Interview with vocalist Brian DeNeffe
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: April 14, 2016
Death Metal bands getting back together has been a big phenomenon over the last two decades. The list of reformed Death Metal bands seems endless from Morgoth, Dr Shrinker, Gorguts, Convulse, Grave, Autopsy, Nocturnus (AD), Demilich, Morta Skuld and many others. Surprisingly, many of these bands have composed new stuff rather than just playing a few gigs in the name of nostalgia.
One of the latest in this ever-growing line of reformed Death Metal acts is Viogression from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They recorded two albums between 1991 and 1992 then disbanded for many years. They decided to put their troops back together at the beginning of 2014 with the intention of making new music. After some hard work, Viogression recorded four new songs which were officially released under the title A Pure Formality (on Dread Records) as a limited cassette run of only 100 copies.
Viogression has been working on new stuff, which is rumored to have some surprises, so The Metal Crypt contacted vocalist Brian DeNeffe to inquire about the activities of the band and few other things. Brian kindly provided some answers to our questions...
Luxi: What made you decide to reform Viogression 20 years after the band called it quits in 1994? Was it an easy decision as you felt you were all on the same page regarding the band's second coming?
Brian: Bryan and I used to get together and write at my home studio before divorces. We had written a few songs that just reminded us of Viogression. The idea to reform was born from that.
Luxi: Shortly after the split up of Viogression, Bryan Jaeger, Dave Haley, Barry Jaeger and you formed Medusa Oblongada, which was an entirely different outfit musically compared to Viogression. Could you tell us a bit more about this short-lived band (or project)?
Brian: Medusa Oblongada was Death Metal/Industrial/Metal. We just liked the elements of Industrial and, of course, Death Metal. We recorded one demo titled Girdergod and got a record deal. We did one self-titled album for Megalithic and some music for an unreleased video game.
Luxi: I also read something about Viogression's unreleased EP that you recorded back in 1993. What songs did it have and why wasn't it ever released?
Brian: We recorded a 3-song demo entitled Sol. We had written a few songs after I came back from Florida so we did the demo before we disbanded. It had the song "Lizards" that Joe from Broken Hope sang backing vocals on.
Luxi: Viogression released two albums on UK's Tombstone Records. Your debut album, Expound and Exhort, is still hailed highly among Death Metal fans whereas the follow-up album, Passage, is unfortunately considered a big let-down record mainly due to its unfinished production. Why was Passage released unfinished? Did the label guy just want to put it whether or not the album was fully ready or with band approval?
Brian: Passage was never completed. The label released it unfinished. There are scratch guitars in the unmixed version that was released. We never began mixing for Passage so it is a rough mix we went home with after the session. We never did any final mixing. The label Progressive had the masters and we told them it wasn't done. They told us it would be mixed and mastered and we could relax. They had an engineer in Canada that was going to mix it, a guy who worked with VoiVod, and we would be able to proof his mix. At that time, I had auditioned for and then joined Cynic, so I moved to Miami. Bryan and Barry started a project with Dave from Morta Skuld. About 9 months later I get a call from Progressive saying they needed the liner notes and thank yous for Passage as they were pressing it now. I said we haven't even heard the final mix. WTF? I was assured it sounded great and we would be pleased. So I got everything together and sent it to them. We were in shock. They had done nothing; it was the same rough mixes of the songs. We were very disappointed in the final production. We never would have allowed that to be released had we known.
Luxi: As you mentioned already, you had a short stint in Cynic. How did you end up joining them back in the day?
Brian: I auditioned. A doctor told Paul he needed to stop the brutal singing for his voice so he asked me to do it. I did a 2-song demo and sent it to him. They asked me to join.
Luxi: This leads me to ask how did you got Paul Masvidal of Cynic and James Murphy (Obituary, Death, etc.) to join your new EP, A Pure Formality, as guests? Obviously you have known the guys for several years already...
Brian: Paul and I talk regularly. I asked him and he said sure. James did some of our favorite solos on Cause of Death and Spiritual Healing, so we asked him and he said sure.
