Interview with guitarist Phil Fasciana
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: October 10, 2023
Live pictures by Luxi Lahtinen
Special thanks to M.C.'s tour and booking manager Reyash for setting up the interview.
Malevolent Creation, originally from Buffalo, New York, relocated to Florida when the death metal movement started taking off. The band recorded their debut album, The Ten Commandments, at Morrisound Studios in Tampa, Florida, with none other than Mr. Scott Burns turning the knobs and making the band's debut one of those classic death metal albums fans cherish. The death metal veterans' 1992 follow-up album, Retribution, strengthened their status as one of the strongest death metal institutions in the world some 30+ years ago.
Time flies, and what's great about Malevolent Creation they are still churning out their uncompromising, hard-boiled death metal in 2023. They have completed many successful tours around the globe, released 13 studio albums, and faced many line-up changes over the course of time. However, what doesn't kill you, only makes you stronger, which applies to the Malevolent camp.
The band's recent European tour allowed the band to reach Finland for the very first time, so it was the right time to sit down with the only original member left from the band's early line-up, guitarist Phil Fasciana, who's the true soul and spirit of the band.
In Helsinki, Finland, The Metal Crypt found Phil backstage at the On The Rocks venue and went through quite a few interesting subjects from the band's glorious past to some recent happenings, including the untimely death of the band's original vocalist, Brett Hoffman, who sadly passed away on July 7, 2018.
FIRST-EVER INVASION TO FINLAND
First, welcome to Finland, Phil! This is your very first time here, so my first question is what do you know about Finland, except the fact we have polar bears walking the streets, natives who are normally drunk 24/7 and, of course, such a friendly and peaceful neighbor on our eastern border?
Phil: Ha-ha... Thank you, dude! Yes, it's our very first time in Finland. I know Rotten Sound. We did a lot of touring with them. We brought them on tour like three or four times, just because we love grindcore. At least I do, especially my side band HatePlow from back in the early 2000s. In fact, tomorrow, I expect to see the guys from Rotten Sound. Dude, anything is better than Florida, man. I don't want to go home. [*laughs*]
I prefer the warmer climate that you have down there in Florida, It's getting colder here. Summer's definitely over...
Phil: Dude. I know it gets cold here and shit but being in the heat 11 months of the year, it sucks, man. Then you got the crime and the fucking other bullshit. I don't want to say anything in interviews, but I'm glad to be here. Let's just say that.
Let's talk about your ongoing European tour a little bit. How has it been going for you guys so far? Are you happy with all those crowds that have come to see the band?
Phil: Yes, we are extremely happy with the attendance so far. We still have five more shows, including tonight's and then four more after it. Of course, it's exhausting. Too much drinking, not enough sleep. [*laughs*]
Sounds pretty much like a normal recipe for many bands.
Phil: Yes, it's just normal but I'm glad everyone's happy. We sound really good. Everything's doing well, man. I'm happy.
On this tour, you've been focusing mostly on the material off your first two albums, which are considered the classic era of the band by many. What kind of status do those two albums have in the band's history?
Phil: We're also doing some songs off the Stillborn album. On this tour, we're just doing songs from the first four albums: The Ten Commandments, Retribution, Stillborn, and Eternal. Just the songs that people want to hear. We have so many songs, as you know.
Indeed, you do.
Phil: When you have around 170 songs, it's hard. I like doing it like this, maybe three albums at a time just so people know what they're getting into. Some people might not like the other stuff. I like everything but I haven't played a lot of these songs in a long time, especially the Stillborn songs. They're my favorite songs. We do, "Dominated Resurgence" and "Carnivorous Misgivings." We haven't played those songs since 1993, but you get to hear how we play them tonight, man. They're my favorite songs on the set list. It's awesome.
THE CLASSIC ERA OF MALEVOLENT CREATION
Many Malevolent fans consider the band's first two albums the classic era of the band. What is your take on this?
Phil: It's funny that I get asked this question so many times. To me, everything. I write a lot, and every album is just the next set of songs. The third album, Stillborn, we did with a really horrible producer. The album just didn't sound the way I wanted it to. It's nice to play them with a better drummer and we do it a lot tighter, a lot faster, the way the songs should sound. We play everything a little bit faster, but it's still Malevolent, man.
Yes, I can subscribe to the same sentiments. It's been four years since the band's previous album, The 13th Beast, came out in January 2019, so I need to ask what's the situation with new material?
