Interview with vocalist Kam Lee (with additional comments from bassist Tony Blakk, guitarist Carlos Gonzalez and drummer Elden Santos)
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: October 2, 2022
Floridian death metal stalwarts Massacre, led by original members vocalist Kam Lee and bassist Mike Borders, released their much anticipated fourth full-length studio album Resurgence on October 22, 2021, which was well received by the metal community worldwide. Due to many setbacks the band has had along their way (too numerous to mention), it's been 7+ long years to get to the point when the release of this new album became possible. For many fans of the band, the band's original member and vocalist Kam Lee is what makes Massacre Massacre due to his trademark death grunts and undoubtedly that holds true in many ways.
Massacre embarked on their short European tour from Turku, Finland, on September 2, 2022, where they were one of the headlining acts at the 2-day Metal.Fucking.Hell festival. Yours truly from the infamous Metal Crypt sat down with the whole band a few hours prior to showtime and discussed many topics including the touring and recording lineup of the band, what the legacy of Massacre is, Kam's fascination with Lovecraftian horror (and horror overall), the future of Massacre, and so on.
Sit tight, grab a beer (or two even), and educate yourself about this legendary Floridian death metal band.
First of all, welcome back to Finland, Kam. It's been, let's say, "a while" since you were in Finland with Massacre; 30+ years ago when you played at Lepakko, in Helsinki, on April 29, 1992, together with Grave and Demolition Hammer. Do you have any recollections from that first-ever visit to Finland?
Kam: I remember that tour, but I don't remember- No, I do remember Finland. Yes, I do remember it. I can remember it. Well, one reason I can remember is because the ferry ride took so long. I remember we came from Sweden, and it was 12 hours, that ferry ride. If I remember, but that's what I remember the most.
Do you remember all the crazy stage diving that was happening while you were playing?
I found out today that your full performance from that gig can actually be found on YouTube.
Kam: Oh really?
Yes. I don't know who has uploaded it, but it's there. The quality is pretty shitty, but you should still check it out. It was quite fun to watch it today as it brought back some memories from those days.
During that year, you did a lot of touring indeed with Massacre. What was this European leg of the tour like for you guys in 1992?
Kam: I think that was the second leg of the tour, the '92 tour. The shirt you have on is from that tour. We started in '91 and we started with, I think the very first leg of it was Immolation and Morgoth, and then we brought it over to the states. It started in Europe, then we went to the states. Morgoth left but then Grave took over. We were with Grave for the rest of that tour, and when we finished, we did the EP, the Inhuman Condition, and then we came back for the '92 tour. It was one right after the other and that was also the tour I quit the first time.
Touring is probably much different for you nowadays compared to 30 years ago. When you are on tour these days, is there a need for days off when you do more extensive touring?
Kam: No, no, no. I actually prefer touring now. This is a very short run that we're doing. It's nine days, 13 days full because of the travel days, and I actually prefer short, quick runs like this instead of long ones. We're all grown up, and we have jobs and stuff like that, so it's very hard. Back when we were younger, we could take off for 30 days, but death metal doesn't make a lot of money, so we have to work normal jobs. We could get maybe a week, two-week break, but then after we get back, we have to return to our normal jobs.
Touring like we could back in the day for 30 days or three months in a year, it's great, sounds great, but logistically, it can't be happening today. I prefer the smaller runs like this. Because it gets out and it makes a point. I like doing the festival runs because festivals are really good not only for the bands, but also for the fans because the fans get a chance to see a lot of the bands that they like at one time with one ticket instead of breaking it up with all these little club shows. That's how I prefer it.
Now you are here again, this time playing at this 2-day Metal-Fucking.Hell festival. What are some of your expectations from this indoor metal event here in Turku?
Kam: Well, I'm hoping because it's been 30 years since we were last here that people do come out to see us. It's an event, plus I'll be 56 years old this year. Who knows? This could be the last chance to see Massacre, because who knows? Something could kick in, my gallbladder could go bad, or my liver could go bad or my kidneys could go bad and I won't be able to come back.
THE EUROPEANS ARE BEING MASSACRED
Right after your show here in Finland, you will be heading to London where you will take part of the UK Deathfest tomorrow. Do you prefer playing at festivals, or are your own headlining shows a bit more important for you because you have more time for playing longer sets and such?