Luxi: Talking about Viogression's new EP, A Pure Formality, it sounds like it you got it right according to some of the responses people have left for you about it. The songs actually sound like Viogression; heavy, doomy, extreme, atmospheric and all that. I bet you must be very happy with the way the songs turned out, right?
Brian: Yes, we took our time on it and are happy with it.
Luxi: Was it hard to start writing songs again knowing it's been two long decades since you guys existed as Viogression? Did you find the right Viogression vibe and feeling right away or did it take time for you to get into the right songwriting mood?
Brian: It was organic. The songs appeared before we reformed. It sounded to us like Viogression, so we decided to record them.
Luxi: A Pure Formality was originally put out by Dread Records as a limited-run, cassette-only release and Spain's Temple of Darkness Records will be releasing the CD and vinyl soon. How did you decide to sign a deal with these labels? Were there other labels that showed interest in working with Viogression?
Brian: We are proud to be a part of the Temple of Darkness family. Dread Records is an awesome local label run by our good friend Miguel.
Luxi: You have been working on new stuff lately, which is supposedly intended for Viogression's third full-length studio album. Could you perhaps tell the Viogression fans more about all this stuff you have in the works?
Brian: We are working on new material and will have a few surprises for everyone.
Luxi: When you come up with a song, what kind of things do you pay attention to in order to make sure it has the Viogression signature/trademark sound?
Brian: It just has to feel like Vio song.
Luxi: Back in the day many fans saw Viogression as some sort of Obituary clone and I guess a big part of all this was caused by your very low and deep grunting vocal style which is similar to John Tardy's. What do you think about this and did you think Viogression sounded like Obituary in the early days?
Brian: A blessing and a curse. We love Obituary, but are not and never have been clones. Our songs are much more complex and dynamic.
Luxi: In the early days Viogression played with many great names such as Death, Pestilence, Coroner and so on. What kind of memories do you have from those days of your youth? I am curious to know how well you knew Chuck Schuldiner?
Brian: Chuck was a good friend. We got to know each other hanging out together on the Inhuman tour. He was always very cool to me, like a big brother.
Luxi: What about Eric Greif, who also was your manager, back in 1991 when you toured in the States with Death and Pestilence. Did you get along well with him and did he at least try to treat both Death and Viogression equally as he was the manager for both bands?
Brian: Death always took priority with Eric. We were close friends. We rehearsed in his basement and he rode with us down to Tampa.
Luxi: How much do you miss those days when you perhaps had a better chance to make your dreams come true with Viogression, back before family, a career and other things a good family man was supposed to do, etc.?
Brian: It was all fun and exciting times.
Luxi: As all of you are older now, with jobs, families and stuff, do you believe this will prevent you from touring? Would it be logistically possible for Viogression to tour for 2-3 weeks in Europe for example?
Brian: No, we are hoping to tour Europe. That would be great.
Luxi: Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has always been a strong and healthy are for Death Metal. Besides Viogression, bands like Morta Skuld and Dr. Shrinker (both interviewed by The Metal Crypt) come from that area and both were resurrected from the dead just a couple of years ago. How well do you get along with those bands and with other Metal bands from your local scene? I bet Viogression has gained sort of a "cult status" among the fans over the years, correct?
Brian: I helped Dave form Morta Skuld from the ashes of his old band and Rich from Dr Shrinker and I are friends and I sang backing vocals on their new album. Don't forget about Phantasm and Accidental Suicide. The Wisconsin Death Metal scene was uncontrived and happened naturally, as opposed to Florida's orchestrated scene.
Luxi: What can we metal heads realistically expect from Viogression in 2016?
Brian: Temple of Darkness to release A Pure Formality and then some new songs and shows.
Luxi: I guess that's all I had in mind for this interview. Thank you for your time answering my questions Brian, hopefully it was all worth it. Time for the last words, so be my guest Brian... ;o)
Brian: Thanks for being so patient. Like waiting for a tempo change in a winter song... [*lol*] Thanks Luxi! All my best, stay brutal!
|Other information about Viogression on this site|
|Review: A Pure Formality|
Copyright © 1999-2019, Michel Renaud / The Metal Crypt. All Rights Reserved.