Gravewurm are an unholy death/black metal band and have been around what seems like forever and here is an interview Kevin from the band.
Here we are in 2016, when the band formed did you think in your wildest dreams that the band would still be around and how much longer do you see the band being around?
Didn't think about it in those terms back then...just wanted to record some songs and play shows. It didn't really feel permanent until 1994 when the original line up graduated from college, went our seperate ways, but I kept writing and recording under the Gravewurm banner.
What keeps you motivated after all this time? Over the years has it become easier or harder to write songs? Out of all your full length releases what has been the hardest one? What has been the easiest one?
Motivation always comes from the feeling of 80s metal. The elder ways of thrash and early black and death metal are always great to my ears. Even some NWOBHM. Legends like Tom G. Warrior and Lemmy are still great inspirations for metal motivation too. I just write what I know...what comes from within my soul for metal.
No one singular album was more difficult to write than others.
Now we are gonna travel back in time for a bit. What sort of kid were you growing up? When did you discover music and what were some of the early bands that you liked? What is something you will admit in this interview about yourself that might surprise people?
I collected comics and action figures as a kid. The first band / artist / musician I got into was Billy Idol. I grew up mostly on 'hair metal' of the 80s. Ratt, Crue, Quiet Riot, Twisted Sister. I didn't get into heavier music until about '85...Venom, W.A.S.P., Megadeth, then a bit later, '87 / '88 came Possessed, Mercyful Fate, Sex Pistols, Warlock, Celtic Frost, Helloween etc.
How did you discover the underground? What were some of the 1st bands that you heard and liked? Was it like a drug that you wanted more and more of? Did you any tape trading or read many zines back in the day? If you did tape trading around how many people and same for zines?
I met Don of the Dead from Nunslaughter in college...must have been 1992, maybe '93. He showed me and the other guys in Gravewurm some zines, flyers and taped some demos for us. Doomstone, Paul Chain, Xecutioner, Satan's Warriors are some I remember. I started tape trading after we recorded a demo. I wrote to several hundred zines and tape traders since '93 regarding Gravewurm and trades for personal collections.
Now was there any cool stores that you could find your fix for metal at? Were you not too far from Eide’s Records in Pittsburgh? If you ever went there how cool of a store was it?
Yea we went to Eides several times in the early 90s as well as other record shops in Pittsburgh. Things have changed quite a bit over the years, but the strip district still has that same old feel to it.
What led to you picking up a guitar and today how would you rate yourself as a player?
I was inspired / influenced by Steve Stevens (Billy Idol) and of course Mantas and Tom G. to play the guitar.
The band started out as Dominion. Were you in any other bands before that? What are your thoughts on the rehearsal/demo you released called “Morbid Death” these days?
The violent joke metal of The Paranormal occupied my time during the early 90s during the lulls in serious musical creations. It was just improvised angry music created by Tyrant, before he joined Gravewurm. The Morbid Death tape is still not very pleasant to listen to these days.
Now what was like in Clarion, PA like back then? What did you do for fun and what did your parents think of you being in a band any being into all this underground stuff?
Clarion was boring small town...still is. "Fun" was shopping mall arcades. Nintendo and guitar at home. Parents didn't pay no attention to letters and packages sent / received from various countries and states.
You changed the band’s name from Dominion to Born From Fear to Gravewurm. Why all the name changes and how did you come up with the name Gravewurm? Were any other names thrown around before you came up with the name Gravewurm?
Born from Fear was very temporary. We knew Dominion wouldn't suit our development of music when black metal became more of an influence. Gravewurm was taken from the Benediction song from their Grand Leveller album. We chose to use the U in regards to a 'wurm' or 'wyrm'. The umlaut came later when the official logo was created in the late 90s.
Obviously you have been through many member changes over the years. Around how many members would you say have been in and out of the band and were most of the line-up changes smooth or were some of them just all in an out fights with former band members? If I not mistaken your drummer just passed away. What led to his passing?
Line ups come and go, but the fever for creating metal remains. Yes Jim Konya (Lord Mazillon) passed into eternity October 7th. He had a stroke a few days after our performance at Hells Headbangers 'Hellbash 2' fest in early September and further complications lead to the end of his life.
