Interview with guitarist Colin Tarvin and drummer Chad Gailey
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: September 3, 2018
Death Metal is again doing well after the ‘90s heydays subsided. New bands are constantly popping up like poisonous mushrooms after a heavy rain.
California’s Mortuous, formed in 2009, is an example of how to do Death Metal right, the old school way. They released their debut album, Through Wilderness on Tankcrimes Records on June 22, 2018, which caught the attention of The Metal Crypt with its honest, brutal and old-school approach that yours truly has always loved so much. Through Wilderness is the real deal; a slab of murderously brutal and heavy Death Metal that takes you on a journey back to those glorious days of classics such as Severed Survival, Dark Recollections, World Without God, Left Hand Path and Like an Everflowing Stream, the kind of albums that changed your viewpoint of extreme Metal for good when you first heard them.
Without further ado, we invite guitarist Colin Tarvin and drummer Chad Gailey to tell us more about the band’s blood-soaked and gore-filled menu.
Luxi: Hey, what’s up in San Jose, CA? Anything special going on at the moment?
Colin: There’s a scene in San Jose. There’s a whirlwind of noise coming from there and it’s been that way for a long time. A lot of bands we know today came from the South Bay—you have Exhumed, Sleep, Noothgrush. Going now to Deathgrave, Deadpressure, Dipygus, Monte, Aseptic, Coldclaw. Even the Punk scene is active.
Luxi: Okay, let’s cut the crap and get to the main point, which is, of course, your band Mortuous. The band started out in 2009, could you tell us how it all started?
Colin: Mortuous was formed from a band called Funerealm that lost members, then down-tuned from E to C, put out a demo, right after the first full lineup of Col Jones, Mike Beams, Nick "Sunshine" Scarboro", Al Tarvin-Kibler, and myself was settled. Derrel Houdashelt is a big reason Col and the other pieces fell into place. Derrel used to deliver to a music shop I worked at for a short period with Sunshine. Nick said, "Why don’t you ask Derrel to do a solo on that demo you’re working on." Derrel came over to lay down a solo for "The Eternal Return". We put out another demo in 2012 as a full lineup. Al left the band as well as another project I had with Chad called Bruxers. From there, we drafted Clint on bass as a collective decision between Col, Mike and me. Shortly after, Col wanted to start a family, and by that I mean, to raise a child. I went to play with my friend Tim Ninerell (R.I.P.) in Deform (NJ). When I came back a year later, Chad took the drum duties for Col and we started working on the album, songs that have been ready to record now for a couple years. Chad picked the songs up quickly as this is the third band we’ve been in together, so we have a strong chemistry.
Luxi: Was it easy to find guys to play in Mortuous that shared a similar interest for this type of old-school Death Metal?
Colin: Yeah, it’s the obsession for old school Death Metal that really unites us, and the determination to produce something like it that keeps us going.
Luxi: The band’s first outing was a limited, 4-track cassette demo, titled Mors Immortalis, which was released in 2010. Did this demo open doors and do you think it represented the band’s music the way you wanted at the time?
Colin: I remember I worked on that demo in the winter of 2009 while in school. I had a basic drum set and borrowed some cymbals from Chad and recorded over the course of about a month. I was happy with what I produced. I’m especially thankful for Derrel Houdashelt for doing the guest solo, which I feel really initiated everything.
Luxi: Two years later, in 2012, you recorded your next 5-song demo (+intro) at Earhammer Studios in Oakland, CA. What kind of feelings do you have from those recording sessions? Did you achieve what you wanted musically? In my opinion, this demo has a strong early Swedish Death Metal flavor to it, especially the guitars’ crispy tone which reminds me of Carnage’s Dark Recollections album in some peculiar way, with some of Autopsy’s sick melodies...
Colin: The 2012 recording was a representation of us as a full lineup at that point. We rerecorded three songs from the first demo, put two new songs on there, plus an intro that Mike wrote. The difference between the first two demos are tremendous. We tuned down from C to A and we’re using Boss HM-2 guitar pedals, which is where you get that Swedish Carnage/Dismember/Nihilist tone. We wanted it to sound fat but looking back, even right after that recording, I think we already wanted a different sound which leads us to focus on that aspect a lot more for Through Wilderness. One important thing though, Greg did a great job engineering that first 2012 recording. It hardly felt like a demo at all. In line with that, another highlight for me on this release was having my cousin Al doing most of the vocal duties. His vocals really stood out and he has an amazing voice. Often times he reminded me of guys like Chris Reifert or Lee Dorian.
Luxi: Speaking of your early influences, it’s obvious that you guys are mostly influenced by early 90s Death Metal, both American and European. I am from Finland and I would guess you aren’t completely unfamiliar with names like Funebre, Xysma, Rippikoulu, Disgrace, Thergothon, Abhorrence and others from Finland, correct?
Colin: Finnish Death Metal is some of the best and most unique out there! My friend Tim and I used to joke there was something in the water. The list you put together has some of my favorites there. Mike Beams actually showed me Disgrace early on and Thergothon was one of my favorites. Convulse (which Chad and I used to cover along with Napalm Death when we first started Disinhibition), Cartilage, Demigod, Demilich, Depravity, Adramelech, Swallowed, Amorphis; it’s really the motherland. This list only scratches the surface of the great music coming from this region.
