So Mike and Brett, what can you tell us about your musical experiences/past before being involved in APPARITION? Was it your first outfit or did you play/jam in some acts prior to APPARITION?
MIKE - Before Brett and I started Apparition, we jammed together while in high school. It was a 'band' called Cyanic Death. It wasn't really a 'band' because it only had Brett on guitar and myself on drums. We had a rehearsal tape with a few songs-but nothing came of it. The songs were raw thrash metal. I can't remember the material at all.
The band was formed in 1988 with you Mike on the drums, Brett on guitars, Rich Figlia on bass and Rob Hernandez on vocals, how did you get together exactly? Was it the very first line up right from the start or did you go through some line up changes?
MIKE - Just to be clear, Andy was in the band from the beginning as well. Brett and I wanted to start a 'real' band. This was 1988 and I had graduated from high school in 1987. Brett and I were in college, but we really loved music so school was just something to do when we weren't jamming. Brett and I put an ad in the local music paper at the time. We were looking for other like minded people to jam with. Believe it or not, there weren't many people who wanted to play extreme metal or hardcore back in the 80's. Rich Figlia answered the ad. He came over and jammed with Brett and myself. It was great. Rich was friends with Andy. The strange thing is that Andy went to high school with Brett and me. Andy was even in my grade-but we weren't friendly back then. I knew he played guitar but Andy has always been a mysterious dude. Rich and Andy had jammed before Apparition in a band called Hallows Mist-which was a little more Iron Maiden/Mercyful Fate influenced. And what Brett and I were interested in was going to be more Slayer/Possessed influenced-so I didn't really think Andy would want to jam with us. The truth is that Andy was a very talented guitar player and Rich, Brett and myself were just sort of getting our shit together. But Rich brought Andy down to a rehearsal and we all got along. Andy liked the music we were working on and he joined the project. I can't remember how Rob Hernandez got involved. I think he was friends with Rich too. Either that or he answered a second ad that we put out. But we got along with Rob and he liked all the same bands we did. He was a great screamer and that was what we were looking for. Once the 5 of us got together, we wrote material, played local shows and recorded the first demo pretty quickly.
What about the musical background of Rich and Rob?
MIKE - I don't think Rob was in any previous bands. He was younger than us. I think he was still in high school. Rich had been in Hallows Mist with Andy and a friend named Joe Anikowich. Joe was a great drummer but now he's a born again Christian so let's move on. haha.
Was APPARITION formed at the same time as REVENANT, RIPPING CORPSE, CALIGULA, PRIME EVIL, DEATHRASH, SUFFOCATION etc. were? To which extent were you familiar with these bands?
MIKE - Yes. I knew who Revenant were. They were from New Jersey. We were from New York; Long Island to be specific. I was friendly with Scott Ruth from Ripping Corpse. I LOVED Ripping Corpse. I might have seen them live 15 times back in the late 80's early 90's. Prime Evil we were friends with as well. Brett was closer with them than I was. And Brett LOVED Prime Evil. I don't remember playing shows with Ripping Corpse or Prime Evil; maybe we did. I probably saw Prime Evil live 15 times during those years. Suffocation? Never heard of them. haha. Yes, I was good friends with Josh Barohn for many years. And I'm still great friends with his replacement, Chris Richards. Chris actually joined Apparition for a few months before joining Suffocation. I was friendly with all the guys in Suffocation. We might have played shows with them 10 times. I might have seen them live an additional 10 times. And I might have watched them rehearse in Mike Smith's basement another 10 times. You want to know the real dirt? Here it is. In 1989, Apparition opened up for Sepultura at a club named Sundance. We had already changed from a thrash band to a death/doom band. Josh, Frank and Doug came up to us after the show. Death metal bands on Long Island were rare. By 'rare', I mean there were two. So they invited Brett and I to watch them jam. Brett and I went there, having no idea what to expect. They basically plugged in and played the songs that would later become the Human Waste e.p. And it sounded exactly like it did on Human Waste. They were that good. We were too but no one cared. haha. We were also friendly with Winter-and played a bunch of shows with them. If you went to an underground metal show on Long Island in 1989/1990 you might have seen Apparition, Winter and Suffocation all play together. That happened many times.
How deeply were you involved in the underground (fanzine/tapetrading) scene? Did you often go to concerts? Were you also into bigger, more known, established outfits as well, such as OVER KILL, ANTHRAX, WHIPLASH, NUCLEAR ASSAULT, BLESSED DEATH etc.?