Phil: Our 14th album is in the bag, man. When we get home, I have to have surgery. Dude, I have a torn rotator cuff. I got into a really bad car accident during COVID. When we were on tour in 2020, COVID struck and halfway through the tour, we got sent home. During COVID I got in a bad car accident where this fucking lady smashed into my car and almost killed me. I was in the hospital for a long time. I had a lot of problems.
I still have problems and when I get home, I will have surgery on my shoulder and get it corrected. I can't even lift my arm. This is it. My thumb and my fucking index finger, I can't feel them. I'm playing guitar crazy right now. It's weird. If I have enough alcohol in me, I'm good. [*laughs*]
Ha-ha... You feel a bit more relaxed after having taken a few gulps of alcohol.
Phil: You could say so, or a little bit number, ha!
You recorded your previous album in three different studios. Do you believe you'll most likely record the band's next album the same way?
Phil: We've been tossing this idea around about where we're going to record the new album. I really want it to sound as old school as possible. I hate the fact that everything's ProTools these days. It's so hard to find a studio or a producer that can record like we did throughout the early '90s and stuff. I wish I could pull Scott Burns out to retirement, but I think we're going to probably track it in Florida, probably Tampa, where there are a lot of good studios, a lot of good producers. We might actually go to Miami where we did Retribution. A lot of people think it was done at Morrisound. It wasn't. We did it at Criteria Recording Studios in Miami.
We brought Scott Burns. He was the guy that suggested it. It's a bigger, more expensive studio. Scott goes, "I'd love to do it in Miami and Criteria like when we did Retribution." I talked to the people at Criteria and they go, "Whatever budget you have, we'll work with you." We might do that. I'd like to have Dan Swanö mix and master it again. I just want it tracked better in a proper studio instead. These days, anybody can track a fucking album in their bedroom. You know what I mean? I don't want to do that. I want to do it the old way that we did, natural drums, no fucking bullshit.
I hear you. Are you still on Century Media Records, by the way?
Phil: No, no, no. We haven't signed the contract yet, but we're most likely going with Back on Black Records from the UK. They bought the rights to stuff, everything except the first three albums, and now they're in the process of buying them. That's a lot of money. They said, "You know what, dude, fucking Phil, we don't care how much money it costs, we'll own it forever. As long as you're alive, you get paid for this." Bud, I don't want to discuss the budget, but it's a very good deal. It's worldwide distribution and they said we'd have the biggest marketing plan for Malevolent ever. I was like, "I'm down." I'm looking forward to that.
I don't want to be signed to Century Media, or Nuclear... fuck all that shit, man. They never did anything for us.
They put a lot of their marketing money on their biggest selling names, and smaller bands tend to get peanuts...
Phil: Exactly, like being on Nuclear Blast in the early 2000s. We licensed that shit. It was on my label, Arctic Music. We licensed it to them, but part of the deal was they'd market it and do a good job. They didn't do shit. We don't need that crap.
DERON MILLER IS DA MAN
Your new vocalist, as well as guitarist, Deron Miller, joined the band in 2022. How did you find the guy?
Phil: Dude? He's like the biggest Malevolent fan since 1998. He contacted me. I'd never heard of the band CKY. One day he contacted Bonnie Connor from Roadrunner and she gave him my phone number. He called me up, "My name's Deron Miller..." blah, blah, blah. Deron, me and, Brett Hoffman, God bless his soul, all became really, really good friends. Deron's just the biggest fan. Even Brett said, "If anything ever happened to me, you should have the job."
You'll hear it tonight; he sounds like Brett. It's crazy. Every night when I hear him scream and I look over, I feel like it's going to be Brett, and it gives me goosebumps, man but it's good. He's doing a great job. He knows the Malevolent songs better than me, man. He's like, "Let's play this one, let's play this one." I'm like, "I don't even remember how to play that." He's like, "But you wrote it." I'm like, "Yes, 30 years ago, or 25 years ago, 20 years ago." I have 170 songs. You can't remember all these things, but it's fun. He's like a little kick in the ass.
Do you think that he brought a little bit of Brett's spirit into the band?
Phil: He did because he and Brett were such good friends. Brett and I were, of course, friends since we were children, but he loved Deron and Deron loves him to death, he loves Malevolent. We couldn't have a better guy. I can't imagine anybody else doing what he's doing. I know it's right. I don't know if you've seen any of the live shows lately, but people are lighting up going, "Holy fuck, man. This guy's awesome."
Deron apparently brought some new energy when he joined the band.
Phil: Yes, he did. He brought a lot of the fire back, especially for me. I didn't expect him to be this good. I thought it was going to be a little tough, but he jumped in, man. He is really doing a great job.
Besides being known from CKY, he also had a band called World Under Blood.