Kam: It's a little give and take. I like the festivals for the simple fact that I'm also a fan, so when we go, we get to see some of the bands that we like, but yes, it's also rushed. Festivals seem rushed, especially like a UK Deathfest and we only get 45-minute sets, so you feel a little like, eh, you can only give so much. I do prefer the club shows for the fact that we can play a longer set and we seem to be a little bit involved and closer with the crowd. I don't do the rockstar thing. I don't hide behind the stage and hide in the hotel. I'll go out there. Like you'll see tonight, we'll be out there in the crowd talking to the people and being involved. I prefer that. It's something you can do at a festival, but it's not really as accessible because everyone's at the fest and everyone's concentrating on what's going on in the fest and this festival is so fast. You're on stage. You get off stage and the next man is setting up.
This European leg of the tour comprises nine shows, but you also have some plans to return to Europe next spring. Is there also something more that you could possibly reveal about your touring plans here in Europe next spring, which countries you might play and so on?
Kam: Well, what I'm working on doing, and I just discussed it with these guys, is we're going to talk to all the promoters that we're working with on this run and see if we can set up a good time for me to come back in the summer. What I would like to do, preferably, is hit a festival in Germany or somewhere that there's a festival, then do club dates throughout the rest. We're doing a fest and then we do clubs and then end in a fest. Maybe a week or two weeks we're here.
Do you believe you might come back to the same venues as this tour?
Kam: Well, we could. It all depends. That's why we want to talk to the promoter. Jussi (Helenius), is that his name? Jussi, the promoter here in Turku.
Yes, that's his name.
Kam: We want to talk to the promoter or maybe see how it goes, if we like it, say set up something next year, work again so we can come back. Either here or maybe Helsinki. That would be great.
I think what I'd like to do is when we come back over is kind of be stationary somewhere in Eastern Europe where we can set up shop, play, and then come back to where we're staying. Play, go out, play another gig, come back to where we're staying. It's something centralized so we can do something like that.
THE LINEUP ON RESURGENCE
Sounds cool enough. But let's return to the Resurgence album for a moment, which was released last October. First off, you've got an international lineup on that record; Jonny and Rogga are from Sweden, Brynjar on drums, is from Norway, Scott is from England and then, of course, both you and Mike, the original members of Massacre, are the true backbone of the Massacre lineup, so to speak. What kind of process was it to get this lineup together to record Resurgence? I mean, was it tough to find the right guys as they are all from different countries?
Kam: Well, both Rogga and Johnny are sweet. I've been working with Rogga since 2007 and I've got a bunch of other projects. A lot of recording projects and project bands like Bone Gnawer, The Grotesquery, The Skeletal, all this stuff. Him and I have a long history of working together and technology today has really made it a lot easier. You don't have to be in the same room with a bunch of guys. You can have a guitar player write some riffs in Sweden and then email me the MP3s and I'll listen to them and that's literally how I work.
Rogga usually started off with writing riffs and he would send them to me. He writes everything to a click track, so I'm used to that. I hear the riffs and decide what parts I like, what I don't like. I'd make notes and then send them back. Rogga is so quick and so good, and we got to the point where we've been working together so long that it's fast. He'd send stuff to me. I'd say, "That's great. Let's keep that. Let's get rid of that," and then he would tweak it, send it back, and then the next day have a full song.
When you were searching for the right musicians for the band, was one of the criteria for each to understand past legacy of the band so you could create a sound as close to the classic From Beyond album as possible?
Kam: Exactly. It was important that every one of these guys be Massacre fans. Some of the guys that we had in the past weren't Massacre fans when they came in as replacements when other members left. They didn't know the legacy and they didn't really understand the music, and when they wrote some music, it just didn't work. I told them "No, we're not going to do that," and then they left, which was for the best because their music didn't match. When I started working with Rogga and Johnny, I explained what I was looking for to them and it was really easy because both Rogga and Johnny were open. Rogga said, "I'm just going to keep it simple, like From Beyond," and Johnny said, "Well, how would you like me to write?" I said, "Go back, listen to From Beyond, and listen to death metal from '87 to '93, and don't go any further. Just keep it in that area."
How did you find Brynjar to play drums?
Kam: I've been working with him probably going back to the Grotesquery. He started with the Grotesquery and been the drummer on all the Grotesquery stuff. He wasn't the first choice because I wanted somebody old school and then I talked to him. I said, "Do you think you could play with the old school feeling?" He's like, "Well, let me try it. Give me a song. Let me try and if you like what I'm doing, we'll continue." He did that. We worked on the song on the EP called "The Mythos That Lovecraft Built." He put the drums to that, and I was like, "Yes, you got it. It's fine."
