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Morbid Angel | Heretic | interview | Steve Tucker | metal | Lollipop

Morbid Angel

Heretic (Earache)
by Tim Den

An interview with bassist/vocalist Steve Tucker

Eeriely similar to the way Altars of Madness' sinister grinds and Blessed Are the Sick's dread-filled doom paved the way for a balance of both in Covenant (still the band's finest hour), Heretic is the logical conclusion to Formulas Fatal to the Flesh and Gateways to Annihilation before it. Brawny breakdowns - some of the band's best, mind you - coupled with relentless grinds that are as catchy as the common cold. Can Morbid Angel be headed into another golden age?

Okay, so Heretic has its weak points, specifically its "raw" production sound. I understand the band are going for a "live" feel, but imagine the monsterous grooves of "Enshrined by Grace" and "Beneath the Hollow" with Domination's production... WHOA. But that's just me being overly picky, cuz the fact is a couple of spins later, you won't even care that the production sounds like it's from the '80s. The songs are fluid, multi-layered, crafted with pulsing details and an eternity's worth of memorability: Who cares if the snare roll intro to "Stricken Arise" sounds like pencil beating on paper?

Even the fact that the latter half of the album doesn't contain actual songs ("Place of Many Deaths" and "Abyssous" are sound collages, "Memories of the Past" is an acoustic ditty, "Victorious March of Rain the Conquerer" is a dramatic techno-opera, and "Born Again" is a random guitar solo outtake) can't hurt Heretic's strong points. Hell, "Drum Check" actually shows that even Morbid Angel has a sense of humor!

Let's start with the obvious: You left the band a year ago in what was supposed to be a permanent exit. What happened and why did you return to the fold?
I just had to quit for a while. My life got in the way of... life. I needed to take care of my personal life as opposed to the band for a while; I needed to take care of the real world. I've got two lives: Personal and musical. The musical takes up about 85% of the time, and for a while, I needed to make sure the other 15% was taken care of. Everything was crazy and it was effecting the band. I've always seen Morbid Angel as bigger than the people involved, and I didn't think it should suffer because of me.

Even after I left, our management was hoping it wasn't a permanent thing. They kept in touch with me, and after a while, they called Trey and just said "Why don't you call Steve?"

It would've been hard to replace you, since Morbid Angel had grown into a solid unit again after three albums with you. You've become very much a part of the band's writing style, energy, etc., unlike the Domination period of in-fighting between Trey and David...
I think that's the case, and that's not a hit at David. Morbid Angel is something I want to be a part of, it's what I - for a lack of a better word - preach. It's a part of me. I think David was just done toward the end, you know? That's why the guy left. People should give him credit instead of always whining about him. What they don't realize is that, in order for David to have done another Morbid Angel album, it wouldn't have been the same band anymore. It wasn't what he wanted. He was in a different place, and wanted to do different things. I think he saw it the same way I see it, that Morbid Angel is bigger than its pieces. "It's gonna do what it's gonna do, and I need to do what I need to do." Instead of changing its world, he just changed his part of the world. I think that's admirable.

And it seems like the band haven't shunned away from the Domination material, which was the main cause of tension between Trey and David (particularly the lyrics)...
Personally, I'll do whatever song. I think there's great music on all the records. Trey isn't comfortable with a lot of the lyrics on Domination, but we do "Dawn of the Angry" [the band also brought back "Nothing But Fear" at some recent gigs] and just change a couple words. The concept of the lyrics is great, but some of the words just aren't what Morbid Angel is about. I don't think the band has put out anything that they'd abandon. Every record has been heart and soul, man. Views change - like with the earlier, Satanic stuff - as you get older... When I first came in, I told the guys "Listen dudes, I'm not a Satanist. I'm not a Satanist because I don't believe in Christianity," which, to me, is what you have to be deep down in order to believe in Satan. I was born into a Christian family and raised Catholic, but I've never believed in it. And Trey agreed with me and told me that the earlier stuff was more about rebellion. We don't shun "Chapel of Ghouls" or "Blasphemy of the Holy Ghost." They're still a part of the entity that is Morbid Angel.

What were your previous musical experiences before joining Morbid Angel?
I was in a band called Ceremony with Pat O'Brien, who's in Cannibal Corpse now. Before that, I was playing locally here in Cincinnati in a band called Merciless Onslaught, and another one called Suffer System. Still, to this day, people tell me Merciless Onslaught did a lot for Cincinnati. We were an early-styled death metal band like Venom and Slayer: Really simple and stripped down, but really catchy and evil. But at that point, I was limited to the people I could play with. I wasn't playing with a Trey, you know? But I was still playing bass, doing vocals. I probably acted the same way on stage. I've always taken (playing music) 100% seriously. I have friends from back then who tell me "You were 100 times more serious than we were." I used to be really aggressive in those days: "Do it or I'm gonna kill you!" If our drummer didn't show up, I'd beat him up! If our guitar player fucked up at a show, I'd kick his ass! I was fucking insane. I wasn't afraid to fight for my desires to keep pushing it.

You moved from Cincinnati to Florida to join Morbid Angel?
Well, I'm living in Cincinnati again, but I did move down to Tampa for six years. I didn't have to, but I did. It was great. I ended up coming back here after I left the band, and realized that there were reasons behind both moves. I have to be up here right now: I've got my reasons, but I'd rather be living in Tampa.

I fly down a couple weeks before tour, play for three weeks, eight hours a day. We do the set seven or eight times, everybody's pro, and we're ready to go when it's time.

It was easier writing this time than for Gateways to Annihilation because of the distance. We used the Internet to its maximum capacity. Both Trey and I have DSL connections, so we would send stuff back and forth. I have a home studio. He would send me drums and guitar, I'd record vocals and send it back to him. It was cool cuz everybody had their space to work, yet we were in constant contact whenever we needed to be.

Anybody playing second guitar live?
Of course. We definitely cannot play live without a second guitarist. We're gonna use someone for the tours... we've got someone for this one coming up, but I'm not positive if it's gonna work out. We'll make an announcement once we know. If this guy works out, he might do all the touring for us. If he doesn't, we'll find someone else. To be honest, we got like 1,000 CDs from people wanting to do this.

Chosing a new member must be harder for you than it is for regular metal bands, since Morbid Angel's songwriting/riffing approach is quite unusual. It's almost as if the person has to reach a mentality before learning the technicalities.
Definitely. When you play for Morbid Angel, you have to come into it thinking outside of the normal parameters. When I joined, that was the first thing I realized. Even though I'd been playing death metal, I never learned other people's songs. I realized "Holy shit all these riffs are backwards! They're twisted!"

Someone not only has to be a great player to be in this band, they've gotta be 100% professional, 100% Morbid Angel-oriented. It's not gonna be some guy who's just a good player. It's more than that. Erik (Rutan, ex-guitarist) wasn't just a good player: He was a part of Morbid Angel. He was a very important part, the statue on the other side of the stage. Solid. I've been lucky enough to play with great musicians like Pat O'Brien and Trey. And Erik, who has incredible feel and can lock into a rhythm, but who can also take one note in a lead and make it hurt. He'll pool every painful moment of his life into that one note. That's an amazing thing to be able to do. I wish him all the best with Hate Eternal. Everything that guy gets, he's earned. He's a fucking warrior and an incredibly talented guy.
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