MIKE - We went to shows constantly. To enjoy the bands playing-but also to meet other local musicians, sell our demo to underground maniacs or try to get shows at the venue. We were sort of into fanzines/tape trading. We were friends with Ed Farshtey, who put out The Book Of Armaggeddon. We traded demos with Autopsy, Paradise Lost and Grave-just to name drop a few. We sent out demos to any zine we thought would review it. By the late 80's I was not listening to the bands you mentioned. But when I first got into thrash, in 1985, I liked Anthrax, Overkill, Whiplash and Nuclear Assault. I saw them all live many times as well. All those bands played L'amours in Brooklyn during that time period.
Do you agree with, that the ’80s New York underground scene was divided into two parts, into the hardcore one and into the metal one? Were there often fights/battles between the hardcore and the metal bands?
MIKE - I will let Brett tell you about getting his nose broken in the pit at a Cro-Mags/Destruction show.
BRETT - Yeah, the scenes were probably 80% independent and 20% overlap. When I started listening to hardcore in 1980-1985 metal was another world. Hardcore shows were all hardcore. But as some of the metal bands got more extreme and faster around 1984-1985 you started to see a little overlap. But there was definitely always friction between the two. At the beginning if you liked hardcore it was taboo to like metal. But it was okay if you liked metal to like hardcore, sought of a one way street back then. Here's a perfect example, which is what Mike wanted to me to mention. There was a show at a local club called Sundance with CroMags and Destruction. While CroMags were playing nothing happened. But when Destruction came on, a bunch of skinheads stood near the front and just starting harassing everyone. Between songs, I decided to tell them to move away and stop being dicks. Before I could finish my sentence I got punched in the face and my nose exploded. I already had a big Jew nose and it became even larger. The only good thing that came out of it was I had surgery to fix my nose and reduce the size without having to pay for it.
How about the club scene? Which clubs did start opening their doors to metal bands and fans?
MIKE -The main club on Long Island at that time was called 'Sundance.' When Death, Kreator, Sepultura or Carcass played Long Island, they played Sundance. There were smaller clubs where local bands played, mainly 'February's' and 'Hammerheads' (which was the same club in two different incarnations). There was a place close to where Immolation was from called 'Streets.' NYC had 'cbgb's' which was mostly known for its hardcore shows, but I saw one of Napalm Death's first shows in the USA at cbgb's. I saw Prong play cbgb's before they even signed to a major label. 'L'amours' in Brooklyn also had a lot of great underground shows back then. My first underground show ever was seeing Slayer and DRI at L'amours in 1985. As Apparition progressed, we got to play some of these clubs that we used to see shows at. It gave us a sense that we were getting somewhere as a band.
Your first demo was recorded in 1988 at Songwriters Center in Valley Stream, NY, what do you recall of the recording sessions? Was it perhaps your first studio experience?
BRETT - This was our first recording experience. We made the mistake of having a 'producer', a guy by the name of Bill Pulice (I forgot how to spell it, it's on the demo). He also managed the band INC (Indestructible Noise Command) so we thought he knew what he was doing. During the mix, he kept putting on a cheesy effect of Rob's vocals and we kept saying stop, but he kept doing it. It was a fun experience though, it was exciting to hear the music recorded properly for the first time.
What can you tell us about this demo as a whole?
BRETT - We were happy with it and very proud. Although, personally, and Mike would probably agree, I thought it wasn't heavy enough. The songs were a bit too thrashy for me. But we did get compared to Possessed and that was about the highest compliment we could get at the time.
Is it correct, that „Final Warning” was written by Rob and Andy Marchione?
BRETT - Sought of, I know Andy wrote the music, and I think Andy wrote the lyrics but Rob changed them around a little.
So it seems, Andy joined the band at this point, how did he get in the picture exactly? In which bands did he play before APPARITION? Why did Rob leave the band at all?
BRETT - Mike described how we met Andy before in the interview. As for Rob, after the first demo, Mike and I wanted to play heavier music, we wanted to be death metal not thrash. So we told the rest of the band we wanted to drop the thrash songs and concentrate on being heavy, which meant that Rob had to lose the thrash voice. He didn't want to so he decided to leave rather than sing death vocals.
What were the musical influences of Andy?
BRETT - He was way more into glam metal! And he also was very into progressive metal. He only got into thrash and some death after he met Mike and I. He loved Fates Warning and Yngwie Malmsteen and even Poison (which Mike and I hated haha)
In 1989 you entered the Doom Studios to cut your second demo „Human Fear”, was it a better representation of the band?