Phil: Oh, yes. World Under Blood. That's old news, but he did World Under Blood. He has his other band, 96 Bitter Beings. World Under Blood is a thing of the past. He did a couple of Malevolent covers. He did "Alliance or War" from Eternal, which we will play tonight. He's a big fan, man. It's great having him in the band.
RETRIBUTION 2022 EUROPEAN TOUR SUCKED
Last year in July and August, Malevolent Creation did the Retribution European tour, but you weren't on it at all. What on earth happened?
Phil: I was in the hospital. This tour was booked, and I couldn't go anywhere. I couldn't do anything and so they had to do it without me. People weren't happy about it. The other guys said the whole tour sucked. They did a good job, though, but the thing is, people didn't accept it because nobody from the real band was there. I shouldn't even be here right now. I had to do it because I didn't want people to think, "what the fuck is going on with this band?" We're doing a new album. I wanted people to make sure they know I'm back in action and the band's doing well. This tour is testing the waters a little and it's doing really well. I'm going to have surgery when I get home at the end of October. I have to do two months of recovery time. We have a big, three-week South America tour at the end of February, and I have to be ready for that and the recording of the new album, so that's the priority.
You guys have been touring like crazy since the inception of the band.
Phil: Never stops, man.
What are some of the highlights from all of those tours?
Phil: You know what? We did a lot of crazy stuff all over the world and it's all special to me. There is one tour that I'll never forget, and we weren't even headlining, we were opening up for Bolt Thrower in 2006. It was Bolt Thrower, Malevolent Creation, Nightrage, and Necrophagist. We've been long-time friends and fans of Bolt Thrower. That tour, man, I swear to God, it was the best tour I ever did. I wish we could do it again, but who knows? Maybe one day.
Every show was so loud. Bolt Thrower, the band, the crew, they made everything so easy for everybody. They're just a great band, one of my favorites. They treated us well and we treated them with respect. I would love to do that again. Every tour is a little special, but that one sticks out the most to me. It was in 2006.
Also, the tour we did in the US in 1991 with Devastation and Demolition Hammer was quite memorable as it was our first real tour with an album. We did 72 shows all in all, so it was a big tour. It was nuts. We're all little kids. We were all 20, 21 years old. I'll never forget that. Malevolent and Demolition Hammer were like brothers, man. When that tour ended, we were crying like little girls. "I don't want to go home. I don't want to go home to my wife. I don't want to go home. Take me with you, man." [*laughs*] You know what? We've always stayed in touch. I'm glad Demolition Hammer is back in action somewhat because I love those guys. They're the greatest guys.
The one person I miss out of all the people I've ever met touring and in bands is Vinny Daze, Demolition Hammer's original drummer. It's such a sad thing what happened to him. He was one of the funniest, greatest guys I ever met, man. That first tour was unbelievable, man. Even though we were driving in vans and fucking driving across the United States like chickens without heads, I'll never forget it.
When you are young, you think you are capable of anything; feeling like a superman when everything's possible.
Phil: You're bulletproof when you're that young. You're like, "I don't need sleep. I don't need shit. Just give me some beer and let's go."
Anyway, that tour with Demolition Hammer and Devastation was insane. Devastation killed too, man. Those guys were simply awesome. They had more experience. They had toured already a couple of times in the US. We looked up to them, man. They helped us and Demolition Hammer, told us what not to do and what to do. We had a good time, man. I wish I could do that one more time, go back in time, and do that. Everyone gets old, unfortunately.
And when you get old, you never know what will happen because aging doesn't really help you in any way...
Phil: That's so true. You just never know. Anything can happen. That would be a dream come true for me, man.
I wish Devastation was still doing something. I just recently heard before I came to Europe that the original guitar player, David Burk from Devastation passed away.
Really? Oh, shit...
Phil: That's another thing that's like, "Oh, God, another fallen hero." To me, a legend, man. Thrash metal legend. A friend. I guess he was sick and stuff. I didn't know about it. Some friends called me and told me recently. I went, "Oh, fuck, man, really?" It's the way things go. People get older, people change. Unfortunately, things like that happen. It's sad.
Life basically has different twists and turns all the time. You never know what will happen tomorrow. If you are lucky, you have this privilege to wake up tomorrow morning for another new, great day...
Phil: Exactly. You said it the right way. Twists and turns. You never know. Every day, you never know what's going to happen, man.
THE EARLY FLORIDA DEATH METAL FAMILY
Indeed. To change the topic slightly, Malevolent Creation were there at the start, building up that famous Florida death metal sound in the late eighties and early nineties. You were amongst such bands as Morbid Angel, Monstrosity, Death, Obituary, Atheist and so on, making this sound famous around the world back in the day.
