So JP, do you still recall how you discovered metal music? What were the records that helped you discover metal?
As a child growing up in the 70's I had a cousin that was heavy into Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper & KISS. I used to listen to these records with her & for my 8th birthday she gave me her KISS album (the first one) & Paranoid by Black Sabbath, changing my life forever.
When did you decide to become a musician and who were your influences?
I decided to become a musician after listening to Ozzy’s “Blizzard of Oz” album with Randy Rhoads. I knew right then that this was what I wanted to do with my life, play the guitar like Randy.
How did you choose the guitar? Did you want to be a guitarist right from the start or…?
It was the guitar right from the start for me!
Were you self-taught or did you take some lessons back in the day? Do you play any other instruments too?
I was 12-years old in 1980 when my grandfather gave me my first guitar, a big hollow-bodied after-market thing that wouldn’t stay in tune and didn’t even have a name on it. The first song I learned to play was cocaine by JJ Cale and later made popular by Eric Clapton. Since then I’ve also learned to play the bass too as many guitarists do. I took lessons for 2 years in the early eighties.
How did you get in the underground? To which extent were you familiar with the underground scene? How deeply were you involved in it?
A friend of mine turned me on to Venom’s “Black Metal” album in 1982ish and from that moment on I lived and breathed black metal! Then in 1983 Mercyful Fate released “Melissa,” Slayer released “Show No Mercy” and Metallica released “Kill ‘Em All” and that was it, I was hooked. 1983 was a monumental year for me and my guitar style took a dark turn, influenced by the aforementioned bands I began writing my own heavy songs and playing them for my neighborhood friends. Shortly afterward, I became familiar with Hellhammer, Celtic Frost etc. etc.
At which point did you discover the brutal stuff, such as VENOM, METALLICA, SLAYER, HELLHAMMER/CELTIC FROST etc.? How did you get into them?
See previous question please.
How did the whole MASSACRE story start exactly, back in 1984? From what I know, the band was formed in 1984 by Allen West (guitar) Bill Andrews (drums) Mike Borders (bass) and soon joined by Kam Lee (vocals), but to say the truth, things seem to be confused for me, since in 1984 you (guitar), Scott Blackwood (bass) and Mark Brents (vocals) were also the members of the band...
Here is how Massacre was born, regardless of what you’ve heard before, this IS what really happened, the information on Wikipedia is horse shit – Here is the TRUTH: In 1984 while I was still in high school, I came up with the name of Massacre, I used to draw different versions of the logo on my folder.
During 1984 I met Allen West (Massacre, Xecutioner, Obituary etc.), who also went to my high school and we started jamming. We had similar musical tastes and soon became real good friends. Allen hooked up with Billy Andrews (Massacre drummer) and the three of us started jamming in Billy’s garage in Brandon, Florida. We decided to start a band, playing the heaviest music around at the time, we played cover songs by Hellhammer, Celtic Frost, Slayer and Metallica, which no one else was doing. Finally we decided to get a bass player and singer, we got a dude named Scott Blackwood to play bass and Mark Brents to sing and Massacre was born. It originally started as a cover band playing brutal Sledge Metal, as we called it. We played our first show May 17, 1985. After a while Scott was replaced by Mike Borders on bass and we played some more shows around the Tampa area (see flyers). Kam Lee started coming to our band practices in, I believe early 1986, he would practice with us from time to time when Mark Brents would miss practice. Kam became real tight with Billy and Billy wanted to replace Mark with Kam, however I wasn’t so sure, neither was Allen. We became unhappy with the way Massacre was heading and I quit, later Allen also quit. Kam and Rick Rozz joined Mike Borders and Billy and began playing original music. I started jamming with several other musicians around the Tampa area, but nothing stuck until I met with John and Donald Tardy later in the summer of 1986.
Was it the very first act for all of you, or did you play in some other acts before MASSACRE?
Massacre was the first real band I played in, I had jammed with various other musicians before Massacre, but it wasn’t until I met Allen that I began taking it serious.