You put out 8 demos before someone signed the band! Looking back why do you think it took so long for a label to sign the band considering around when the band was putting out demos (1992 till 1998) death metal was off and running and was a big deal? Do you ever listen to your old demos and what are some of your thoughts on them these days?
The demos are very raw and primitive. Labels were looking for more polished sounds back then it seemed. It’s weird how things have turned around and now there are labels who deal almost exclusively with ultra raw and primitive bands. Some are nearly unlistenable to me. I think the demos are a good look at our past and how we've "developed" since then. It's humourous when reveiws state 'they never change'... change is inevitable, but I strive to stay within the confindes of the original concept and goals from the early years.
Now at what point did you or the band move to Oakton, Virginia? What were some of the big differences in PA and Virginia? Did Virginia have a decent underground metal scene and did you get to see or play many shows while you were there?
I lived in Virginia from 2000 to 2014 and had several line ups for the band. We played a lot of shows. Most notable were touring with Arghoslent in Europe 2009, show with Absurd, Cold Northern Vengeance and Grand Belial's Key in NYC 2006, touring with Angelcorpse and Watain in US 2007, Witchtrap show in MD and the Something Bloody fest in Rhode Island both a few years ago.
Did it all get frustrating to you while you were releasing all these demos of not getting a record deal while other bands were getting snatched up right and left to record deals as in the 90’s there were quite a few underground record labels?
Frustration didn't factor into what we were doing. Our music had no commercial appeal, no compromises, no trend for us. Even underground labels like JL America and Wild Rags needed to sign bands that would sell...or go out of business.
Now these demos, who wrote most of the music and lyrics on these releases? How was it going into the studio recording these and did you ever encounter any problems that you can recall? Out of the 8 you recorded, do you have a favorite or any that you look back and hate or not like at all?
KGI wrote most of the music and lyrics of the first two demos and then all of the music and lyrics for the final demos as I was the sole member of the band at that time. All were recorded by ourselves on 4 track tascam. Even the first few albums were recorded that way. I didn't go into a studio to record until much later...never felt the need. Primitive raw darkness of our music didn't need 'clean' recording. Lack of funds was a consideration as well. 'Command of Satan's Blade' is my favorite Gravewurm demo.
Now these demos I am sure you sent them out to the tons of fanzines that were around at the time. What were the reviews like for the most part? Do you still put away most of your reviews, flyers for shows, etc in some old box? If you don’t do you wish you had?
Most reveiws were unfavorable, but most were not really reviews, but just commentary regarding their dislike for the raw quality of the recordings. I do not keep old flyers, but still have most of the zines and show flyers.
What are some great memories you have about the old days that will never leave you as long as you live?
Going to Pittsburgh to see Sathanas, Orlando to see Equinox, tape trading with Pat from Hellwitch and Don from Nunslaughter and keeping in contact with all them for over 20 years.
Did you get to play live many times during the years of 1992 to 2000? If so where were the places and did you get to play out of town much, did other bands bring up to their towns to play? Do you think you’re a good live band?
We haven't played many shows considering the number of years Gravewurm has been around the scene. We have played along the east coast of the US mostly. Also, three shows in Finland, one in Italy. The strength of our performance varied over the years.
I saw a compilation came out in 2001. Was that most or all your demos? If not have all your demos ever come out as bonus tracks on stuff that has been released over the years? If asked would you ever put those 8 demos onto cd or a double cd if some label wanted to put it out?
The compliation was the 'Command of Satan's Blade' demo and full session of the 'Warbeast' recording. The demos were never released as bonus or collection. I'm not opposed to having a demo collection be released, but it's never been a priority considering I continually write and record new, better material.
Ok finally a label got smart and signed you in 2000 and you released “Ancient Storms of War”. What label was this and how did it finally feel to be going into the studio to record a full length release? What are your thoughts on this release today and is it still available?
Barbarian Wrath records released the first album. It was just a collection of two demos with an additional intro created by Blakk of Angelkill. It is raw and primitive. We play the title track in our live shows. It is no longer available for sale from what I can tell.
You released an Ep next and who put that out and what are your thoughts on that these days? Was is it easy to put a new release at the time within a year of your full length?
Iron Bonehead productions pressed the Warbeast 7". I like that one a lot because of the session musicians Jim Sadist and Don of the Dead from Nunslaughter. The recording is clear, but still primitive.