Phil: ... Nocturnus, Amon, before they changed the name to Deicide. But we're originally from Buffalo, New York. You know that, right?
Yes, I do know that.
Phil: We moved to Florida. We were not from Tampa and we didn't move to Tampa. I had some cousins, some family in Florida. When we lost our drummer in Buffalo in 1987, my cousins that lived in Fort Lauderdale, near Miami, said, "Phil, man, fucking bring your band down here. You'll find a fucking drummer down here. It's better than Buffalo. There's better weather, better-looking girls." We were 18 years old. We all just graduated high school and came down to Florida and we fell into this. I met Chuck from Death in 1988. They played down in Miami with Nasty Savage. I met everybody that I really needed to meet.
That one concert in 1988, I met everybody. I've got all these demos from other bands like Cynic and Nocturnus, and everybody. I met the guys from Atheist, the Obituary guys. Atheist was still called R.A.V.A.G.E. and Obituary was called as Xecutioner. Deicide was Amon, it was crazy. I don't think anybody really knew what was going on. The only band that was kinda huge back then was Morbid Angel. When their first album came out, it was monumental. All the other bands, especially ours, were doing their own thing, no one was copying anybody. All the bands sounded different. I loved it. I loved Atheist, in fact, every band. Back in the late '80s, meeting all those bands was like, "Holy fuck, man, this is amazing." Lo and behold Florida death metal is in, so we just fell into it. We didn't follow it.
We didn't know about this in 1987 when we moved to Florida, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, but we came to a good place. Florida was the hotspot for death metal and extreme metal, I guess.
It truly was, just like Sweden due to the "Stockholm death metal sound" here in Europe at the same time. If you recall those early times, can you remember any competition going on between bands, who's got the heaviest or meanest sound or whatever?
Phil: Honest to God, I get asked this a lot. For the last 33 years, I've been asked this question. Honest to God, we've never had any problems with anybody, we were just all young guys, we all got along with everybody. All the bands helped each other. The Morbid Angel and Obituary albums came out in '89, that was monumental. Just knowing that your friend's band had a record out. We weren't signed yet, Deicide wasn't signed, all these bands weren't signed. Atheist was signed, Obituary and Morbid Angel, and we're all happy for them.
We didn't know what was going to happen with our bands but as far as I remember, everybody always helped each other. There was maybe a little bullshit here and there. I don't want to say who but for the most part, everybody got along, everybody helped each other out. You know what I mean? The good thing is, we're all still friends with everybody. All those bands, we're a bunch of old men now, but we're still doing it. I love all those bands and I wish them the best.
Sounds like every band was supportive of each other in Florida back in those days, hence you got this warm family feel around all the musicians who were part of that scene some 30+ years ago...
Phil: Yes. It really was like that. We'd all play shows together. We lived down in South Florida and we'd bring all the bands from Tampa down to where we lived and set up shows, everybody helped each other. Like I said, everybody put out records then we all started off on our own paths. I have to say, when they say Florida death metal, all these bands sound different. No one said Nocturnus sounds like fucking Deicide, everybody sounded different. Everybody was doing their own thing from the beginning and they're still doing it. I think it's amazing. It was crazy. I never knew. Who would have thought 33, 34 years later little kids would be old men and roar?
Phil: Anyways, I love all of it. Cannibal Corpse, everybody, we're all good friends. Still, life goes on, you get older, and you do your own things. I'm happy for everybody. I have nothing bad to say about anybody, man.
It's common nowadays for bands to re-record some of their past albums for a number of reasons, from some not-so-great song arrangements or bad production whatever. For example, Exodus re-recorded Bonded by Blood, renaming it Let there Be Blood, Testament re-recorded some Legacy songs and some songs off their first two albums and titled that album First Strike Still Deadly. Have you ever considered doing something like re-recording Stillborn?
Phil: That's the only one. We did re-record Dead Man's Path. The songs that we play tonight, we play them that way, the way I envisioned it in my head, better production, better power, more speed, that's the only thing. I really wouldn't want to change anything because if we did, then people wouldn't be happy. I don't think any of those bands from Florida, if they re-recorded any of those classics, I don't think anybody would be happy. When you think about these albums now, they're classics, you can't fuck around with classics.
Very true. Today many of them are considered stepping-stones in many bands' careers.
Phil: Definitely, man. I can't imagine Deicide, Morbid Angel, or Obituary re-recording one of their albums, that would be insane. Those albums are awesome. I would never want to re-record anything, either, because it was done once, just leave it. Play it live and maybe play it better live.