Is it correct that MASSACRE started as a heavy metal band doing mostly covers and after the addition of Kam Lee became more aggressive, brutal and faster?
That is absolutely correct. When Kam started jamming with Massacre, Allen and I left the band. I started jamming with other musicians again, but didn’t want to play covers anymore. Allen eventually started jamming with the Tardy brothers (of Obituary fame) in their garage in Brandon and asked me to come check them out. I did, and the chemistry was amazing, I liked the vibe they had. They were having issues with Trevor Peres their guitarist, and the next thing I knew I was asked to join the band in the summer of 1986. We played nothing but originals and took things very seriously. After we got a handful of originals together we all decided to record a demo tape at Morrisound Recording Studios in Tampa, this was August of 1986 and included “Find the Arise” and “Like the Dead.”
By the way, were you aware of the existence of the Canadian and German MASSACRE also formed in 1984 and released demos a year later?
No I wasn’t. There was no internet back in those days as you know, so information was hard to come by, there were a few underground magazines around like Violent Noize, but other than that information was scarce.
Do you agree that Allen West is considered a pioneering figure of the death metal genre in the 1980s, while Kam Lee employed the vocal style called the death grunt or death growl, taking influence from the then CELTIC FROST vocalist Thomas Gabriel Fischer (a.k.a. Tom G Warrior)?
I would agree with that. I was right there with Allen in the early days when he was polishing his heavy style, we meshed perfectly and fed off each other. Allen took things more seriously than I did though, I was busy chasing women and partying too much.
What were your views of the Florida scene at this point when a lot of new bands were popping up in Miami, Brandon, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, such as MANTAS/DEATH, HELLWITCH, R. A. V. A. G. E. (later known as ATHEIST), MORBID ANGEL etc. calling themselves death metal bands? Was it a kind of musical revolution?
Back in the early 80’s in Tampa, the popular bands were Nasty Savage and Avatar (who later changed their name to Savatage). Allen and I used to go see them play at various locations around the area, and they helped fuel our desire to be musicians. I hadn’t heard of Death or Morbid Angel until I was in Massacre. Allen and I became real close with the guys in Morbid Angel and ended playing a few shows with them when we were in Massacre.
Were you familiar with MASTER/DEATH STRIKE, NECROPHAGIA or/and POSSESSED, that were formed also around at this time and were responsible for forming the death metal scene?
I had heard of Possessed, but not the others.
How about older bands, such as SIREN, NASTY SAVAGE AVATAR/SAVATAGE? Would you say, that they opened the doors for the upcoming, younger acts and had a great influence on you and on the other outfits, such as ANDZVOLT (later they became POWERSURGE) or THE ROSE, that later became known as PURGATORY and then ICED EARTH?
Most definitely! I can remember being a 15 year old punk watching those bands play and thinking to myself “I want to be just like them.” They opened the door for bands like Massacre, Xecutioner and Death.
Do you think, that Florida became the center of the American death metal movement?
Yes I do, especially Brandon. There were so many phenomenal musicians in the Tampa area back then, it seemed everyone was jamming.
How about the club scene? Which clubs/venues were into metal? Was it easy getting shows back in the day?
There was a club called “Ruby’s” that I used to sneak into back in the day that allowed bands like Avatar, Nasty Savage and Siren to play at. It was pretty easy to sneak in. Those were some crazy days, there would be fist fights in the club and outside in the parking lot all the time!
I discovered a Tampa based glam/hair band called WICKED TEAZE, I think, they were considered the great death metal explosion, what happened at this point?
I’ve never heard of them, I wasn’t into glam rock bullshit, I was into Black Metal – spikes, leather pants and motorcycle jackets. Fuck glam!
How come you didn’t record anything with MASSACRE? Have you penned some songs in the ranks of the band by the way? Have you gigged with MASSACRE at all?