In 2002 you did your 2nd full length called “Dark Souls of Hell”. Who put this out and what are your thoughts on that these days?
Barbarian Wrath also released this. It is not very good sounding.
In 2003 you released another full length called “Into Battle”. Who released this and what are your thoughts on this release these days?
Barbarian Wrath again. It was the better than the previous albums.
Now by this time had you gone through many line-up changes and label changes? Had you been able to any type of touring even if it was like a week long venture out into the US?
The first and only time we have played outside the US was in March 2009. Tour in Finland and Italy with Arghoslent. Belgium show was cancelled. France show was cancelled, but a small club was made available for Arghoslent to play on the final day of the tour. In 2007, we did 5 shows with Angelcorpse, Watain and Negative Plane. Florida shows were also with Hellwitch. Most recently in 2015 we toured 4 shows down the east coast US with Sathanas.
Also at this time the internet was starting to really come into its own and tape trading obviously was ancient history and print fanzines were for the most part dead and were mostly on-line now. Did you embrace the internet back then or it took you some time before you did?
I like the internet for correspondence but hate all the illegal downloading bullshit. A collection of zeroes and ones on a hard drive is not a music collection.
We fast forward to 2005 and “Under the Banner” was released. Who put this out and what do you think of it these days?
Barbarian Wrath. It was the best release at that time. Recorded in a basement on a 4 track.
By this time you had gone into the studio numerous times. Was it at this time pretty easy for you to go in and do what you had to do and get out? Did any of these labels give you any kind of budget or did you always have to use your own money to record and they put it out?
Everything was recorded on a 4 track analog at that time. Labels did not pay for recordings except for one time. Used that money to buy microphones and mixer.
Your next 6 releases were all splits. Were these 7” splits or just splits with other bands? Did you ever turn down any splits? I assume you’re a big fan of vinyl? What has been the most expensive thing you have seen on Ebay for a Gravewurm release, that is if you have ever gone on there to look?
I don't recall turnin down an offer to do a split. It was usually I that contacted the other band and looked for label support to release the various splits. Some vinyl, some cds. Ebay items are average priced.
What is on the “Carnivorous In Boston” compilation? You actually have had a few compilations released. Who decides what stuff goes on these and is there any unreleased stuff that you have recorded that might see the light of day one day?
That is a collection of the 'Carnivorous Monarchy' songs and our live show from Boston 2008. I decide what is released. A rare and unreleased collection was made as a limited 100 count bonus disc with the Blood of the Pentagram cd album 2010.
Will there ever be a live CD/Vinyl release? Are there many live clips of the band on say You Tube and places like that? Do you feel you’re a good live band and how hard is it to come up with a set list especially if your headlining the show?
Live set lists depend on the line up. Some songs have remained in the set for over 10 years. Live songs appear as bonus tracks on various cd releases.
In 2009 here comes another full length called “Funeral Empire”. How did this release come together and was this all brand new music recorded for this release? What are your thoughts on this release and what was the feedback on it?
Time Before Time records release. Our final 4 track analog recording. Not sure if there were any reviews of this.
Do you think you’re an original band and when do you think you found the “Gravewurm” sound so to speak?
Not original, but a combination of sounds from the elder gods of 80s metal and early 90s darkness.
3 more full length releases followed, ‘Black Fire (2010), Blood of the Pentagram (2010), and “Netherfiend” (2011). How easy was it to release 2 releases in the same calendar year and then do another follow-up the year after? How easy did the songs for these releases come together?
Black Fire and Blood of the Pentagram were recorded back to back...maybe about a month break in between them. Netherfiend was half unused ideas from early 2000s and half all new. The 'ease' of writing and recording ebs and flows...just depends on inspiration and motivation.
At what point did you hook up with Hells Headbangers and what has it been like working with them as they are a great label?
HHR released our split 7" with Nunslaughter in 2007. They had been working with Nunslaughter for several years so this release was just part of a long list of roster discography.. I contacted them for Blood of the Pentagram 3 years later and Infernal Minions 3 years after that .It's been a solid relationship with great distribution.
In 2013 you released “Infernal Minions”. How did you come up with the name and cover for this release? As far as sales do you sales stay right around the same for each release do they go up and down?
The title is from my creation. Kam Lee (ex-Massacre) did all the art for that release. Sales were about average.
