Gravehill is a crushing band and after hearing the band’s music I knew an interview was in order so here it is with member Thorgrimm:
Tell me about how the band 1st formed back in 2001. Did you go through many members before finding a solid line-up to record the "Practitioners of Fell Sorcery" Ep? Looking back what are your thoughts on this release these days? Is it still for sale or out of print?
Mike Apokalypse (Vocals/Bass) and I used to work together, he and I both really wanted to create a Black/Thrash band in the vein of all the 80's Extreme Metal Power Trio's we grew up very fond of. Mike had a guitarist friend (Shane/Bastard Demon) who joined up with us, who also had the same influences and desires. We wrote the Practitioner's demo rather quickly, and then recorded it not long after. We in fact recorded it with another work friend who had the gear but no studio, so we approached another friend who gained permission from his father for us to record in his auto body work shop. I recorded the drums next to a partially restored 57' Chevy! Looking back, I think the songs were very fashioned in the sense of... our Sodom Song, our Bathory Song, Our Venom Song, our Hellhammer Song, our Kreator Song, etc... I remember someone saying we wore our influences on our sleeve, at the time I thought... yes, that's the god damn point! I think this line-up could of gone on to grow and write some more "mature" material but this demo is very innocent which is its charm. I know Apokalypse worked a deal with A389 Recordings for a vinyl release back in 2011', which has been sold out and now another 200 copies have been "unearthed" for a continued release.
Now after the Ep came out, how long after that did the band break up and what led to the band breaking up?
Practitioner's was never officially released, one of the reasons why I left the band was due to this. BD & Apokalypse had no intention of releasing the music, also had no want to play live, so I lost interest really quickly. I was asked to return to MORGION and since that band wanted to tour, record and release music it appealed to me more. This incarnation of GRAVEHILL lasted one year maybe 18 months at the most.
What did you end up doing with yourself after the band broke up? I know you played drums in several other bands, Crimson Relic, Keen of the Crow and Morgion. How long did you play drums in each of these bands and why did you end up leaving these 3 bands at one point or another?
Probably should give a more accurate time line... I played in MORGION from 1990'- 2000', 2001'-2004', CRIMSON RELIC 1996', KEEN OF THE CROW 2004'-2006', GRAVEHILL 2000-2001', 2006'- present. CRIMSON RELIC was really never officially a band, I was asked to play session drums so I never quit or joined. MORGION was a long term love/hate relation for me. Loved the music, hated those involved, which was a mutual regard so no mystery there. No sense in any long explanation, MORGION did what music it could in the painfully long time it was together. I played a role in its rise and downfall and have no regrets, but life does go on. KEEN OF THE CROW was a great band that never had a chance to prove it, an EP and one Album, a bunch of gigs, and a failed tour. Out of all my past endeavors KotC is my favorite, I recorded some of my best playing & creativity within. Too bad the band imploded, yet without it disbanding the return of GRAVEHILL would have never happened.
What led to you being a drummer and did you have somebody teach you or take lessons or did you learn a lot on your own? What are some of your favorite drummers and in your eyes and ears what makes a good drummer?
Tommy Lee and the "Too Fast for Love" Motley Crue record was my biggest influence to want to play drums. My brother in law Dave also introduced me to John Bonham, and Neil Peart. All those factors really influenced me to pursue music and drums. Over my adolescence I latched on to drummers like Nico McBrain, Vinnie Appice, Philthy Animal Taylor, Cozy Powell, Phil Rudd, etc... then on to Dave Lombardo, Kim Ruzz, Reed St. Mark, Ventor, etc... then on to Chris Reifert, Nicke Anderson, Dave Grave, Bill Andrews... What makes a good drummer to me is heavy feet and heavy hands, I despise triggers. Anything that stops drums from sounding like drums, or enhances the drummer’s inability to hit and kick the drum is pussy, imo. All the drummers that influenced me hit hard and kick hard; it's how it was meant to be done. I just follow in that tradition.
Now what led to the band getting back together and I know you’re the only original member? Were any of the old members asked to re-join the band or did you want to start fresh with a new line-up?
When KotC disbanded I had no intention of reforming another band, if I did it would be out of state away from Los Angeles. Really, I had no intention of reforming GRAVEHILL. But after many chats with Mike Abominator (Vocals), he and I decided to form an Old School Death Metal Band where he had BodyBag Bob from his previous band join on guitar, and Bob had Zyklon-A from another previous band of his join as 2nd guitarist. Between Abominator and my girlfriend Lilith insisting on using the name, I would of called GRAVEHILL something else. Both of them saw the potential the previous band had as well as how much I loved GRAVEHILL. I think it was inevitable.
So how long was the band back together before you started writing new songs and how long was the band back in business before you released the "Metal of Death" demo? What are your thoughts on this demo now? How was the response to it?
We started off writing the demo songs with KK Reaper on Guitar who also helped write "The Luciferian Mark" which appeared on "Rites of the Pentagram". The guy who recorded the "Metal of Death" demo Zyklon-A later joined us on guitar after KK Reaper was let go. We wrote and recorded the MoD demo in a few short months. As far as what I think of it, I was never happy with the production, but most demos should be rough. Overall I think we should have rehearsed the songs more but it just lead to redoing it all again later for Enucleation Records later.