I jammed a handful of shows with Massacre during 1985 around the Tampa area. I never officially recorded anything with them other than several garage tapes. We were starting to write originals in 1985.
Do you still remember when and why you left MASSACRE?
It was early 1986 when Kam and Rick Rozz came around. I didn’t feel comfortable jamming with them, Rick was too controlling of a dude and I sensed there would be trouble if I stayed around. Besides I wanted bigger and better things musically. I believe the last live show we played was in November 1985.
Then you joined XECUTIONER, who were earlier EXECUTIONER, but they had to shorten their name since there was already a band called EXECUTIONER in Boston, were you aware of it?
I joined Executioner in the summer of 1986, we became aware of a poser band in Boston that already had that name, so we decided to just drop the E from the front of the name and become Xecutioner, besides it looked much cooler. We didn’t want fans to confuse us with them.
You joined the group in 1986, what did you do in the two years that passed between your departure from MASSACRE and joining XECUTIONER?
There wasn’t a two year span between bands, it was more like a few months. I jammed with Massacre starting at the end of 1984 and throughout 1985. It was either in December of 1985 or January of 1986 that I quit. During the six or so months after quitting Massacre I jammed with several Tampa musicians, but nothing stuck until I joined Executioner in the summer of 1986.
How did you get in touch with them and to which extent were you familiar with the band? Have you heard/listened to their “Metal up your ass” demo in 1985?
I had heard the demo sometime in 1986 and when I met them in the summer of 1986 they wanted to change their style and become much heavier, more brutal.
Did Allen West join XECUTIONER at the same time as you replacing Trevor Peres and Jerry Tidwell?
Allen was with Executioner (as they were called at the time) a short time before I joined. Allen and I were real close friends and had very similar guitar styles, and worked well with each other, and he asked me to try out for the band after Trevor departed, which I ultimately did.
Were you the first choice or were there other guitarists auditioned as well?
I don’t know if they auditioned other guitarists before me, I’m sure they did. I can remember the first time I hooked up my Marshall stack in their band room and cranked it up and we all started jamming together – I got goose bumps! We meshed perfectly! After that I was asked to join, which I happily did.
You appeared on a two track demo called “1986 Demo” featuring “Find The Arise” and “Live Like The Dead” that was recorded and mixed at the Morrisound Studios by Rick Miller, tell me about the recording sessions?
We had a blast recording that demo! Originally we were going to record more songs on it but we ran out of money after recording only two of them. Our first recording session was on August 17, 1986. We had a total of 3 days in the studio, the last being on August 24, 1986. We recorded both songs live with Donald playing drums in one room with the bass player Jerome, Allen in another and me in a third room wearing headphones. Then John laid down the vocals afterward while listening to what we had recorded. Finally on day 3 in the studio, Allen and I ripped our solos for both songs. We played around with some effects then mastered it.
Were the songs already written when you joined ’em or did you also have the opportunity to write some riffs or give some advices, ideas for them? I mean, did you also take part in the songwriting process?
I took part in the writing process. They had some ideas beforehand but we finalized the songs during practice. We all contributed.
Did you have more songs written besides those two aforementioned ones by the way?
Yes we had several which were later chopped up and used in other songs they put on their first album.
How would you describe the demo as a whole? How did it sound compared to their first demo?
When we first heard the finished version of the 1986 Demo we were blown away! We were so happy, especially with “Find the Arise.” I wasn’t happy with “Like the Dead” and wanted to cut it from the demo and play one of our others, which was way more brutal, but again, money was tight.
Did this demo show the really raw side of the band?
Yes it did, very much so. I love the raw sound we produced in the studio still to this day. The versions that are out and about on the internet sound like shit compared to the master copy we had of the demo.
Was the demo shopped around or heavily promoted back in the day?