Would you also say the whole band worked together when you were creating songs for this new album or did some of you take more of a role in creating the songs?
Kam: I think it went smooth because, like I said, they're Massacre fans. They would send me stuff and it went so quickly. I don't think there was anything that we got rid of. If there was something I didn't like, we worked on it. Everybody had a little bit of input. Rogga had his songs, Johnny had his songs, and then when Scott came in to do the solos, he added a little bit more. A good example is the song "Ruins of R'Lyeh," where the ending was one way but when Scott added his lead at the end, it completely changed the whole feeling of the song and elevated it. I added lyrics because there weren't any at the end and then when he did his guitar, I was like, "Oh, I got to add something now." It brought it to a new level.
OF LOVECRAFTIAN METAPHORS AND MR. PUCCI
As you are the main guy writing lyrics for Massacre, and we all know your years and years of dedication to Lovecraftian horror, I was wondering how you keep yourself inspired when writing lyrics for the band other than just watching horror movies day after day?
Kam: My hatred for mankind. [*chuckles*] I'm misanthropic. I guess you'd say a little bit of nihilism and cynicism. I use Lovecraft instead of writing just like hateful lyrics to metaphorically express my feelings because in Lovecraft's stories the beings, the old gods, the creatures, the aliens they looked at mankind as nothing. They didn't pay attention to us the same way we would ignore ants. We might notice an ant pile, but we don't think about ants every single day. We just kick him out of the way [*chuckles*] and just keep going. To me, that's kind of how I feel about humanity. This is all trivial. This is everything. This is trivial.
You have a song called "Book of the Dead" on this album that is dedicated to Killjoy (R.I.P.) from Ohio's Necrophagia. Were you friends?
Kam: Well, he was a great friend. When I hung out with him, it wasn't about music. We were both big horror movie fans. His horror movie collection was insane. He lived in Florida for a while, and I would go to his house, and we never talked about music, we just enjoyed each other's company and our love of horror movies. We watched horror movies together and then talked about that. When we did talk about music, it was sort of like in that kind of way that you would say, "You know what, if we ever worked together, we should do this?" "Oh, yes. That's a good idea. Yes, we should do this." We both love the movie Evil Dead and we had talked about doing a song together about Evil Dead. I had Marc (Grewe) from Morgoth, of course, but had Killjoy still been alive that was probably the collaboration I would have preferred, to have Killjoy to be on that song with me the way Marc from Morgoth is.
Did his passing in March 2018 hurt you and make you think that if you want to do something meaningful in your life, you should do it now and not tomorrow because tomorrow may never come?
Kam: It was shocking. I was devastated, but in a way, this is so bad to say because I talked to Mirai (Kawashima) from Sigh who was also in Necrophagia. I don't feel guilty, but when I first heard about it, I got in contact with Mirai and I said, "Did you hear the news? He said, "Yes, I heard it," and he asked me, "Do you think it's real?" We actually thought there was a good possibility that he faked his death. We completely thought that because he used to talk about it. Then we found out it was true. We were very sad. I was really taken aback and sad, because I really felt that the last couple of years, he was back in Ohio, so our friendship kind of split off and he was really working on Necrophagia. He just went his own way and got really involved in the music. He didn't really cut me off, but we were barely talking because he was so busy. It was just like the reality was, "Wow, this is real. I can't believe this." I know his daughter, Renee. I started talking to her, and then she told me some things about it.
THE FRUITFUL RESURGENCE SESSIONS
OK, let's go back to some lighter topics. How pleased are you with the response that you have received from the media and the fans regarding this new full-length?
Kam: The media, that's definitely a surprise. [*chuckles*] The fans that really love it. Massacre has always been a band you either love or hate. The fans that like it, they really like it. The ones that are negative, they're negative, of course, but they're not listening to it. They're negative because they want a certain character in the band. Unfortunately, things move on, and things change, but the ones that really like it, they really like it, and it's not just been lukewarm responses either. It's been "Wow, this is really great. I'm surprised I didn't expect this." There's been a lot of that.
On July 1st, you guys put out a 4-track EP titled Mythos, which has nice Lovecraftian artwork. Were those songs recorded during the same sessions as the Resurgence album and what else can you tell us about the songs on this EP?