In 2008, you released an Ep called "Metal Of Death/Advocation of Murder and Suicide. Was this a re-release of the demo and some newer songs?
MoD/AoM&S was our first release with Enucleation Records. We wanted to re-record the demo songs and had written the songs Murder & Suicide to be added to it so it was not so much a "re-do". We also got Kam Lee to lend backing vocals to "Ravager" while he was in town with MASSACRE.
How would you describe what the band sounds like to someone who has never heard the band? Do you think you’re an original band and when do you think you got the "gravehill" sound so speak?
I think we've had a solid 7 years now to perfect a "Gravehill Sound", Mike and I never changed our attitude or approach to the music or how we make it, I think the current line-up has perfected our song writing that much more. "Death Curse" being our highest achievement so far. Do I think we are an original band? No. Then again what is an "original" band? I have yet to hear a band that has made music not directly influenced by anyone else? I describe GRAVEHILL in our influences - Autopsy, Death/Massacre, Venom, 80's Slayer, Sodom, and Hellhammer/Celtic Frost.
In 2009 you released "Rites of the Pentagram". Tell me about this release. Who released it and is it still for sale? How was it going into the studio to record this?
The original release was done thru ENUCLEATION RECORDS, this was the first release we recorded with an outside engineer, John Haddad @ Trench Studios. ENUCLEATION folded not long after it's initial release which soon after RotP was picked up by IBEX MOON RECORDS who added the MoD/AoM&S EP and a self financed DVD in one package. Both versions are long out of print, maybe Amazon or Ebay has them? Recording this release was pretty pain free; we rehearsed the songs quite a bit before recording, so we were prepared. If I could go back and change anything I'd add 4 rhythm guitar tracks instead of 2.
How does a song come together? Is it more of a band effort or one or 2 members?
All of our music is written as a group and rehearsed till we are happy with it, or scrapped and started again.
In 2011 you kept rolling right along as you released another full length called ‘When All Roads Lead To Hell". How would you compare this with your previous release and by now were you getting comfortable going into a studio to record and what are your thoughts on this release these days?
After RotP we had a line-up change removing Zyklon-A formerly 2nd guitar and adding Matt Hellfiend (aka Matt Harvey/Exhumed) to the line-up. We did a U.S. Tour and then began writing "When All Roads Lead to hell". We didn't allow ourselves much time to write or rehearse; we wanted this release completed before we played MDF in 2011'. We returned to Trench Studios for all initial recording then gave the mixing/mastering to Arcane Digital to finalize. Since we were not happy with IBEX MOON we approached DARK DESCENT to release as well. GRAVEHILL faced a lot of hardships in this period; we couldn't rehearse with Hellfiend so our writing dynamic changed. Abominator had schooling he needed to finish so he couldn't assist much either. We couldn't get an available artist for the album cover so we had to find other avenues. Recording it was the easy part; the studio time was also easy. Making the whole record and getting it released was a battle. I think this release didn't get the promotion it needed, also I think that some of the songs could have been given more attention. The album as a whole is exactly what it is, a rushed release, which could have been better imo.
Now we fast forward to 2014 and you just released "Death Curse" on Dark Descent Records. How did you hook up with them and take me through how this release came to be?
DD released our 2nd Record WARLTH, Abominator and Matt/DD have been in contact for quite a while, when the time came where we needed another label, DD was the only choice for us. By the end of 2011' we saw the departure of both BodyBag & Hellfiend and needed 2 guitarists to take their place. We enlisted CC Dekill and Hell Messiah by January 2012'. We spent most of 2012' playing fests, tours, and many local gigs with the new line-up; in fact we didn't write any new material till the mid part of 2012'. Unlike the last record, we spent as much time as we needed to write and rehearse the material. I was also able to secure the album cover art with Chris Moyen whom I've had no luck with in all the previous years. We recorded only the drums with Trench this time out, CC DeKill recorded all guitars, bass, and vocals in his home studio and I enlisted Dan Ochoa to mix & master the release (Dan was also the vocalist of KEEN OF THE CROW).
Do you get to play live a lot and do you think you’re a good live band and do you have any live video clips floating around the internet?
In my opinion I think we are a far better live band then we are a recorded one, "Death Curse" is our only record I feel captures that the best, but again my opinion. We usually play a couple dozen gigs a year and yes if you type in GRAVEHILL in youtube.com you'll find dozens upon dozens of live footage of us.
What have been some of your favorite shows you have played over the years?
DeKalb, IL. w./ Cardiac Arrest; Portland, OR. w./ Impiety; Hollywood, CA. w./ Aura Noir; San Diego w./ Destroyer666 & Enthroned; MDF 2011'; Buffalo Death Fest 2012'; San Francisco w./ Ghoul; Los Angeles w./ Arch Goat; Denver w./ Deceased; NYC w./ Goreaphobia; etc...
What are some of the biggest differences you have seen go on in the underground since the early days of the band back in 2001?
Scene hasn't changed, less of the same faces... more new ones.
Where do you see the underground scene in say 5 years?
Same place it will always be, underground. If that changes it ceases to be underground therefore why give a shit?
Are lyrics important to the band?
Please plug any websites that you have?
Any last words?
Thanks for the interview.
Interview by Chris Forbes
Answers by Thorgrimm (d.)