Luxi: Moving on, it took six years before you guys finally got your debut album recorded (Through Wilderness). Can you tell us why it took so long? Was it because of lineup problems and other stuff during those years?
Colin: There were never any problems with the lineup. A lot of us have played these songs for years. There were times when one or more of us was very busy. At one point (2014) I was on the other side of the country playing with Deform, Col had moved onto building his family, and we all took time to do other things. Everything added up to the long wait to make the full-length happen. We even took 14 months to finish recording. All in all, we’re extremely happy with the end result.
Luxi: A longtime friend of mine, Chris Reifert (Autopsy, etc.) has seen one of your concerts (the show with Deceased, Insanity, Gravehill and you) and he, along with the other members of Autopsy, are fans of yours. I guess Chris’ words after your show, "You crushed me like a worm...!!" made a great impact on you guys because it was a clear signal that he really appreciates what you guys are doing with Mortuous, right?
Colin: This night all is still so clear to me. I remember standing outside the club with Chad and seeing Chris walk across the street towards the venue. I tapped Chad and said "Yo that’s Chris fuckin’ Reifert over there!" I walked behind Chris to the admission table and told the person working the door Chris is most definitely on the list for Deceased because they knew he was coming. Col is there at the top of the stairs, this is back when Col still played drums in the band, and they see each other as old friends as they used to play shows together back in the ‘90s. Col says something to him like "Well I hope you don’t sue us for copyright" jokingly. After our set is when I remember talking to him and he said, "Your riffs crushed me like a worm!" and that memory will stick with me forever.
Luxi: Things escalated further from that point with both Chris and Danny from Autopsy kindly contributing bits and pieces on your debut album. Tell us a bit more about those sessions?
Colin: At one of the previous CA Deathfest held at the Oakland Metro before the start of recording (I believe 2016) Violation Wound played. I talked to Chris outside while hanging out with Danny and asked Chris if he would be down to do a couple things with us in the studio. We exchanged numbers and kept in touch, and when the time came, Chris brought Danny along with him, and he laid something down as well! It was very spur of the moment, so I gave him my guitar and he nailed a couple takes. Since we had time to work with the tracks and didn’t quite feel finished, Danny came back with his own guitar he used back in the day and hammered it out. It’s pretty surreal being a huge Autopsy fan and knowing the influence they’ve had on us as well as bands back in the day and the entire death metal community.
Luxi: Do you think you may ask them to join some of your future recording sessions?
Colin: It’s a possibility. After our upcoming tour, we will probably start writing new material.
Luxi: Through Wilderness was released as a joint venture of both Oakland-based Tankcrimes Records and Carbonized Records, which is actually your drummer Chad’s own label. Do you believe you may release future Mortuous music this way? You’d have a more control over everything that way for sure...
Colin: Chad is going to release a few more things on Carbonized. There’s the Scolex split to be released in September, then he will also be putting out the Deform split that should have come out 3–4 years ago, then re-releasing the first demo, Mors Immortalis, on tape. It’s been really amazing that Chad has total control of his label because it’s only him. It’s a very DIY, one-man operation, and putting out a band he’s in, genius! He’ll also be putting out a few other projects soon including another project I’m in called Deadpressure.
Chad: I wanted to start a label for a while and I figured if Tankcrimes wasn’t interested in releasing Through Wilderness I would put it out myself. Luckily, Scotty was interested and offered to help me start my label with this album as the first release. I’m really thankful for all his help and for showing me the ropes for properly releasing a record. This year I will be releasing the Scolex/Mortuous split 7". Next year I plan to release another Mortuous split 7" and a repress of Mors Immortalis on cassette.
Luxi: I believe Scotty from Tankrimes Records has been doing solid promotion for your album so far, getting the album out around the world and pushing Mortuous forward, right?
Colin: Yes, Tankcrimes is something huge for us, Necrot had huge success with their release Blood Offerings and we thought Tankcrimes would be a good fit for us. Being on the same label is very cool and also cool that Chad is in both bands. Another band on Tankcrimes, Deathgrave, came out with their album on the same day, and it happens to be some of our very close friends/bandmates of past and present times. There’s Greg from Earhammer Studios, Fern, Andre who also did vocals in a band with Chad and I called Disinhibition, and Matt who also plays drums in a project called Evulse with Clint on bass as well. Everyone is pretty close in the web. Bands used to do this back in the day with members and labels, so it’s cool to see everything relate together. Everything and everyone is very intertwined.
Chad: I’m happy that Scotty wanted to help release our album through Tankcrimes. He really puts everything he has into his label and it shows. He always gives one hundred and ten percent, and then some!
Luxi: Is it easy to get gigs on your home turf and what are some of the coolest and nicest venues over there?
