralph [Santolla] is no more Christian than me, he just has a big mouth and thinks it’s fun to stir up some press for himself. »

Can you tell us more about the fascinating painting by Simon Cowell, called Power Of The Mind, that serves as the cover artwork for In The Minds Of Evil?

I think it’s a very good match for the album concept as a whole. We didn’t commission it, Glen found it as is on the web, contacted the guy and made the deal. It worked out very well for being a coincidence of sorts.

In The Minds Of Evil is the first album with Kevin Quirion on guitar. Kevin Quirion is part of your other band Order Of Ennead and has been occasionally touring with Deicide since 2008. So it seems like he was an obvious choice. But how comes he didn’t actually replace for good Ralph Santolla when he left in 2007 and record the To Hell With God album?

Kev just wasn’t quite ready to step up with the caliber of lead playing we needed back then but the two years since then he really practiced his ass off and it really shows. He did a great job, he’s a great lead player now and we couldn’t be happier to have him as a full member.

Ralph Santolla was known for being a Christian, and because of that it was surprising he even was a part of the band at one point. Have there ever been any frictions between him and Glen Benton because of their opposite religious beliefs?

No, you see, Ralph is no more Christian than me, he just has a big mouth and thinks it’s fun to stir up some press for himself. He’s a great guitarist in the studio, that’s why we kept him around. The rest, not so much.

I’ve read that you got signed by Roadrunner Records in the first place because Benton stormed into Monte Conner’s office and presented him with the demo, saying: « Sign us, you fucking asshole! » The next day contracts were issued to the band. Is this true?

Yes, that is all 100% factually accurate and true. There’s been sworn testimony and filings in court to prove it. You can look it up.

You play drums, bass and guitar, but you also play classical piano. Can you tell us more about your taste for classical music?

Yes, I just am fascinated that one person and a piano can do what a whole band can do. The bass line, the melody line, the percussive elements, all at once. You can strike any mood or feeling and, honestly some of the skill levels of these pianists can not accurately be measured. I have the utmost respect for that instrument and those who compose great works of art on it. When I play I feel my brain turn on and a whole musical world opens up. It’s really amazing to me.

Does your classical piano background influence you in one way or another in the writing of extreme metal music?

I used to think it could but in many ways it’s a distraction. Heavy riffs are meant to be written on guitars for guitars. Piano can help solve a theoretical problem of course, but there’s not a whole lot of room for compromise when the goal is to be as heavy as possible.

« I honestly thought France championed free speech more than that. »

Two times Deicide has been programmed on the Hellfest Open Air bill, and each time the band was ultimately dropped off. Are you disappointed by that? Do you have hopes to finally make it to the Hellfest one day?

Eh you win some, you lose some. No hard feelings and if it does happen some day, great. We’d be more than happy to do it.

Every year the Hellfest is subject to pressure from catholic associations who put forward lyrics from bands which incite hatred against Christians, like what we can hear in several Deicide songs. And according to them, songs like “Kill The Christian” constitute an offense in regard to the law. What are your thoughts about all this?

I honestly thought France championed free speech more than that and was pretty surprised when I heard that’s why we were dropped from the bill. But whatever, you don’t want us there, we’ll go play somewhere else.

Can you give us an update on the future of your other band Order Of Ennead?

Thanks for asking. We’ve got an albums of material ready to record, we just need a label and we’ll go from there. We’d like to hit the road some more too so we’ll make what we can make happen.

Interview conducted by e-mails, received on November, 6th 2013.
Questions: Spaceman and Metal’O Phil.
Trancription: Spaceman.
Introduction: Alaceman.

Deicide on Facebook.

Album In The Minds Of Evil, out on Novembre, 26th 2013 via Century Media Records.

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