BRETT - Way better. Doom studios was our rehearsal spot in a crappy smelly basement of a music store. Mike and I really wanted to be heavy and doomy, and even though the recording was muddy, it definitely was the sound we were looking for.
On this tape were all of the songs written by Brett, weren’t day?
BRETT - I wrote the music and lyrics to Hidden Fear and Human Error. Andy wrote the music to Narcissistic World and Mike wrote the lyrics.
Would you say, that from this tape started you turning into the dark death/doom direction and you left the thrash metal roots behind you?
BRETT - Absolutely. Although, the songs Andy wrote always had a bit of thrash in them. My songs were all death/doom.
Shortly after the releasing of the demo Rich Figlia also left the band and for a short period you became a three-piece, what did go wrong with him?
BRETT - Rich started to come to rehearsal late and sometimes missed them. The rest of us took the band very seriously, probably too seriously, we thought we could make a career! haha We talked with him a few times about it, but he still showed up late or missed rehearsals so we asked him to leave. He was a fun guy, it was nothing personal.
Your third effort was a 7” Ep „Eternally Forgotten”/”Curse The Sunrise”, do you agree with, that a couple of passages with odd rhythms found their way into the songs?
BRETT - Yes, we did have some timings there were not the standard 4/4 or 3/4. Andy was probably more responsible for the odd timings more than I was. As Mike mentioned before, Andy was very talented and a way better musician than either Mike or myself so he wanted to try different things.
The experimentation never went overboard and the band kept its act together rather well, correct?
BRETT - Absolutely. We still had a sound we always wanted to maintain. We used to joke with Andy that we had to remind him to stay heavy. On the guitar, when you pick downward the sound is heavier than when you pick upwards, so we always used to say 'down is for doom'.
Was it a natural progression/developement or a logical, conscious step into darker, more brutal musical territories?
BRETT - I think it was both. Mike and I knew we wanted to be brutal, heavy and doomy. And it just came out in our songwriting.
This 7” was limited to 1000 copies (yellow vinyls) and was released by Relapse Records as Relapse Single Series Vol. 1 wasn’t it? Was it sold out pretty fast or…?
MIKE - The single did not sell out quickly. Thanks for assuming it did-haha-but I don't remember it happening that way. It sold out eventually.
What were your views on the other acts that were also being featured on this material INCANTATION, VELCRO OVERDOSE and FACE OF DECLINE? Did you like them?
MIKE - I loved Incantation then and I still do now. Brett was more of an Immolation guy and I was more of an Incantation guy. I don't really remember the other two bands.
Were the previous demo and the single promising stuffs?
MIKE - After we recorded the Human Fear demo in '89 and the four song demo in '90 (2 of those songs were used for the Relapse 7 inch) I thought we were doing well and perhaps close to a record deal for a full length album.
Did Relapse offer you a contract at all? Did they want to sign the band?
MIKE - No, Matt Jacobson didn't have a lot of money at the time. He only had enough money to put out the Suffocation Human Waste e.p.. Within a year Matt struck up a deal with Nuclear Blast to distribute their stuff in the U.S. and the money from that deal enabled him to put out full lengths from Incantation, Deceased, Mortician and many others. Had the timing been different, I think we might have stayed on Relapse and probably done better than we did with Roadunner.
How did you get in touch with Roadrunner? Were there perhaps other labels interests in the band?
MIKE - We were friends with 2 Roadrunner employees; Ed Farshtey and Mark Abramson. They invited us to go to a Roadrunner Christmas party. At the party, I put our 4 song demo on the stereo. After it played I walked over to Monte Conner and gave him the demo. Within a week he called and wanted to meet with us. It all happened quickly. We had no other offers so we took the Roadrunner deal. To be fair, we were pretty excited at the time because we all grew up listening to at least one band on the label. As I said, Relapse didn't have the money and we tried to reach out to Earache through a guy named Jim Welch, who I think managed Brutal Truth and ran the U.S. Earache offices. If my memory is correct, I think he had something to do with the Earache/Columbia deal that happened a little later. Anyway, Earache wasn't interested so our choice was made for us.
Why did Roadrunner suggest you a name change? Were they (perhaps you) aware of an another APPARITION, that were hailing from Poolesville (Maryland)?
MIKE - Monte wanted us to change our name. he thought that Apparition sounded like a prog rock kind of band and it didn't capture the doom element that our music had. So the band agreed on Sorrow and Monte thought it was a good name. Monte is a dick, but in that case I think he was correct.
Interview by Leslie David