Colin: It’s great playing here in the bay area. We’ve played every couple of months or so, sometimes much longer. There are great places to play in the bay area. To name a few, in Oakland there’s the Oakland Metro for bigger shows. Then you have a new place down the street from there called the Elbo room. You also have the Golden Bull which is a bar that has a small stage in the back and great shows happen there. In San Jose it’s been hit or miss with places you can play, many times it ends up being DIY at a house or a warehouse. There is a place that seems to be coming up in San Jose downtown called the Ritz with a really great layout in there for big lineups. It’s great to have the variety of venues. The bay has always been a great place in that regard and there’s always shows going on.
Luxi: How’s your local scene these days?
Colin: Yeah, the scene out here is like a huge family! I’d like it to see it spread its wings worldwide. I hope that with this album we can branch out more and travel to play places we wouldn’t have the opportunity to visit otherwise. It’s a pretty nice feeling having the support of your friends all working together, it’s a great community.
Chad: The Bay Area has a pretty diverse but connected community of people helping each other. I think without the hard work of a lot of folks over the years, our scene wouldn’t be as strong as it is today. I know I can definitely do more to help out, everyone can. Getting involved is the first step and people appreciate whatever anyone can do to benefit the community.
Luxi: I myself am not so much into politics, but what’s it like living in the USA nowadays when the power and leadership of the country have been handed over to Mr. Trump (-et Of Doom)? How do you see the future and are we all doomed?
Colin: I don’t like watching the news because it’s easy to become obsessed and consume media. There’s a lot of hypocritical things happening in the world and history not exactly repeating itself but getting pretty damn close. I appreciate every day we’re here and able to enjoy life and do what we do. I hope the world can unite. I think that balance comes from some unknown force of good and bad, but I’d also like to think that understanding something can help overcome whatever it may be that may be causing an issue or blocking the truth. Any president here in the US only has a limited amount of time in office anyway. Time will go on, we’ll be back in turmoil again after we come out of this period anyway, but there will be great periods of enlightenment. Every thought pattern is someone else for the time they keep them, then can exchange these thoughts, and this is how I think we’re able to see unspeakable things happen throughout time, but then also we see some amazing things at other times. This is a deep rabbit hole, I’m not keen on politics, but I love philosophy and psychology.
Luxi: Even if your debut album came out just recently, I bet you guys haven’t been resting on your laurels but have been working on with some new songs for Mortuous. Is there anything that you’d like to share about your new stuff?
Colin: We always have new ideas we’re working on. The latest song we wrote and recorded is called "Desiccated," which is for a split with Scolex. The title is an ode to the original name of Deform as before they were even called Tenebrous, they were called Desiccation. Also, the Scolex side Black Pyramid Ritual has an Egyptian theme in the art and lyrics so we wanted the whole split to represent that. We went with the same artist as well, Sebastian Mazuera.
Luxi: Do you have any working titles of new Mortuous songs you can share?
Colin: We don’t have any current working titles for anything new at this point. We’ll work on new music and the song titles and lyrical themes will be based on the feel of the new music.
Luxi: How much have you planned for 2019, as far as Mortuous is concerned?
Colin: We hope to tour more, hopefully do the Midwest and East Coast, then we’ll see where we want to go next or if we have any offers at that time.
Luxi: Time for the last question, which is probably pretty absurd and impossible to answer. Name five of the most influential Death Metal albums in order for you personally, and explain a little bit why those albums are so important for you.
Colin: For me, I always go back to a certain core few bands for influence, My Dying Bride, because of the doom and depression, the sullen mood the music creates, same goes for Paradise Lost, which are both bands from England playing a very similar type of death metal. This is where it gets hard, only naming three more because it’s hard to only name that many more. Accidental Suicide and Viogression are two bands also from the same area, Milwaukee, Wisconsin with its own great old school Death Metal scene. The last band that had a profound impact (besides Autopsy) is also hard to mention without mentioning another band. Incantation for their blasphemous themes and relentless blasting and awesome timing. I remember how much Onward had an impact on me right at the start of writing Mortuous songs. The other band that’s hard not to mention while mentioning Incantation is Immolation. Dawn of Possession is one of the most brutal albums of all time, everything about it is heavy, and once again, two bands from the same area. With all of the above-mentioned bands, it’s like you can’t have one without the other.
Chad: Here’s a list of my five favorite Death Metal albums (in no order)
Morbid Angel—Altars of Madness
Grave—Into the Grave
Bolt Thrower—Realm of Chaos
Asphyx—Last One on Earth
Immolation—Dawn of Possession
Luxi: That was it. Thank you for your time guys and keep up the great work with Mortuous. And yeah, you are, of course, entitled to the "famous last words"... ;o)
Colin: Last words, huh? Stay deadly, don’t take life too seriously, take your passion and live it to the fullest. Don’t take shit from people, respect you give is respect you earn. Don’t worry about bullshit. Just relax and listen to Death Metal. Thanks for this interview! It was also great to talk Finnish Death Metal with a native. Cheers to you and I hope we can play there someday!
Chad: Thank you for the interview! Thanks to Scotty at Tankcrimes, Liz at Earsplit, and everyone who has bought our album so far!
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