Coming back to current times, is there anything you can reveal about this new Malevolent Creation material? You mentioned you have around 14 songs ready. How would you say they compare the other stuff that you have done in the past?
Phil: Well, they definitely sound like Malevolent Creation because I'm writing the songs. It's nothing crazy, nothing different, it's just the next album to me. I have great band members. They've been Malevolent fans their whole life. If I ever get off track, they'll say, "Oh, Phil, let's change this, change that, make it sound like a faster Retribution." Everybody says that [*laughs*]. Everybody talks about Retribution. I don't think people realize we recorded Retribution in three days. Scott Burns came down to Miami, it was recorded, mixed and mastered in three days. I don't think many people know about that, even Roadrunner didn't know about it. Scott Burns was like, "I can't believe you guys banged it out in three days."
We had $30,000 to do the album, we spent $5,000 recording that album. Scott Burns wrote a fake receipt to Roadrunner. It took two weeks to do $30,000, and he gave each of the five guys $5,000. He goes, "Thank me later, guys."
Phil: Of course, we were 21 years old. We paid our bills and maybe bought our girlfriend something and bought a lot of weed and beer [*laughs*].
BRETT HOFFMAN – NEVER FORGOTTEN
I need to ask when your longtime vocalist Brett Hoffman sadly passed away in July 2018, were you ready to end the band at that point? I mean, his voice was considered an integral part of the band's core sound, so obviously it was a really tough task for you to bring the band back on track?
Phil: I'm still not the same, I'll never be. I've known Brett since I was seven years old. I'm getting upset right now.
Oops, sorry, Phil. We can change the subject if you want to.
Phil: No, I don't mind talking about it. Brett was my best friend. He was my musical partner. I could show him any song and he could write lyrics to anything I did. We had our ups and downs, but there will never be someone like Brett. To me, he's a complete legend and I can't believe he's gone.
So, he gave his blessing to you to continue the band even if he wasn't there?
Phil: He did. He told me when he was sick, "Man, if something doesn't work out, keep the band going, dude." I was like, "I don't know, man. I can't imagine it without you." He's like, "Just keep going." He goes, "You always kept the band going, keep it fucking going," so I'm keeping it going. Everything that we do from the day he passed is all for him. Especially vocals, we would never want to have someone sound completely different. He and Deron were good friends. Deron worships Brett. You'll hear him tonight, it's pretty fucking impressive and he loved Deron. We all love Brett, man. Anybody that knew Brett loved him, he was the best guy ever.
To wrap up this conversation, what can Malevolent Creation fans expect from the band in 2024?
Phil: '24? New album and I promise, I would never do this unless it was authentic. Like The 13th Beast, I was out of my marbles. There's some good stuff on there, but in hindsight, I should have waited a little longer, but now we've had time. I've had more time to process things and get my head straight because I was fucked up, man. When Brett passed away, man, I was drinking and fucking doing drugs, and then I got in a car accident. My life was upside down. I spend some time now and I just want to make sure everything's the way I would want it and I'm sure Brett would be happy about it.
Do you have a working title for your forthcoming 14th album?
Phil: Dude, I'll show you on my phone. I have the album covered. The working title is called Return Fire. When you see this album cover, dude, it is brutal. This Brazilian artist asked me who is doing the artwork for your next album? I went, "I don't know, maybe you," because he's one of my favorite artists. He goes, "I'm really busy. What's the working title?" I just threw out "Return Fire" because I was watching this World War II documentary and I remember seeing all these people getting burned and murdered, and I heard that guy go "Return Fire." I jumped out of my bed and I wrote it down real fast. I always jot down song title ideas and things like that and the guys in the band love it. They're like, "Dude, that is amazing." When I showed them the working album cover, they said, "Don't change anything. That has to be it. Leave it. Don't change it, Phil." I'll show it to you. It's on my phone. You'll love it. It's a badass, man.
Cool... I am really looking forward to seeing it then.
Phil: Ah, don't worry, dude. I would not let you down.
Okay, I think that's all I had in my mind for this conversation, so I will let you go now to prepare for your first ever gig here in Finland. Thanks a lot for your time, Phil, and best of luck with your show here at On The Rocks tonight!
Phil: Thank you so much, brother. I can't believe I'm in Finland, man. It's awesome.
|Other information about Malevolent Creation on this site
|Review: The Will To Kill
|Review: Invidious Dominion
|Interview with Phil Fasciana (guitar) on September 18, 2003 (Interviewed by Barbara Williams (Crowley))
|Interview with guitarist Phil Fasciana on December 30, 2018 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)
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