Kam: Yes, they were recorded during the same sessions, but I think they were more evolved. There's a stronger sense of being, not really more modern. I don't want to say modern, what would you say? For example, a song like "Behind the Serpent's Curse" has the Massacre feel, but it's more-
Tony: I think it has more to do with the stuff people are doing today.
Kam: Yes, because I think Tony, you said you can hear some Hypocrisy in it.
Tony: I hear a more modern influence. It's not modern, but more modern influence. It's still old-school death metal.
Kam: Yes. We had all the Resurgence material and we had this song. I said, "I don't want to throw out all the material at once. I'm going to save it." We went through and I picked those songs specifically because I felt they are strong. I've had some people say they are shocked. They're like, "Man, that material is so fast and so brutal."
Some people are a little concerned with the groove. We still have the groove, it's on Resurgence. I felt these songs were very strong and I felt that they could stand on their own. And originally, that was what was supposed to happen, but COVID changed everything. Originally, the first two songs on the EP were supposed to come out before Resurgence; they were supposed to come out as a single.
Then Resurgence was supposed to come out and then the last two songs on this EP were supposed to come out as a second single. But because of COVID and everything that happened, the label said, "Well we don't want to release the single now because we don't know what's happening with music, so let's just release the album now," and that's what happened. The album came out first, so I said, "Okay, well let's not release two singles then, let's take the two singles and put them together and release an EP."
You have had a big role in many bands in your career like in Akatharta (Funeral Doom), Broken Gravestones, Grave Wax and so on. Is Massacre your main priority right now?
Kam: Right now, I am just focusing on Massacre since getting back in control and legally getting the trademark and the copyright back because that was a battle that took almost two years. I told all the other guys, "I really need to push this band because this band has a legacy and I really feel the need to concentrate on that legacy and bring that it back." Everything else I have is on hiatus, but I've had other offers to do some new stuff and some new stuff has come in.
We'll see once we get done with this and going into next year, I'm going to try to find a good balance. If there's some new stuff that I want to approach I'll probably approach it when there's time, but yes, Massacre is still a priority right now.
If we look in Massacre's crystal ball, are you aiming to record the next album next year?
Kam: Yes, we're definitely working on that now. [*chuckles*]
"I AM AN ASSHOLE"
OK, fair enough. Now as the last thing I would like to hear from you guys is what you think of Kam Lee as a person as many see him as one of the death metal legends that have been there since day one.
Tony: I've known Kam for like 30 years, so I met him around 1996, so I've known him for a long time. Speaking of Grotesquery, he did the vocals for the second album at my studio. When he asked me to join the band, I felt very privileged. Massacre was the first death metal band I'd ever seen. I saw them in 1990 and they blew me away, so I've always been a fan. When he asked, I said, "Yes, I want to do it," and I think we're bringing our influences but keeping it old-school, because all my influences are old school too.
I do the black metal vocals and he does the low [*bellows*] and we do that thing, and the first time we did that, I got goosebumps and I was like, "We need to keep doing that [*laughs*] because that was awesome."
What about you, Carlos? How do you see Kam both as a musician and a person?
Kam: "He's an asshole!"
Carlos: We worked before and for me, it's an honor to play in Massacre. I mean, the band is well recognized in the metal community, and I am very grateful for that. It's been a pleasure working with him. We get along well, have good chemistry, so I believe some good things are going to happen next year in this band.
Tony: If you're a sensitive person and you ask Kam to recognize your anxiety, you're not going to like Kam because he might hurt your feelings if they are easily hurt. Luckily, we are really tough guys, so we're like "Oh yes? Well, fuck you, you're an asshole," or something so we get along because we're not sensitive. If you're sensitive, do not join Massacre, that's what I got to tell you.
Elden: The man is real. He will tell you the way he sees it, like it or not, and it's up to you. Just be on his level.
You also have to think about the legacy of Massacre. Anyway, I can sense that your chemistry is really cool in the band right now.
Elden: We joke around a lot, probably too much.
OK, thank you all for your time. I must sincerely say it was such a pleasure for me personally to sit down with all of you and have this chat. Also, I am really looking forward to seeing your show tonight, of course!
Kam: Thank you, too. I believe you'll like tonight. You'll get a flavor of the stuff you want to hear, the old classics as well as the new stuff, and you get to hear the new EP as well.
|Other information about Massacre on this site|
|Interview with bassist Terry Butler on April 16, 2014 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
|Interview with bassist Mike Borders on October 10, 2020 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
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