I had met Borivoj Krgin when I was in Massacre and he kept asking me to send him a garage tape of the band but I wouldn’t because the quality was lacking. We stayed in touch and later when I joined Xecutioner and we recorded the demo I sent him a copy which he absolutely loved! He wrote us up in his magazine “Violent Noize” and that started the ball rolling. I sent copies of the demo to every magazine I could find, plus we gave away copies to our friends who then made copies and spread it around.
One of the most important bills you were part of (despite the poor turnout) was the festival that took place at the Rock City (beach), Tampa on 5/25/86 as you played on the first day. What do you recall from that two days festival where MASSACRE also played and MORBID ANGEL headlined both days?
I wasn’t part of the band then.
When did you decide to leave the band and what were the reasons that led to your departure? Did you part ways as friends?
I quit the band on February 14, 1987. I had met a girl that I really cared for and she hated the fact that I was in a band and like a dumbass I quit to appease her. Leading up to my departure I became hooked on drugs and alcohol and it affected my attitude. I was getting into a lot of fist fights and was in trouble with the law and the Tardy brothers weren’t happy with that. Xecutioner was the Tardy brothers creation and they ran a tight ship. I was coming to practice fucked up a lot and had a major attitude. I didn’t think the band was going to go anywhere so I didn’t take it as serious as I should have. When I quit everyone was pissed at me and we didn’t talk for a while, but later we made up and are still friends to this very day.
XECUTIONER were featured on the Raging Death compilation (released by Godly Records in 1987), in your opinion did this appearance open the doors and get the labels interested?
Most certainly! I didn’t get credit for playing on that album which really pissed me off at the time! They gave credit to Trevor Peres and I believe Jerry Tidwell, which is a load of shit! They didn’t play on that album, it was me and Allen on guitars and no one else. The two songs that were featured were the ones we recorded at Morrisound in 1986. I didn’t get credit for the re-release of “Find the Arise” on the albums of “Cause of Death” and “Anthology” either. I guess this was their way of getting back at me for quitting the band, giving credit instead to Trevor Peres even though he didn’t play on that song. There was animosity between us because of this for a while like I said earlier, but I let it go. I won’t lie, there was a time that I wanted to kick their asses for doing that though, who wouldn’t? It’s only right to give credit where credit is due, wouldn’t you agree?
What did you do after your departure from the band? Have you been involved in other outfits or did you get out of the music industry/business?
I went to college and continued to jam after I exited the band. I played in a few other bands but didn’t take it serious. I had a recording studio for a couple years around 2002 where I wrote numerous songs with a variety of musicians. I still play today but mainly for myself.
Did you give up your guitar (playing on guitar)?
I’ll never give it up! I only gave up on my dream of making it big, life slapped me hard across the face.
Do you follow what’s going on in the underground scene? Are you still into old, brutal, fast thrash/death stuff such as the early METALLICA, SLAYER, EXODUS, OBITUARY, MORBID ANGEL etc. Do you care about the newcomers?
I will occasionally listen to something brutal depending on my mood, but I’ve mellowed with age. I really enjoy the old school metal from the eighties and early nineties. I like music that has guitar solos and a lot of the stuff nowadays excludes them for some reason. Metal was originally created with guitar solos!!
How would you sum up the time that you spent both in MASSACRE and in XECUTIONER? What are some of your best and worst memories and experiences?
It was a great time in my life and I wouldn’t change it for anything. I was living my dream! The best times I had was when we played live, the energy was unreal, surreal in a way! There were times during band practice that the group as a whole really meshed perfectly, our vibe was palpable, those times were pure magic and very special to me, if only we had recorded those sessions. I enjoyed the comradery with my band mates and the friendships we built. All these guys were and are class acts, both as people and as musicians and I have nothing but the upmost respect for what they’ve done since my departure, they never gave up!
JP, thanks a lot for wasting time to answer my questions, is there anything to add to the feature, anything I forgot to mention?
I enjoyed answering your questions my friend, I hope I gave you what you were looking for and helped clear up any misconceptions concerning these bands and my involvement in them.
Interview by Leslie David
Answers by JP Chartier