In 2014 you had another release under them called “Abyss Sorcery”. Now do give you a budget to go in any record? Do you pretty much the same studio nowadays? Do you use a producer at all or do you go in and know what you want?
I recorded that on my own and released it on my own label, Funeral Empire Records. It was re-released in 2015 by Forbidden Records.
Does it amaze you sometimes on how much the underground has changed? I mean you have bands like Metallica selling millions of records even though they have changed their sound and bands like Slayer, Anthrax, etc are on major labels and stuff?
Yes the changes are huge. I don't look at 'big time' bands too much. They are in a different league than what I do with Gravewurm.
You also have many, many bands, much are below average with so many labels signing them that it is tough to stick out in the crowd. Have you built up a good following where you don’t have to worry about that? Have you heard a band do a Gravewurm cover tune yet?
We have a small but loyal following. Nunslaughter covered 'On Icy Planes I Die'.
What do you think of downloading and the fact that some people don’t want to pay for music these days? Do you like keeping music on like an Mp4 file or do you prefer cds or vinyl?
Downloading is bullshit. I like cds, vinyl and tapes.
Do you have a personal copy of everything you have released? You know we easily could do a 3 box set of everything you have released?
I have personal copies of all official Gravewurm releases.
Have you ever done a cover tune and if so which song(s) did you do?
We have covered Unleashed 'Open Wide' and Nunslaughter 'Killed by the Cross'.
For someone who has never heard the band, what would you say you sound like and do you think the band’s sound has changed much over the years?
A mix of early Sodom, Venom, Celtic Frost and Nunslaughter. No the overall sound / creation has remained close to the original concept for the band.
Who came up with the band’s logo and have you changed it much over the years?
I drew the original logo for Dominion, Born from Fear and Gravewurm. Christophe Spadjel did the official logo in '99. It has remained the same.
You now live in Lakewood, Ohio. When did you move there and who does it differ from PA and VA? Do you still go out and see shows and do many tours roll through your neck of the woods?
I moved here almost two years ago. There are a lot of shows here and a handful of local bands. I mostly go to small venues / bars to see bands.
I know you have played live overseas? What was that experience like and what countries did you get to play and share the stage with? What was the attendance like for these shows and did people know who the band was and are there any countries that you didn’t get to play that you want to? How did this tour overseas come about?
We played in Finland with Arghoslent, Slugathor, Satanic Warmaster and Drowning the Light and in Italy, we played with Arghoslent and Imago Mortis. The shows were packed. We were invited on the tour by Arghoslent.
What are some of the great bands that you have shared the stage with? What are some awful bands that you have shared the stage with ha ha?
The Lurking Corpses, Grand Belial's Key, Hellwitch, Druid Lord, Witchtrap, Sathanas, Vaettir, Arduous Task, Cauchemar, Graveside Service, Satanic Warmaster, After Death, Negative Plane were all great.
Is there still a underground scene in your eyes? If so why and if not why?
Yes the fire still burns...the path isn't the same as it was 20 years ago, but the plan is still there.
You also sing in the band. When did you start singing and how good of a singer would you say you are?
I sang on most of the Gravewurm releases. Live, since 2011.
Now here it is in 2016 and your back with a new album called “Doomed to Eternity” on Hells Headbangers Records. How easy did the material for this release come together and where was it recorded? Who drew the killer cover for it?
I had most of the songs thought out before we rehearsed, but Lord Mazillon offered some input on a few and help make this the best sounding album to date. It was recorded by Noah C. Buchanan in Lakewood, OH at Brainchild Studio. Cleveland tattoo artist GUNZ drew all the artwork for the album.
Do you plan on doing any type of touring for this release and have you seen a decrease in people coming to shows over the past few years? When you play shows how are the turnouts these days?
We will play select shows in 2016 in support of the new album with Sathanas drummer Jim Strauss behind the kit. Show attendance fluctuates.
I read where after this your doing a 7”. Who is that going to be with and who will be putting that out?
It is a split with Sathanas. It was supposed to have come out already, but vinyl delays are inevitable.
Please plug any websites or social media pages you have. What type of merchandise do you have for sale?
cds and shirts
Please any last words to wrap up this novel and let me know when the ultra box set of everything you have done comes out?
Thanks for the interivew...infernal and eternal...Gravewurm...old goat metal serving the abyss for over 25 years.
Interview by Chris Forbes